Anatomy of a Great Job Description

Attracting top talent in today’s competitive job market is no easy task. Nowadays, it’s no longer enough to simply write a compelling job description and hope for positive outcomes. To put your company’s best foot forward, applicants need to easily find your job listings via search and social, and the resulting listings need to sell your company culture. To cover the breadth of an effective job listing, we spoke with Bhawna Singh, Senior Director of Engineering for Glassdoor’s job search engine, and Max Yoder, Lessonly CEO.

Make it easy to understand

You need to write for two targets: job prospects and search engines. This means optimizing your job listings so that both people and algorithms can find them easily. Be mindful when using abbreviations for certain positions. Sr. usually stands for senior and RN generally indicates Registered Nurse, but other abbreviations like PA could stand for a whole host of things: Physician’s Assistant, Production Assistant, Personal Assistant, or Personal Accountant.

As a rule of thumb, make your listing easy to read for humans. This usually generates better search results. Bhawna tells us, “Our algorithm will rank your jobs higher if the job title closely matches what the user typed in the search box.” She adds, “Additional phrases in the title—like apply now or competitive salary—make it less likely that your job will match well to the user’s query. These types of modifiers are best saved for the job description.”

Tell them why the position matters

To attract the right prospects, give job seekers a sense for how their role works within the company. By letting prospective employees picture themselves within your company structure and workflow, job descriptions becomes that much more memorable from the very get-go.

Max has seen how just one sentence can improve a job posting. “Historically, we’ve been less traditional in our job postings, but many sales candidates point out a certain phrase we used to describe our sales roles: By writing that we take a human approach to selling (i.e., we don’t sell, we ask questions, and we help where we can), we differentiate our position from other companies.”

Focus on the title

First impressions matter a lot. A 2014 eye-tracking study conducted by Mediative showed that people view search results on a webpage vertically instead of horizontally. This makes the well-crafted job title even more important than it already was. To make sure applicants see your job listing, make sure the most relevant terms fall within the first 1-3 words. The change in formatting makes all difference for catching these vertical webpage skimmers.

According to Glassdoor information, location might not be as important to include in your title as you’d think. Unlike search engines, all major job search sites like Glassdoor feature two prominent fields: one for job title and one for location. When these engines try to match your job to the query, they match title-to-title and location-to-location. Characters in the title are pretty valuable, so spare a few by putting your job’s location elsewhere.

Don’t mislead people

You’ll have to excuse the language, but never promise anything in your job listing that you cannot consistently deliver. Sometimes things get rough, you need a position filled quickly, and it might be tempting to stretch the truth on certain points. Don’t do it! Just be truthful, because this often backfires, leaving a poor taste in the prospect’s mouth. That’s not a reputation you want your business to have. You never know when an applicant could end up working for a potential customer down the road.

This also means being straightforward with people and prospects: “Tell them what’s going to be great about their job and what they will appreciate about your company culture and leadership style,” Max says. “If you can’t do that, people are going to notice, and they probably won’t want to take the position. It’s also important that you set the stage for the more difficult parts of a role; if you don’t set expectations well, you are doing yourself and the job seeker a disservice.”

Make it short and sweet

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospect combing through hundreds of job listings. You’d welcome something short and well-formatted, if not just for the length of it! Glassdoor’s the job search engineering team has found that among the site’s millions of job postings, the most typical length for a job title is between 12-20 characters. It’s no surprise then that titles within this range also see the highest click-through rates. Think of job titles like:

  • Product Manager (15 characters)
  • Sales Associate (15 characters)
  • Business Analyst (16 characters)
  • Non CDL Truck Driver (20 characters)

Great formatting will always win major points. Easy-to-digest entries with proper punctuation, paragraph breaks, and even spelling can have a tangible SEO impact. Bhawna says, “Good search engines take into account the quality of the job title and description. Misspellings and bad formatting can negatively impact how your job ranks.” This means being wary of copying and pasting the same job description into different places around the internet. Bhawna advises, “If you’re using multiple sites, it’s always a best practice to check how the formatting of each one looks.”

Wouldn’t it be great to share this advice with your hiring manager or anyone else who writes job descriptions? Take a tour of Lessonly. Sign up today.

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