Oct 31

HOW TO: Write a Standout Job Description

Note from Jimmy Hua:

This post is shared through my Google Reader from another source. All credit of the post belongs to them which you can access by going to HOW TO: Write a Standout Job Description

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

There’s a lot of competition for top talent in the tech space. Writing a standout job description is an essential step toward attracting the right individuals to join your company.

As the demand for highly specialized digital talent increases in coming years, it will be even more important for companies to convey their wants, needs and culture via their websites and other digital touchpoints — job descriptions are no exception.

Here are our top tips for writing job descriptions that effectively communicate your company’s available positions and the requirements for applicants. We also searched the web for some examples of well-written job listings, which you’ll find below.

Essential Details

General guidelines on what to include in job descriptions have evolved over the years, making it simpler for employers to write them and for potential applicants to read them. Here are nine essential details to include in your company’s job descriptions:

  • Job Title & Summary: Develop a job title for the position you’re looking to fill — the title and level (assistant, senior, lead, etc.) should accurately reflect the work that the employee will perform. Be sure to choose a job title that reflects your industry’s standards and organization’s culture. Once you’ve defined the position, write a brief description of the purpose of the position and an overview of the position’s main responsibilities. This summary should be short and to the point — one to three sentences should suffice.
  • Key Responsibilities: List all of the essential functions of the position at hand. Generally, this includes between five and 10 responsibilities. Begin each responsibility with a present-tense, action verb — “research social media trends” or “mock up new UI graphics” are good examples. Be transparent about how frequently a task will be performed or what percentage of the employee’s time will be spent with each task. This helps applicants form an idea of what a typical day may look like.
  • Department & Supervisor: Include details on who the person would report to and where that person falls within the company’s structure.
  • Skills & Qualifications: List all qualifications that are mandatory, along with those that are preferred. Such qualifications should include skills, years of experience, certifications, licenses, education level and necessary technical proficiencies.
  • Company Overview: While it is ideal that a candidate would already know essential details about the hiring company, it is helpful for potential applicants to have a description of the company (as written by the company) at hand. Include information about the company’s mission, goals, industry and headquarters location. Other useful details could include the number of states and countries where the company is present, number of employees, annual sales and so on.
  • Location: Include details on where the position is located. If travel is necessary, note what percentage of time the employee will spend traveling and where he or she will be traveling.
  • Type of Employment: Be very clear about whether the position is full-time or part-time. If the position is an internship, note whether it will be paid or unpaid — be sure that the internship follows the six federal legal criteria if it is unpaid.
  • Salary Range & Benefits: If your company is open to publicizing the position’s salary range and benefits (such as 401(k), vacation days, or medical and dental insurance), include those details within the job description.
  • Recruiter Contact Information: While it may seem obvious, there are plenty of job listings on the web without contact information. Include contact information so that potential applicants can apply and ask questions.

Formatting Tips

Not all job descriptions are created equal. The perfect job description is neither too descriptive nor too vague, uses clear language and represents the ethos of the company. Here are a few formatting tips for improving your company’s job descriptions:

  • Bullet Point When Possible: Make your job description easier to skim by using bullet points within the responsibilities and qualifications sections and anywhere else that makes sense.
  • Be Specific: While brevity is a much-appreciated art, it’s also important to be as specific and transparent as possible in your job description. Vague descriptions make it difficult for potential applicants to imagine themselves in a role and to decide whether they are qualified for or would enjoy the job.
  • Use Direct Language: It’s important to give potential applicants a clear idea of the responsibilities and qualifications necessary for the job. Steer away from fuzzy descriptors, such as “sometimes” or “often” when describing duties. Opt for organizing job responsibilities by hours or percentage of time spent on each.
  • Embody the Company’s Personality: When putting the job description together, choose a writing style and words that match your company’s ethos. If your business is a startup with a very distinct company culture, be sure to communicate that sentiment with the way you format your description, the words you use and the general feelings your description evokes. If that means straying from the norms, so be it. In the end, the goal is to attract people who are right for the position and the company.

Learn From the Best

The recruitment teams at Meetup, The New York Times Company, Facebook, Google and Twitter communicate effectively via their job listings. Check out examples from each company below.

Meetup: Embody Your Company Culture

The team at Meetup focuses on its people, which is quite evident on the company’s blog and recruitment page.

The business’s hiring page includes a personality-filled company description, including its goals, product function, values and what its looking for in job candidates.

The New York Times Company: Be Available

There’s almost nothing more annoying than sending a job application into the great unknown. Many job listings and recruitment sites fail to include details on how applicants can get in touch with recruiters to follow up on their applications or ask questions.

The New York Times Company recruiting team does a great job at being available and reaching out to job applicants. For example, the @NYTimesRecruit Twitter account, run by the company’s talent acquisition team, actively responds to questions and tweets job search and career-related articles that followers may find of interest.

Facebook: Publicize Benefits & Perks

While some recruiters may see it as a disadvantage to publicize benefits and perks (and salary details), applicants tend to appreciate the transparency.

Facebook’s careers page thoroughly explains the company’s benefits package and its other dandy perks, such as laundry service, discounts, transportation reimbursements and speaking opportunities.

Google: Explain Your Various Locations

It’s obvious to include the location of the position on the job description, but it takes a bit more initiative to go into depth and explain the intricacies of each office.

Google’s recruitment page features an “office locations” tab where interested candidates can explore the company’s offices by location using Google Maps or a list of locations. Each office page features contact details for the office and a list of open positions at that office, along with photos and a description of what it’s like to work in that location.

Twitter: Bullet Point & Be Specific

As expected, Twitter, the king of short communication, understands the power of getting to the point in recruitment descriptions.

The company’s job listings are specific and to the point, without lacking information. All job descriptions include sections for “about this job,” “responsibilities” and “qualifications,” and others even include a “pluses” section, which outlines preferred (but not necessary) qualifications, such as being an active Twitter user and responsibly enjoying beer.

Your Ideas

Have you seen any unique job descriptions across the web lately? If so, let us know about them in the comments below and be sure to explain why you find them so interesting.

Images courtesy of Flickr, rutty & Adikos

More About: job recruiting, jobs, Recruiting, recruitment, trending

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.jimmyhua.com/2011/10/31/how-to-write-a-standout-job-description/

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