7 Steps to Writing the Perfect Job Description

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7 Steps Writing Perfect Job Description

Online dating has not killed the personals ad.

Those who grew up before Match.com or Tinder will likely remember personals ads as the short paragraphs usually published in the back of newspapers—paid for by single people trying to meet other single people. While online dating has made these ads pretty rare, you still need them in the business world.

They’re called job descriptions, and in slightly more words than a personals ad, you need to tell the world exactly the kind of person you’re looking for, in a way that makes them want to work for you. It’s an art, and not nearly as easy as it sounds.

And while we wouldn’t recommend asking potential job applicants if they like fruity tropical drinks (unless you’re a fruity tropical drink maker) you should follow these 7 easy steps to crafting the perfect job description.

Step 1: The Headline

Even in a bad job market, nobody is going to respond to a job ad that says “Unappreciated Wage Slave Wanted for Menial Tasks.”

You need a headline that will grab the right people. So be specific, concise and catchy in what you say. Like:

“Creative, Independent Thinker Wanted to Develop Copy for New Tech Firm.”

Use keywords in the headline that applicants will be searching for. So instead of just “tech,” try including “copy, tech, creative, independent,” which are all words that your target candidate will be searching for. Think of it like SEO for your job description.

Step 2: Duties

The thing about many small businesses is that people end up doing about six jobs when they only signed up for one. Unfortunately, applicants may not always know that. The last thing you want is to have to uncomfortably explain to an employee “Oh, you didn’t know you had to walk the office pet Labradoodle? Guess that wasn’t in the job description.”

But it should be. List out every task the job might entail. You don’t need to get super specific like “Clean floors, wash bathroom, fluff throw pillows,” but “General cleaning duties” will suffice.

Basically, think about what a typical day would be like for this employee, and list each task as a bullet or short sentence.

Step 3: Who You’re Looking For

Default buzzwords like “Motivated hard worker who can take direction and take initiative” can sometimes send the wrong message, or attract the wrong kind of job candidate. That’s because this description tells the applicant absolutely nothing.

Give some serious thought to your corporate culture and the type of personality that the job will require. If it’s in IT or tech, you might want someone who’s comfortable with repetitive tasks. If you’re looking for a copywriter, you might want someone who’s really good at meeting deadlines.

This section also lists what qualifications you’re looking for. Be careful not to put a laundry list of things you’d prefer in here, because it might scare off somebody who’d be great but doesn’t fit them all. List 3-5 essential qualifications, then under a separate heading list another few that you’d prefer.

Step 4: Time, Place, and Chain of Command

This may come as a shock, but not everyone enjoys going into an office every day and working with lots of other people. Maybe you’re one of them--that’s why you started your own business.

But some do, and you need to make sure applicants know whether your job requires being in an office or can be done from home.

They also need to know if they’ll be working independently or with a team. And if they’ll be expected to do most of their work without supervision, or will be micro-managed.

Finally, it’s good to know who your boss is. If your company is too small to have departments you don’t need to go into a lot of detail here, but at least let an applicant know who he or she will be reporting to.

Step 5: Your Company

Not every applicant is proactive enough to do their homework before they interview with your company. So you need to let them know a little about who you are. The most important thing here is using a tone in the description that mirrors your company’s culture.

Beyond using tone to communicate your company culture, you need to explain who you are, and why you’re better than other companies in your industry. In about a paragraph you should explain:

    • Who you are 
    • Your mission statement and goals 
    • The industry you’re in and how you fit into it 
    • How large the company is 
    • Your principal employees/owners and who they are 
    • Any stats related to growth or potential growth 
    • Your working environment.


And don’t be afraid to brag; this is also where you can mention any awards you’ve won, or clients you’ve helped succeed. If nothing else, it’ll let you know straight off if an applicant even bothered to read about your business in the job description.

Step 6: Salary and Benefits

A lot of small businesses are afraid that if they list a smaller salary it’ll scare off top talent. And you’re right, it might. But it will scare them off just as much when they read a job description as it would during a third interview, so it’s best not to waste anyone’s time. List a realistic salary range and any other benefits that could potentially an applicant.

Step 7: How to Apply

Just like with any piece of business communication, your conclusion needs to be a call to action. And it needs to include every single thing the applicant needs to know to apply. That includes the name, email or mailing address to send the application, phone number, title of the person receiving it, web links, etc.

The longer the process, the higher the chance an applicant is turned off. Just like with online shopping, make the process as easy as possible to attract the best candidates.

Will writing the perfect job description ensure you get the perfect fit for the job? No, but it will save you – and any potential candidates – a lot of time in the long run.


Matt Meltzer

Matt Meltzer is a professor of business communication at the University of Miami. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a bachelors degree in business administration from UM, as well as a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

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