11 June 2021

The 5 step guide to writing better job descriptions

As we all know, first impressions can be tricky and misleading. It takes our brains 1/10th of a second to make a first judgment about the person that’s in front of us. We’ve discussed how to avoid bias that can creep in during the hiring process at the pre-selection stages, as well as throughout the interview process. However, bias can also creep in even before you receive any applications.

Finding and attracting the best-fit candidates to fill a role has always been hard. Talent pools are continuously shrinking and everyone is chasing the same talent. There are two solutions to this problem. First, using Talent Analytics to diversify and enlarge your talent pool & second – write better, bias-free & inclusive job descriptions!

In this blog, I will share the following 5 steps on how you can write better job descriptions:

Why are job descriptions so important?

The job descriptions are the very first impression the candidates get about your company. They are the key piece in every company’s hiring strategy and are especially valuable to communicate your employer brand. If written badly, job descriptions can leave negative consequences on the composition of your candidate pool.

One glance at the job description and it might end up that people are not willing to apply because:
(i) they feel as if they are not good enough for the role
(ii) do not fit the company culture
(iii) your job advertisement just lacks information.

I’ve gathered five tips that are guaranteed to help you write better job descriptions. By following these 5 steps you will not only write job descriptions that are inclusive but also job descriptions that create an accurate first impression of your Employer Brand to the applicants & diversify your talent pool.

The 5 step guide to writing job descriptions

Step 1. Avoid gender coded words & phrases in Job Descriptions

I am sure you’ve heard the saying “think before you speak”. Words can be powerful in an everyday setting, that’s why it’s especially important to choose them wisely also when writing your job descriptions. For example, there is a chance that within your job descriptions you accidentally perpetuate gender stereotypes.

Using words that are either masculine or feminine can foster gender inequality. Depending on the language in which you write the job descriptions, even the use of pronouns can foster gender inequality. In English for example, instead of using “he” or “she”, use the non-gender-specific “you” instead.

Even certain adjectives, like “strong”, “determined” and “self-reliant” can be perceived as masculine words. Thus, in a way implying that the person for this role is expected to be a man. If you are not entirely sure whether you’ve successfully removed gendered words from your job description, you can always use tools such as Textio bias meter. These types of tools help reveal any hidden gender bias within the text & suggest alternatives to make the text more gender-neutral.

If you really want to make sure your hiring process is entirely bias-free and inclusive – it’s time to begin focusing on removing bias also from the candidate screening process!

Want to know how to get started with debiasing your entire selection process?

Step 2. Minimize the use of buzzwords

Business buzzwords and company jargon in general, when taken out of the context of the workplace are the worst. Think of words like leverage, core competency, and synergy. Even though it might make sense in your mind to include words like this (because after all, that’s what the job responsibilities are all about) – think twice.

Keep in mind that not everyone shares your company-specific knowledge about terminology.

Imagine – a candidate is reading your job description, and the job description is filled with company jargon. The chances are that some of the jargon is so company-specific that the candidate has no idea what it means. What happens next? Your candidate closes the tab on their laptop and never thinks to apply for a job at your company again. This happens more often than you would think; research shows that around 66% of young adults did not understand the role they were about to apply to based on just reading the job description.

For example, take a look at the two job descriptions below. One of them includes a lot of business specific jargon and is difficult to understand. While the other is a jargon-free, more clear version. Which one would make you want to apply for a job?

To avoid shrinking your candidate pool and shying away candidates, keep the job description texts direct, clear, and written in simple language.

Step 3. Consider which screening requirements really matter 

When looking for a new employee and writing up a job description – I am almost certainly sure that the list of qualifications you come up with for the given role can end up being pretty long. Yet, what I urge you to do is take a step back and reassess whether all of these requirements are absolutely necessary.

With every new requirement, you eliminate one more candidate from your talent pool. The more qualifications or requirements are listed as must-haves, the more likely a candidate viewing the description will not see themselves as fit for the job. That’s why carefully consider which requirements really matter. Ask yourself: which skills can be learned on the job and which skills are neccasery before even having started? 

Another way to do this is to write a results-based job description. This means that instead of focusing on requirements, you place the focus on the various milestones they are expected to achieve after one month, half a year, and a year into their job role. Instead of applying because they meet the set criteria, candidates will begin to apply because they have the ambition and potential to achieve these long-term goals and objectives.

Step 4. Provide key insights into organizational culture

Everyone wants to work for a great company with amazing company culture. In fact, it is one of the biggest joys of working anywhere. That is why it’s good to offer candidates a glimpse of your company culture already within the job description or on your career site. Tell the candidates about what it’s like to work with you. You can do this by either including testimonials from your current employees, displaying photos of team activities, or anything else that you feel represents your organizational culture the best. For example, this is how we showcase our organizational culture on the Equalture career site:

Visual impression of the careers page of Equalture which shows the organisation culture that we nurture and embrace. The image shows  pictures of the office, how we casually work together and also drink a beer together after work.

Step 5. Emphasize your commitment to ensuring Diversity & Inclusion

Caring about D&I is no longer an option. It’s what’s expected from you. If you are consciously working towards ensuring equal opportunities, diversity & inclusion – then you should feel proud to announce it also in your job descriptions. 

As a means of showing our commitment to ensuring equal opportunities in hiring, we launched the Equal Opportunity Hiring Certification Program. The goal of this program is to support companies in the journey of making every single step possible to ensure equal opportunities, as well as show your level of commitment to ensuring diversity and inclusion.

In fact, research has shown that emphasizing your commitment to ensuring diversity and inclusion has a positive effect on overall organisational attractiveness. Which not only results in attracting high quality applicants, but also improving and diversifying your talent pool. 

To conclude

I hope these tips help you in writing job descriptions that are inclusive and bias-free. Just remember to revisit them once in a while to make minor tweaks – and don’t forget to showcase your commitment to ensuring diversity and inclusion within your company! After all – you have to practice what you preach!

Cheers, Anete