HR Basics, Recruiting and Staffing

Three Awesome Examples of Great Job Descriptions

job description

If your company is struggling to find new talent, is it possible that your job descriptions could be to blame?

It’s a question worth asking, because your “now hiring” advertisements determine, in part, just who applies for your position. Craft your ads the right way and you’ll capture the attention of talented innovators.

Write a generic post, on the other hand, and you may as well head to the nearest corner and shout, “Who wants a job!”

If you’re looking for a little inspiration to up your hiring game, here are three examples of job descriptions that pack a punch. Remember, if you’re going to spend hours of your time asking strangers open-ended questions in the interview phase, you might as well stack the deck in your favor.

1. Clear and concise

So what’s the most important rule to follow when writing job descriptions?

It’s simple: you must speak like a normal human being. Consider chucking phrases like “core competency,” “leveraging assets,” and yes, even “best practices.” If you must use business speak, couch the terms in simple sentence structures.

In other words, don’t be opaque just because it’s the norm. Writing professionals agree that it’s not a good trend, and in fact many don’t even consider this type of writing be a valid form of communication (since it seems to do everything but communicate).

Additionally, language like this makes it harder for applicants to understand exactly what the job is and what skills they’ll need to apply. The strongest descriptions use language that’s both succinct and concrete. Take this job ad for a T-shirt designer as an example:

You will be expected to generate your own amazing ideas as well as illustrate subjects provided to you in a style which the ThinkGeek customer enjoys. You’ll also be making web graphics for the products you help create, as well as filing in other design tasks around the office. You must have a great sense of humor and amazing illustration abilities and technique. Can you draw Rancors with your tablet while blindfolded? Good. That’s a start.”

In this posting, the requirements are clear and easy to comprehend. An applicant can quickly gauge the expectations of the company and can decide whether his or her skill set meets those requirements. When it comes to writing job descriptions, a simple and compact style will save you time, because when you’re clear about your needs, you won’t have to interview candidates who simply don’t fit the bill.

2. Packed with personality

Have mercy on your applicants. Many of them will have spent days or weeks combing through dry job descriptions while slowly losing hope of ever repaying their student loans. Would it kill you to entertain them a bit? Add some wit to your writing and you’ll capture the interest of all the young creatives.

Not sure what we mean? Take a look at this opening paragraph for Woot.com’s posting for an electronics buyer:

You started out an acoustic buyer. When you made the change, everyone gasped. One called you Judas, another tried to cut the cable with an axe. But you held on, and now you’re a trendsetter, an industry leader, and sometimes called a visionary in your field. You’ve mastered getting deals on all things electric and you’re reading to push the envelope again. Hey, guess what? Us too! Why don’t we go on the road together, man? And by the road we mean you can buy electronics for our website. See, it’s slang.”

Would this paragraph provide the perfect sample job description if it appeared on its own? Of course not, but it does whet your appetite and make you want to read more. The tone matches the company’s personality – and that’s important. After opening with a bang, this job posting unpacks the necessary details, and does it in a truly unique way with headers like “worst part of the job” and “degrees of separation from the CEO.”

This sends a message to potential employees (and the site’s competitors) that the company is one that’s willing to take time on the details in all areas of their business – right down to their job descriptions.

3. A challenger appears

If you’ve ever been forced to sort through a pile of applications, you know that many candidates don’t exactly give it their all. They hand in cover letters riddled with spelling mistakes, and their resumes detail work experience that’s just not applicable. Of course you want to invite a wide range of applicants when you’re hiring, but you don’t want to waste time on people who can’t even bother to proofread.

The solution? Issue a challenge like this one, used by Reddit in their search for a programmer: “Applications must be sent to S@reddit.com, where:

  • S is a three-character string which, when given a null terminator and encoded in hex, is equivalent to the eight-digit hexadecimal number H.
  • H is the hexadecimal representation of the decimal number N.
  • N = A * B * C * D
  • A is the number of 1 bits in the current serial number on the SOA record for reddit.com.
  • B is the number of seconds in a day.
  • C is the ASCII value of the character that appears 5304 times in *.html files in a fresh checkout of the reddit repository. (It’s also the EBCDIC representation of the \a character.)
  • D is the port that you typically connect to when you need to get an encrypted shell on some remote machine.”

Is it a riddle every would-be applicant could solve? Definitely not – but that’s the point.

This creative touch ensures that everyone who does apply will not only have the skill set needed for the job, but that they’ll also be the kind of people who don’t cut corners, who get excited by challenges and who are happy to put in a little extra effort where it counts. Add a puzzle or other creative task to your job posting and discover employees who are up for the challenge.

Some jobs will always be easier to fill than others. The position of “gourmet chocolate taster” for instance, is likely to generate far more interest than, say, “unpaid data entry intern.” When writing job descriptions for some openings, there’s only so much you can do.

But if these creative examples of job descriptions teach you anything, it should be this: it’s not just about what you say, but about how you say it. Paint a picture of a workplace full of wit and enthusiasm and you’ll attract applicants who mirror those qualities.

Trust us – if you write it, they will come.

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.

Eric Gaydos is the former Buzz Marketing Manager at The Resumator, a SaaS applicant tracking system and recruiting platform trusted by many of the fastest-growing companies in the world. You can also connect with The Resumator on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theresumator.
  • Dan Ridge

    Great post Eric, I am so glad to see this. We have been on a mission at our company Q4B to rewrite every job description that we receive from our clients and to show them how much more effective our rewrites can be compared to the ones that they put on their career site. We have been able to convert one key client so far and plan to make this rewrite service part of what we offer all of our clients. We feel that is that important. WE feel that the old way of writing copy, especially for companies searching for great talent is an insult to those very candidates that the company wants to reach. Thanks again. 

  • http://www.verticalelevation.com/ Carol Schultz

    Eric:  This is a great strategy for companies who are looking to use “want ads” to attract active candidates.  

  • AB

    Unfortunately, the first two descriptions contain what look to be spelling errors. ThinkGeek’s posting says, ”as well as filing in other design tasks around the office.”  Do they mean “filling in”?  Woot’s description (while totally engaging and humorous) states, “You’ve mastered getting deals on all things electric and you’re reading to push the envelope again.” Reading?  I might be “ready to push the envelope” or “readying,” but not reading.  Maybe job description rule #1 should be having multiple people read and edit it before posting broadly.

  • http://twitter.com/GoSnapHop SnapHop

    I’m a fan of making job descriptions about goals, not requirements. What’s the goal for the position? Is it to build great products, increase sales, boost morale, improve efficiency? What would your ideal candidate achieve in the first year of work? It wouldn’t just be about creating great designs, say, but selling 20% more shirts than baseline, or getting 30% more customer comments. Metrics are rarely built in to job descriptions and I think they can be a huge help.

  • Deidre

    What a great article! Thanks :)