As a direct response copywriter, I specialize in making readers take a specific action. I write a variety of copy, including articles, landing pages, sales emails, and job descriptions.

This article will walk you through an approach to job descriptions that allowed me to double my conversion rate of visitors-to-applications in less than a year. You’ll learn the strategies and best practices I used to grip candidates, exciting them enough to take action.

What is a job description?

A job description is a document written by an employer that lists the tasks and responsibilities of a specific role along with the skills and experience needed to qualify for the position.  

1. Study your target candidate.

Many studies show that people buy on emotion first, and then rationalize their purchases using logic.

Applying for a job, in that sense, is a lot like making a purchase. Pressing the “Apply Now” button is an emotionally charged decision.

When writing your job ad, tap into those emotions by learning everything you can about your target candidate (i.e., the person you want to be interviewing). What are their professional goals and values? What makes them happy?

Example

Create a target candidate persona or a composite of your ideal employee. (Download these buyer persona templates to get started.)

Use the information you find to make potent promises that your target candidate wants to hear and, more importantly, you know you can keep.

Are you hiring for a role in content marketing? Consider aspects of your existing marketing team that you want to see reflected in your new hire.

What are your current employees’ career goals?
What do they enjoy most about the company?
Which areas of expertise do they lack that your candidate can provide?

These are all valuable pieces of information that can help you craft a corresponding job description and ensure your potential candidates would be a fit at your organization – both culturally and professionally.

2. Optimize the job title with keywords.

Every day, the job hunt leads millions of people to search millions of keywords. This makes SEO very important to the recruitment process, especially when writing job ads.

In your quest to be unique and desired, don’t make up a new, creative name for an established role. In other words, don’t call your open content marketing position an “Attention Ninja” or “Audience Crafter.”

Example

For a role in content marketing, title your job exactly what you’re looking for, such as content marketing manager. If you’re in the B2B space with clients all over the world, for instance, add a few more adjectives: “Global B2B Content Marketing Coordinator.”

Keep in mind that the experience level of your ideal candidate can change the words they use when looking for jobs online.

If you’re hiring for a mid-level content marketer, for example, consider words like “strategist,” “specialist,” or even “manager.” Is the content you produce part of a much larger digital marketing operation? If so, include that in the title.

Post the position under a recognizable, keyword-friendly title, as that’s what candidates will be searching for.

3. Start with a company summary.

Open your job ad’s main text copy with a “Company Summary” paragraph. But don’t simply paste your business’s “About Us” boilerplate description into your job listing.

Your “Company Summary” should help to put the job for which you’re hiring into context for the applicant.

If your company sells security software, for example, it won’t be enough to simply state your company name, when you were founded, the types of software packages you offer, and where you’re located.

Your applicants will want company details specific to the team they’d be joining.

Here’s an example of a company summary for a made-up software development company looking for a content marketing specialist to join its team.

Example

Security Software Co. is a Boston-based software developer that puts today’s most pressing ecommerce security challenges at the heart of its brand. We turn the best cybersecurity technology into trusted solutions for the small online business, and after a decade serving more than 70 clients, we need someone to help us tell the stories that matter most to our customers.

If you summarize your company in a way that resonates with your ideal candidate, you’ll set yourself up to dive right into the job description itself.

However, keep in mind that this doesn’t stop at the second paragraph following the company summary above. Describe your open position using subheads, or sections, in this order:

Benefits
Requirements
Responsibilities

4. Concisely describe the job’s benefits.

Every ad must start with a concise description, or overview, of the role. It should be snappy and compelling – just be sure to complement that with the big-picture benefits as well.

General Electric did a nice job describing the benefits of their roles in the commercial below, as part of an amusing series to help the company shift its brand. Listen to how the person in the blue sweater describes their new position:

People inherently want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Appeal to that desire by helping candidates envision the impact of their work.

If you’re hiring a software developer, explain how their work will impact your customers. Will it help them beat traffic? Will it help them communicate better with their family? Will it help them get clean drinking water every day? Be specific. The more specific you are, the more compelling your message will be.

Here’s how our fictional organization, Security Software Co., might describe the benefits of working as their newest content marketing specialist:

Example

As the Content Marketing Specialist for Security Software Co., you’ll create articles, infographics, and eBooks that build an engaged audience. Your goal will be to drive thousands of people to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn. Your success will expand Security Software’s global reach – helping millions of parents protect their children from online predators – while simultaneously developing your personal brand as a foremost expert in our space.

5. Summarize the benefits package.

Now that you have the candidate’s attention, draw them deeper into the ad with a section dedicated to the other benefits: your company’s benefits package.

According to a 2021 Indeed report, 83% of employers say their companies have become more transparent about compensation and perks in their job descriptions.

Instead of simply listing your perks, use examples to help candidates envision the benefit.

Example

At Security Software, we ask a lot of our employees, which is why we give so much in return. In addition to your competitive salary, medical/dental/vision plan, and matching 401(k), we’ll shower you with perks, including:

Dress: Wear anything you like to the office – and be as comfortable at work as you are in your own living room.

Flexibility: Two days a week, feel free to skip the commute and hit your deadlines from home.

Food: Save hundreds of dollars on food each year by using our well-stocked, healthy kitchen.

Wellness: Stretch away the stress every morning in our in-house yoga studio.

6. Keep the job’s requirements clear and realistic.

This section will be your ad’s most sterile, so don’t close with it. Stick it in the middle, sandwiched between two sections that highlight promise and opportunity.

