How to Write a Job Description in 4 Fast Steps
You need job descriptions before you can start hiring. These four time-efficient steps will help you get them written.
Photo: Startup Stock Photos
A job description is crucial when you’re hiring. It will help you decide who to hire and communicate the role’s expectations to candidates. A properly-written job description can make all the difference between an exhausting, time-consuming search that results in a bad hire, and a straightforward, well-defined search that results in a top-notch hire.
Seriously, don’t try to hire without a job description. So how do you write one?
While established organizations will have an established process that includes different steps and stakeholders, many startups and fast-growing companies don’t. It might just be you, the freshly-minted manager, an empty desk next to yours with a stack of urgent work waiting to get done, and the clock ticking. You know, #startuplife.
Sound like your situation? Here’s a simple, time-efficient way of writing a job description in four steps:
1. First, create your template
Open up a new document in your favorite writing application. Type out the following list of headings (or, heck, just copy–paste it):
- Job Title
- Role Summary
- Other Details
This outline isn’t actually for your final job description. It’s there to help you organize your time-saving research …
2. Use research as a jump–start
Why reinvent the wheel? Search jobs sites, like Indeed or Monster, and your competitors’ career websites for similar roles. The postings you find will help you piece together qualifications, responsibilities and other role-relevant details.
As you read the different descriptions, copy–paste useful details into your template document under the relevant headings. Don’t edit – just dump the blurbs right into your notes. You’ll probably start to notice similarities between the different descriptions: this is good, and will help you save time later.
By the way, this approach – basing your job description on those used by other companies – doesn’t just save time. It helps keep your expectations realistic, too. What skills, education, and experience can you reasonably expect one person to possess? What job responsibilities can one person reasonably accomplish? What title or salary does someone with particular qualifications and experience expect? Now you’ll have a pretty good idea.
3. Sculpt your draft job description
With all those useful snippets from your research in hand, open up a fresh document. This one will be your actual job description draft. Combine your research with your own knowledge of the company’s needs and start filling in the details:
- Job Title: Keep it simple, descriptive, and in line with what people would expect it to be called
- Date Written: For future reference, as you update the description
- Department: Names of departments, teams, projects, committees or regions the position is a member of, or leads, if relevant
- Reports To: Who the position reports to
- Type of Position: Full-time, part-time, contractor or intern
- Salary Range: What can you pay?
- Purpose: A brief description that explains why this role exists
- Description: A brief description of the role
- Key Responsibilities: A list of the main functions and duties of the position
- Minimum Qualifications: Skills, abilities, education and experience required to perform the role
Depending on the nature of your organization and the role itself, you might also want to include:
- Location or office the position works from
- Work hours, shifts or availability required
- A description of workplace conditions
- Pay grade
- Labor or occupational classification
- Benefits the position is entitled to
As you’re filling in the details, keep in mind the job description’s purpose: to help you decide who to hire, and to help the employee in the role understand expectations. Remembering this will help you figure out which details to include, and which ones are not relevant.
4. Prune it back & shape it up
Read through your draft. Are all the essential details there? Great. Anything non-essential? Redundant? Especially if you were copy–pasting passages from other job descriptions, this might be the case. Where you can, prune back unnecessary bloat. Nobody wants to actually sit and read a job description; keep yours as to the point as possible.
Now, let’s take one last look through the draft. Does the specific language, the words and phrases used, accurately describe what this role will look like at your company? Are there any typos or grammatical errors? Now’s the time for wordsmithing. Clean up all the details, and make sure everything is clear as crystal. That will save you time and trouble – potential confusion and misunderstanding – later.
Hey look – you’ve just written your first job description! Congrats!
Depending on your company and your position in it, you might need to get approval from your leaders before moving forward with your hiring.
Sidenote: Job descriptions vs. job postings
Job descriptions and job postings are different. Job postings exist to promote an opening to potential employees. They’re often your first impression to the candidate, and their objective is to get qualified people to submit an application. While job descriptions need to be descriptive – go figure! – they make terrible job postings. Job postings should be concise, persuasive and reflect copywriting best practices. And, they should be based on the job description; you need one before you can write the other.
Be (even) better at hiring.
Get expert Q&As and practical insights.
Delivered once a week, free.
Plus, get 11 must-have hiring email templates when you subscribe: