How to write a job description that converts

Clients often ask us how they can get more applications for their job adverts or how they can improve the conversion or application rate for an underperforming vacancy. The truth is that there’s rarely one reason why a job advert’s failing to deliver the anticipated results: maybe it’s advertised on the wrong job board or competition in that area is particularly high. In today’s candidate-driven market, it’s easy to assume that a lack of applications is down to current market conditions.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it can be as simple as a job description. Recruitment marketing has come a long way from the days of classified ads – I mean, Google’s involved now. It’s positively high tech. But strip away the advanced search functions and automation, and the bulk of your job advert is text – it’s your job description.

The following tips will help you write clear, engaging job descriptions that distinguish you from your competition and convert the right candidates from view to application.

Avoid buzzwords or jargon

Think about how people search for jobs online. They won’t be searching for ‘marketing ninja’ or ‘data guru’ – they’ll be looking for ‘marketing executive’ or ‘data analyst’. Gimmicky job titles don’t make you look cool, all they do is stop great candidates from finding your role. Internal jargon is also off putting. No one will understand what a ‘Level 6 Manager’ is in your company, but they will understand ‘Senior Marketing Manager’. Keep your language clear and understandable.

Research your keywords

Indeed’s Job Category Trends tool can give you a useful overview of top search terms, job titles and competitiveness across industries. Like all other search engines, job boards and aggregators look to your job title and your job description in order to show the most relevant results for a job seeker’s search. Make sure your keywords are used throughout your job description but try to avoid keyword stuffing! Humans need to be able to make sense of the advert, after all.

Be realistic

Does your Business Development Manager really need that degree? Do you have to have a minimum of 7 years’ experience in order to manage a team? When you're writing your job description, make sure that the skills you list as ‘required’ are the things that you absolutely cannot do the role without. Otherwise, you’re just stopping perfectly qualified candidates from applying.

Always provide a salary range

‘Competitive’ can mean different things to different people. Avoid ambiguity and make sure you specify an accurate salary range in your job description. Not only will this help people self-select, it will ensure that you’re only interviewing applicants that you can afford to hire and will reduce negotiating time at the offer stage.

Help candidates visualise the role

Include a ‘day in the life’ section in your job description where you explain what an average day would look like for this role. Think about the tasks, meetings, reports and projects your new employee will be working on and showcase these in a clear, digestible format. This will help candidates visualise how the role could fit their own aspirations and career goals.

Include benefits and meaningful perks

What makes your company stand out from all the others? Do you have a fantastic health care scheme, amazing work socials or great support for new parents? Perks and benefits don’t have to be monetary – you might have an amazing team structure that encourages collaboration or clear development plans to help people progress. Sell what makes you, you.

Avoid unconscious bias

A tricky one, given that it’s unconscious, but there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re not accidentally creating a bias through your language. For example, asking for someone with ten years’ experience automatically excludes younger applicants that could be perfect for the role. Recruiting for a ‘salesman’ implies a gender bias. Without realising it, we all use language every day that is gender-coded (how many men have you called ‘bossy’ recently?) and this language makes its way into our job adverts. There’s software available that can help you to de-code your job descriptions though – try the Gender Decoder for a simple, free overview.

Be positive

Focus on what you’re looking for, rather than what you don’t want. For example, rather than saying ‘Candidates with fewer than three years’ experience managing a team won’t be considered’, try saying ‘Proven experience managing a team is important for this senior role’.

Use ‘you’ and ‘we’

You’re a person and you’re looking to hire another person, so speak like a human. Rather than saying ‘the ideal candidate will be experienced using Photoshop’, say ‘you’ll have experience using Photoshop’. Rather than ‘the organisation’ or ‘the company’, say ‘we’. This makes your job description more direct, more engaging and more personal.

Use an active voice

Some more grammar for you. Formal, corporate language is riddled with passive sentences – it’s perfect for making you sound like an objective third party, but when you’re trying to get someone to apply for a job, that’s the last thing you want.Be direct and make responsibilities and roles clear.

Writing a great job description isn’t an exact science. It’s a mix of keyword research, good copywriting and realistic expectations. You need to balance communicating your company’s tone of voice and personality with providing candidates with clear, understandable information, as well as making sure your job is searchable in job boards and aggregators. Follow the tips in this article to write your job description and you’ll be swamped with amazing candidates before you know it.

Author

Jenny Handy