Writing Job Descriptions: 6 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

March 26, 2018

If you had to guess how long the average job seeker spends looking at your job post, you’d probably say at least a minute or two, right? Well, not exactly.

According to a study, the average jobseeker only spends 49.7 seconds reviewing a job post before deciding it’s not a fit. And, they spend 76.7 seconds with a job that appears to match their interests and skills.

Clearly, you don’t have a lot of time to wow potential candidates and position your company as a great place to work. However, by avoiding certain job description pitfalls, you are much more likely to grab their attention (and keep it).

That’s why we’ve put together this list of common job description mistakes, along with useful tips on how to steer clear of them. You can more examples as well as job description templates in our new eBook: LinkedIn’s 2018 Ultimate Recruiting Toolbox

1. Using jargon like “ninja” or “rock star” in your job titles

Using titles like “wizard,” “rock star,” and “guru” in your job descriptions might sound cute, but it’s not helping you attract talent. That’s because these terms don’t give candidates enough specific info about the role they’re applying for. For example, here’s what you don’t want to do:

Instead, ditch jargon altogether and use simple, common titles that a candidate will recognize immediately—like this one:

Using common titles is also important because it will help people searching for a role (like "data analyst") surface your job post. 

2. Writing a generic and uninformative desciption

A generic, spare description that only talks about the requirements and responsibilities of the role isn’t going to get the candidate excited about the company or the position—and they’re likely to click away after reading something like this:

The intro is your opportunity to get a little creative and describe exactly what makes your company and the potential job seekers team great—so don’t waste it. Try something like this instead:

Here, the added description of the team and its mission gives the candidate something enticing to think about and drives interest in the role, while also showing the impact that their work would have on the business. 

3. Including a never-ending list of responsibilities

Listing too many responsibilities and goals will make the job seem unfocused and your potential candidate will be unsure of what you’re looking for. Even if they have the right experience, no candidate wants to parse through a list that looks like this:

Instead, prioritize what’s important and aim for a small number of clear, concise goals that gives the candidate a picture of the role. Four to six bullet points is a good sweet spot to aim for:

Note: Using jargon-y terms like “procurement” and “KPIs” can confuse younger or less experienced candidates. Keep this in mind when writing job descriptoins for interns or entry-level roles. 

4. Using paragraph format to describe qualifications and requirements

Long-winded paragraphs force potential candidates to have to slow down and really search for the info they need. The want to know if they are qualified for the role and if they can't find that info quickly, they might lose interest. Here's what you don't want to do:

Candidates want to quickly scan and digest requirements. Make it easier on them by reformatting them as bullet points, like so:

5. Having gender-biased language in your descriptions

Using words like “strong,” “competitive,” and “chairman” (or other male-specific titles) doesn’t just drive female candidates away—it also harms your overall diversity efforts. Studies show female professionals are much less likely to apply to jobs with these “male-sounding” words in their job descriptions. That said, using words like “nurturing” or “sensitive” can also keep male candidates from applying, limiting your total talent pool.

Take a look through your job descriptions to spot these “biased” words and replace them with neutral language wherever possible. These two handy charts can help you get started:

If you’re looking for an automated way to scan your posts to make sure they will appeal to women, there’s an app for that.

6. Forgetting to optimize your job descriptions for search engines  

You want your job listings to reach as many people as possible, maximizing your pool—and to achieve that, you can’t afford not to think about search engine optimization (SEO) when crafting descriptions. Use this checklist when writing up your job description to make sure you're taking advantage of SEO: 

We'ce already gone over some of these tactics—like avoiding gimmicky titles—but things like adding links and making the site more responsive (especially on mobile) are specific SEO strategies that will help boost your rankings in Google and other search engines.

Also, keep in mind that search engines are getting smarter, and SEO isn’t just about cramming in as many keywords as possible. Google will always reward high-quality, valuable content that gives the candidates exactly what they’re looking for.

Writing job descriptions may feel daunting, but they really don’t have to be complicated. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can create your own descriptions that entice candidates and position your company as a great place to work.

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