Creating a job description that works

Molly Brennan
Molly Brennan

Molly Brennan

Crafting the right job description not only ensures you’ll get the right candidates for an open position, it will also help you bring onboard and evaluate new hires as they adjust and  grow into their roles.

Unfortunately, many hiring managers don’t take the time to revise and refresh old job descriptions, and some broadcast descriptions that are inaccurate, too long or simply not  enticing.

Below you’ll find 10 tips for creating an accurate description that will attract and inform candidates by providing just the right amount of information, and will help you manage your new hire’s performance once he or she is on board.

1. Remember that a job description is your organization’s first chance to make a good impression on candidates. When you provide a descriptive, informative, attractive and well-written job description you’re sending a message about the way your organization does business.

2. Make sure you have the basics covered. There are a few critical items you don’t want to forget, including legal language, such as an Equal Opportunity Act statement, whether the position is full or part-time, and the location. Other key pieces of information that should be included:

-The reporting structure

-Basic responsibilities

-Key goals and/or outcomes


-Salary and benefits information

-How to apply and what to include with the application (cover letter, salary history, etc.)

3. Allow key stakeholders to review and provide feedback. Team members and colleagues — both above and below the position — may have valuable input, particularly when it comes to responsibilities and qualifications. By asking for and acting on their feedback, you’ll also be building buy-in for the eventual hire.

4. Include an overview of the organization and it’s mission. Start off with basic information about the history, budget size, constituents, programs and key funders. It’s also a good idea to include new or exciting details that might get a candidate excited, such as a new program or grant award.

5. Provide indications of the organization’s culture. Personality and culture fit are absolutely critical to any successful hire, and the job description is a great place to highlight features of your organization’s culture. One way to do this is to list out core values or characteristics that you look for in strong candidates.

6. Avoid information overload. Multi-page job descriptions crammed full of highly-specific and detailed information will turn off candidates. Avoid internal references to things that outsiders will not understand, such as complicated programs or grant funding processes. Ideally, a job description should be no more than two pages.

7. Follow a clear, clean format. Use bold headings and bulleted lists to organize the information and make it reader-friendly. If you don’t have a good template, review a few job descriptions on hiring websites and borrow the features you like.  

8. Carefully consider the qualifications section. Be realistic about expectations by identifying up front the must-haves and the nice-to-haves in terms of both skills and experiences. Then highlight the must-haves as prerequisites for the job and the nice-to-haves as qualifications that are preferred. This way you won’t scare off strong candidates who don’t fit the bill exactly, but you’ll weed out candidates who don’t have the core qualifications.

9. Decide how explicit you want to be about the salary range. There are good reasons for publicizing the salary range (you’ll automatically reduce the number of people you have to talk to who aren’t within the range you can afford) and good reasons for not publicizing a range (you might miss out on a great candidate who is just outside of the posted salary range).

10. Create a condensed version of the job description that can be used as a job announcement. Use this shortened version to email the position to your network.

Crafting a great job description takes time, but it’s time well spent because a targeted, clear and concise job description will attract top talent, and will help build your reputation as an employer of choice.

Molly Brennan is vice president of executive search at Koya Consulting, a search firm dedicated to the nonprofit sector. Molly oversees Koya’s executive-search services, working closely with Koya’s nonprofit clients to further their missions by recruiting and placing talented employees.

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