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Job Descriptions Are Pretty Bad, Part I

· 4 min read
Vince Fulco


Having recently dipped into our database of job descriptions (now up to 28,000+) for some text analysis, I was struck by a recurring set of issues which differentiate the good ones from the bad ones.

In short, the good ones are:

-- longer in descriptive material

-- start with a strong sales pitch

-- list specific tasks and/or milestones for the next 6-18 months

-- give a balanced view of the position

To protect the innocent and guilty, I will give some anonymous snippets from our archives, which hit / miss the mark in terms of impact and relevancy.

Make a snap decision easier

A job description is the first chance you get to introduce your company to prospects. Given a compelling story and attention grabbing headline (you do have one, right?), it behooves you to fully describe the opportunity. Applicants these days are well-informed shoppers for all goods and services, including accepting a new role at a company. So give them everything they need to convert their thinking to take the next step and apply. I roughly calculate that 25% of our sampled job descriptions were 3/4 of a standard page or less. This is way too short to:

  • completely describe all that is required in the role
  • all that you are ideally looking for
  • and all that the candidate can expect to gain

Deliver excitement from the start

If you do not exude excitement in your job description, why should the candidate care? A long standing web metric is that only 20% of readers will click a headline for the rest of the content so you better make it a good one. A punchy, energetic, well-targeted headline will convey your desire to have someone of high(er) quality in the position. AKA someone who can really move the needle and make your life easier. Additionally, match the headline to the seniority level in the company and the relative pay scale. This sets expectations and will be a coarse (aka time-saving) and effective filter for who applies. By all means, do not skip the headline as is done below with companies which start with the formal title. Borrrrring!

A couple of poor examples:

Specialist (Corporate Innovation Team) -- this from a well-known startup accelerator!!?!

Digital Content Manager -- this from a company that specializes in marketing?!!?!

Here are some better ways:

"Looking to have direct customer service impact on a quickly growing brand management consultancy?"

"We need a customer sales rep to help our ad agency double revenues. Interested?"

Make applicants feel valued

The right applicant is looking for guidance, a challenge and to know they are expected to grow over the long term. Describe your milestones and stretch goals over the next 6-18 months. Give the prospect an image of a better version of themselves. This also conveys the message up-front that you are not a "status quo is ok" shop and that everyone is focused on ways to evolve the business to be faster, more efficient, more profitable, whenever possible.

A good example:

We are growing fast and looking for junior business development talent to strengthen our team in XYZ. Your contribution will have immediate effect on our client growth and revenues. In the first 6 months, you will perform the following and then be promoted to a more senior role.

You will spend 70% of working hours on business development, market research and ad-hoc requests:

  • Assist team in establishing a database of new leads using various channels online/offline
  • Maintain and update Hubspot CRM to ensure all sales leads and customers are tracked
  • Support pre-sale, during, and post-sale meetings
  • Conduct desktop research to analyze market intelligence and competitor dynamics
  • Qualify inbound leads, and reach out to outbound prospects effectively
  • Document the optimal process from Lead Generation to New Client within a new sales manual

You will spend 30% of working hours on marketing:

  • Assist with creating marketing assets, e.g. banners, prints, and advertisements
  • Assist the owner with brand campaign operations
  • Send out monthly newsletter via Mailchimp.
  • Fulfill ad-hoc analytics requests

Give the applicant the chance to figure out up-front whether they can meet your requirements with a complete list of scheduled tasks, expectations, growth initiatives.

Explain the positives and not-so-fun parts

There is no position that is always satisfying, regardless of rank in the company. Instead of leaving the discussion of difficult tasks (or unpleasant work) to the 1st series of interviews, lay them out against all the positives. A frank discussion from the outset acts as another filter only allowing those who are really intrigued and/or passionate about chasing challenges. These are the folks who relish overcoming the difficulties which happen naturally.

Hopefully the above has given you food for thought and the urge to revisit your job descriptions of the last few months. If you would like more unbiased analysis on them, feel free to sign up for our alpha/beta invite list here...Otherwise look for Part II of the series in the coming months.

Sidenote-- / is an emerging startup narrowly focused on delivering tools and services. We have an internal road map with a series of enhancements to make the hiring practices of SMBs and startups much easier and successful.

What's with the blog post images? We are big fans of innovation and trying to bring the world solutions which have never existed before. So we have reached back in history to find examples of the efforts of others. Besides finding enough images for posts is tough!