Ten Tips to Writing an Effective Job Description

Have you ever heard the expression, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?”  Writing an effective job description must follow the same principle.  Things like spelling, grammar, format, length of the description and even word choice can make all of the difference in whether or not someone reads the ad and applies for your open job.

Here are some tips to be sure your posting is effective.

1.  Keep it simple.  Imagine what happens when you receive a resume that is written in paragraph form and is multiple pages long.  Do you really read it?  No, you likely do not.  Keep this in mind when you write you job descriptions.

  • Use bullet points.  A bullet point is quick, and to the point.
  • Do not list EVERYTHING.  Just list the most important things.  The posting is just a way to get someone interested enough to apply.  Think of it as a Real Estate Listing.

2.  List required and desired qualifications separately.  Every job has a “Need to Have” and a “Nice to Have” list of requirements.  Know what they are and list them separately.

  • Use bullet points.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, keep bullet points to 3-5 items.
  • You do not need to tell them EVERYTHING about the job, just the most important things.
  • Be Specific.  Is there a specific machine they need to know how to operate?  List it by name.  Is there a specific qualification, like a certification to drive a Fork Lift or knowledge of specific software?  List it by name.

3.  Keep it legal.  Make sure your job posting does not violate any laws.

  • Do not say that your job requires a background check.  Did you know that typically you cannot request a background check or drug test until you have made an offer?  And that in some cases, doing a background check or drug test may not even be legal.    You MAY say that you are a drug free workplace.  People usually get the hint.
  • Make sure your posting follows the rules covered in the Fair Employment Act and meets all EEOC/ADA guidelines.  Take the time to educate yourself.  Seek legal counsel if necessary, and don’t try to “guess” what is legal and what is not.

4.  Use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  It is incredibly important that when you post a job on a website, or on a recruiting site, that you use proper English.

  • Keep the tense consistent.  Stay in the present tense or in the past tense, but don’t mix up the two.
  • Keep it in the 3rd person.  The word “I” should not appear in a job listing.  “I am seeking an experienced machinist” is not appropriate.  “Company name” is appropriate.
  • Spelling:  This may seem unimportant, but it is very important. According to a recent article, these are the most commonly misspelled words on both resumes and job postings:

• applying (not apllying)
• recently (not resently)
• assembled (not assembeld)
• commensurate (not commiserate)
• oriented (not orientated)
• maintenance ( not mainteance)
• efficiently (not efficently)
• preparation (not prepration)
• distinct (not distict)
• excessively (not excessivly)
• judgment (not judjement)
• accurately (not acurately)
• schedule (not schuele)
• variable (not varible)
• facilitate (not faciltate)
• accountability (not accontability)
• eligibility (not eligiblility)
• environment (not enviroment)
• packaging (not pacaging)
•  following (not folllowing)
•  employees (not emploiyees)
• industry (not inidustry)
• preferred (not prefeered)
• graduate (not gradutate)
• competitive (not compettive)
• preparation (not prepearation)

And some personal favorites:

  • A Lot is TWO WORDS –it’s not alot!
  • Receive (not recieve, remember….i before e, except after c…. )
  • Their, They’re, There (“their” is possessive, “They’re” means They Are, “There” is a place)
  • Your, You’re (Your is possessive (“your job offer is attached…”) , You’re means You Are (“You’re being offered the job”)
  • Possess (not poses)
  • To, Two, Too (“to” is referring to a destination…”I’m going TO the bank”; TWO is a number… “the TWO of you please discuss and let me know your decision”; TOO is also, or as well ….”I’m happy you got an offer too.”)
  • Watch possessives (adding an s (or es) is plural, adding an ‘s is possessive, adding a s’ is plural possessive.

5. Keep it action oriented.

Your job should sound like an ACTION.   List the responsibilities, whenever possible, leading with ACTION words.


  • Manage production process for two assembly lines.
  • Maintain inventory counts for production team.
  • Lead a team of warehouse associates to assure inventory accuracy.
  • Answer a 10 line phone system.
  • Support a customer service department.

 6.  Drive traffic to wherever you are going to process the applications.  It might be to your email, or to an online job application on your website.  But whatever you do, be sure to reply to the applicants.

 7.  Be honest.  Don’t be dishonest in the job description just to get people to apply.  Don’t say the salary is negotiable if it is actually NOT negotiable.  Don’t make a job location sound easier to get to than it is.   Not being upfront just wastes everyone’s time and gives you a bad reputation in the marketplace.

 8.  Keep it consistent.  Keeps your job posting formats consistent.  Here is a suggestion:

  • Begin with a general statement:  ABC Company in City Name is looking to add 3 machine operators to our growing business.
  • Include the hours and terms of employment:  This is a second shift, full time position, with hours from 2pm-10pm, Monday through Friday.   Frequent overtime may be required. 
  • Include a few bullet points about what they will be doing:  In this role, you will:  (Bullet point one, two, three, four and five)
  • Add the qualifications:  Required Qualifications for the position are: (Bullet points one to five)
  • Add the Desired qualifications:  Desired (but not required) Qualifications include:  (bullet points one to five)
  • Add any physical requirements:  This position requires you to stand for long periods of time and also do some light lifting of up to 25 pounds. 
  • Add the pay:  This is an hourly position, with a starting pay of $12/hour. 
  • Add any benefits info.
  • Add HOW TO APPLY information:  To apply for this opportunity, please visit the careers page on abccompany.com and fill out the online application. Or, you may send a resume with cover letter to XXX@abccompany.com

9.  Think about keywords. Remember that many employees search our jobs online.  Think about key words to use in your posting.  Use city names (state too if it if’s a common name), industry, specific machines, etc.  Here is a great article about using key words.  http://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices/recruiting-hiring-advice/attracting-job-candidates/search-engine-optimization.aspx

  • If the title of the job is weird (ie, you company calls a Customer Service Representative a “Advocacy Concierge” or a Custodian a “Facilities Cleanliness Specialist” or something!) think about using the more common name for the title (or at least in parentheses or the job description.)  Seriously, no one searching for a customer service job types in a key word search “Advocacy Concierge.”

10.  Make It Interesting

Your job is one of millions posted online.  Make it interesting.  Be creative, but appropriate.

Above all, put yourself in the job seeker’s shoes.  If YOU were looking for a job, you would want to read a brief, accurate and correctly written overview of the opportunity.  You would want to know how to apply.  You would want to be confident that what you are reading is accurate.  You would want a prompt and consistent follow up.  Walk the Talk!


You can always contact Nissen Staffing Continuum  to help you manage your hiring process.  If you would like more information about this, you can contact Scott Nissen at scott@nissenstaffing.com

Other Resources:  Check out these articles!




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