Keep your list of requirements only as long as it needs to be. You don’t want to scare great candidates away with trivial prerequisites. You also don’t want to engage and inspire unqualified people with a shortlist.

Example

To be considered for this role, here are the skills we’re looking for:

At least 3 years in a similar role with comparable goals and responsibilities (security and/or software background, preferred)
Bachelor’s degree in English, Marketing, Communications preferred
You must be an excellent writer, someone who understands how to frame a message in a clear, concise, and compelling way. You must also understand the mechanics of an efficient, effective marketing automation campaign.
This is an autonomous position, so you should be self-sufficient and self-motivated. It’s also a creative role, so you must be able to gracefully receive criticism and feedback about your work.
At least 3 years in a similar role with comparable goals and responsibilities (security and/or software background, preferred)
Bachelor’s degree in English, Marketing, or Communications preferred
You must be an excellent writer, someone who understands how to frame a message in a clear, concise, and compelling way. You must also understand the mechanics of an efficient, effective marketing automation campaign.
This is an autonomous position, so you should be self-sufficient and self-motivated. It’s also a creative role, so you must be able to gracefully receive criticism and feedback about your work.

7. Use strong verbs to describe the job’s responsibilities.

Responsibilities are the job but they can also generate excitement and promise in a passionate candidate.

Begin each bullet point of your job responsibilities with a unique, yet, fitting verb. For example, the role doesn’t “manage” people, it “shapes” them. The role doesn’t “oversee” projects, it “enables” their success. See the difference?

One word can offer a fresh perspective, altering the reader’s frame of mind.

Example

As Security Software’s sole Content Marketer, you’ll meet the initiative’s strategic needs on your own, experimenting, learning, and adjusting as you go. Throughout your journey to grow our brand’s audience and reach, you’ll be responsible for:

Sculpting informative, entertaining, digestible articles that audiences can’t stop reading.

Designing beautiful, rich infographics that are as engaging as they are shareable.

Publishing easy-to-skim, value-driven eBooks for download in exchange for business-email addresses.

Crafting persuasive, laser-focused landing pages that compel your target audience to take one valuable action.

Purchasing targeted ad spend on well-performing social media platforms.

Pulling prospects through each stage of our marketing funnel, gradually warming them up for a productive conversation with sales.

8. Remove bias from your ad.

Believe it or not, your job description can show bias and alienate great candidates. How? Through the use of jargon, gendered language, culturally-specific expressions, and insider language.

For instance, terms like “aggressive,” “guru,” “fearless,” and “killer instinct” may seem harmless but they carry a masculine bias and can affect your candidate pool. Using Americanisms like “up your alley” can also confuse applicants whose native language isn’t English.

The Indeed report also found that 30% of employers surveyed have prioritized inclusive job descriptions. You can do so by leveraging tools like Textio that analyze your job description and make recommendations to help you craft a bias-free listing.

The Final Product

Here’s what our example job ad for Security Software Co. looks like when stitched together:

Content Marketing Specialist

Security Software Co. is a Boston-based software developer that puts today’s most pressing ecommerce security challenges at the heart of its brand. We turn the best cybersecurity technology into trusted solutions for the small online business, and after a decade of serving more than 70 clients, we need someone to help us tell the stories that matter most to our customers.

OVERVIEW:

As the Content Marketing Specialist for Security Software Co., you’ll create articles, infographics, and eBooks that build an engaged audience. Your goal will be to drive thousands of people to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn. Your success will expand Security Software’s global reach – helping millions of parents protect their children from online predators – while simultaneously developing your personal brand as a foremost expert in our space.

BENEFITS:

At Security Software, we ask a lot of our employees, which is why we give so much in return. In addition to your competitive salary, medical/dental/vision plan, and matching 401(k), we’ll shower you with perks, including:

Dress: Wear anything you like to the office – and be as comfortable at work as you are in your own living room.

Flexibility: Two days a week, feel free to skip the commute and hit your deadlines from home.

Food: Save hundreds of dollars on food each year thanks to our well-stocked, healthy kitchen.

Location: On the days you are in the office, get here quickly thanks to our highly accessible central location.

Wellness: Stretch away the stress every morning in our in-house yoga studio.

REQUIREMENTS:

To be considered for this role, here are the skills we’re looking for:

RESPONSIBILITIES:

As Security Software’s sole Content Marketer, you’ll meet the initiative’s strategic needs on your own, experimenting, learning, and adjusting as you go. Along your journey to grow our brand’s audience and reach, you’ll be responsible for:

Sculpting informative, entertaining, digestible articles that audiences can’t stop reading.

Designing beautiful, rich infographics that are as engaging as they are shareable.

Publishing easy-to-skim, value-driven eBooks for download in exchange for business-email addresses.

Crafting persuasive, laser-focused landing pages that compel your target audience to take one valuable action.

Purchasing targeted ad spend on well-performing social media platforms.

Pulling prospects through each stage of our marketing funnel, gradually warming them up for a productive conversation with sales.

APPLY NOW

This ad, for all intents and purposes, is a generic example. It’s designed to illustrate, at a high level, the techniques that make candidates feel something when they read a job ad.

Nonetheless, it’s important to first use your knowledge of the role for which you’re hiring to create an accurate ad – one that reflects your company’s culture and specific needs.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Sept. 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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