In Develop your online recruiting brand, I covered how to set up an online presence that can attract talent. Now let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of hiring someone, starting from square one — writing the job description. A job description is often the very first opportunity you have to make a good impression on a candidate. The job description needs to be accurate and sell the role but also your company as a place to work. Here's a step-by-step guide to create a killer job description to attract the right candidates:
1. Ensure the position title is accurate
First and foremost, make sure the title at the top of the job description accurately reflects the role, so you attract the right people. That means being specific about seniority level and technology stack if applicable (i.e., Senior Backend Engineer instead of Engineer). Side note: Some companies like to use creative titles like “Ninja” or “Hacker,” but those titles risk being too vague, off-putting, and less searchable.
2. Write a compelling opening paragraph
You must have an exciting opening paragraph to draw people in. Are you disrupting a market or creating a new market? Can you point out success with revenue and/or customers that would excite a candidate? Who are your VCs? Paint a picture of your ambitious mission, progress to date, and the big opportunity waiting for the right person.
Examples of job descriptions from Kloud.io and Socratic (Unusual-backed companies):
“Work for a company that makes work easier for everyone — Kloudio helps democratize data access for organizations. We believe that when teams have the power to make data-driven decisions, productivity and innovation soars. We’ve definitely noticed this firsthand! Although we work with large enterprises like Netflix and Rakuten, we’re still an early-stage startup. This means that our team members get to define what their job titles mean in the context of a rapidly growing organization with huge potential.”
“Socratic is building a Jira-killer. We think even the 'modern' approaches to task management are worn out. We're a Seed-Stage startup rethinking work from the ground up. By unifying task management with performance intelligence, we show teams how well they work and why, with real-time data to guide daily decisions to the best result. Socratic is led by two seasoned founders with deep startup experience, including successful exits. With this role, you'll not only help build a product — you'll help build a company.”
3. Spell out who you’re looking for
Describe what type of employee you're looking for and give insight into what this role will be doing. For example, what product feature will they build out? Who will they be partnering with (external or internal people)? What personality traits do you want in the ideal candidate?
4. Detail skills requirements without going overboard
Highlight specific skills that are "must-haves" but avoid being overly granular so as not to scare off candidates. A good rule of thumb is calling out one to three non-negotiable must-have skills, which you can use to easily qualify candidates during the review process. The rest of the requirements can be listed below the non-negotiable items. We recommend limiting to seven total requirements.
5. Include a “nice to have” section
Outline a few skills that are not required, but would be nice to have in an ideal candidate. For example, If you're looking for a UI engineer, UX design skills are not required but would be nice. Your future hire might only have four of the seven requirements, but the requirements combined with some "nice to haves" might make the perfect candidate.
6. Summarize responsibilities
Briefly describe the job’s main responsibilities. This should include the “big picture” role the person would play in the company strategy as well as an idea of the day-to-day work. Here's an example from CoScreen (an Unusual-backed company):
7. Play up perks and benefits
List out the perks that make your company a great place to work. Don't forget to include anything that you think is cool and fun. Examples might include:
Ability to work remotely
Full medical and dental benefits for you and your family (100% covered)
Generous PTO, sick leave, and parental leave
Learning & development: $2,000 annual stipend for personal career development
Lunch/travel expenses reimbursement
Brand-new laptop setup and technical equipment
8. Don’t forget the application instructions
Lastly, include an easy way to get in touch with a recruiter or hiring manager if there are any questions and set up a button to apply immediately. Cross-posting the job description on relevant platforms like LinkedIn and AngelList can help you reach more candidates.
The goal of a job description is to get the right people through the door and onto your team. That means being clear about what you’re seeking in a candidate and what the nature of the role entails — all while demonstrating why your company is a great place to work and why the reader should get on board.