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Best Practices for Writing Job Postings

BY RecruitmentMarketing.com Contributor / March 1st, 2022 / 11 MIN READ

Best Practices for Writing Job Postings

Picture this: You have an amazing company culture—inclusive, inspiring, rewarding. Your employer brand is aspirational yet authentic, a true representation of your organization. Your benefits are solid, your compensation is above market, everything’s humming along—but you can’t seem to fill those job reqs. What’s going on? 

It could be your job postings (sometimes referred to as job descriptions—we’ll get to that nuance below). They might be offensive, condescending, or even illegal. Or, if you’re “lucky,” they could just be off brand, hard to read, and boring. (For inspiration on job descriptions not to write, check out this list. Pro tip: Don’t require massages to “help the Boss relax as he does Mixed Martial Arts.”)   

 
In order to sell a candidate on your company, your job postings need to be easy to understand, branded, and inspirational. How? Let’s break it down. 

What Is A Job Posting and Why Is it Important? 

You won’t get a lot of recruitment marketers jockeying to write job postings. Ironically though, while writing them isn’t a glamorous job, good job postings are one of the most important tools in your talent toolbox. 

Definitions 
As with so many terms in recruitment marketing, job descriptions, job postings, and job ads are used interchangeably. But there is a difference. 

  • Job descriptions: Job descriptions are meant for internal use. For companies with in-house compensation departments, they group job families together and determine compensation. They also help with planning, training, and performance management. Job descriptions aren’t intended for external consumption. They’re meant to explain the job to the people who have the job, as well as that person’s manager and the company in general.  
  • Job postings: Job postings are a recruitment marketing tool. They’re used for attracting attention, educating about the company, and turning clicks into applications. Job postings live on your careers site and job boards. 

For a great visual representation of the difference between job descriptions and job postings, see the side-by-side here

  • Job ads: Job ads (aka “job adverts” in the UK) are usually crafted by a writer/art director and cost more money to run. They are much shorter and often allow images and video to do the heavy lifting. You’ll see these run on Google, social media, LinkedIn, etc. This article summarizes it up perfectly: “Job adverts sell, job descriptions tell.”

For the purposes of this piece, we’re focusing on job postings. We’ll leave the rest for another blog. 

Writing Job Postings: How to Get Started  

A lot goes into a good job posting: your title is key, as are the various sections like requirements, company description, and more. Then there’s the inclusivity aspect—specifically, your EOE statement and gender-neutral copy. (We’ll get to all that below.) But before you can dig into the flashy stuff, you need to nail down the basics. 

  • Research and intake 

Ask yourself, your hiring manager, and any other relevant stakeholder: 
–How are your competitors marketing similar roles? 
–How does this position fit into the company’s mission as a whole? 
–How are we describing our company (including values, mission, culture, etc.) 
–How long has it been since someone refreshed the job description? 
–How would you summarize the role?
–What are the role’s essential duties and responsibilities? 
–What does success look like for this role? 
–Who does this role report to?  
–What hard and soft skills are necessary for this role?
–What are the requirements for this role (education, experience, certifications, licenses, physical abilities, etc.)? 
–After this role, what’s next on the career ladder? 
–What type of benefits and compensation is available for this role? 
–What other materials do you have access to (video, images, employee testimonials, etc.)? 
There are other questions you may need/want to ask, but these should jumpstart your research.

  • Determine your audience 

As with any communication, it helps to have a specific person or audience in mind. Consider creating a candidate persona to help you understand who you’re talking to and what matters to them. Candidate personas include work experience, communication style, preferred work environment, goals, education, and other characteristics that are useful when recruiting for a role. 

Note: If you’re creating a huge volume of job postings, you won’t be able to craft a persona for every position, but you can create candidate groups (Software Engineers, Sales, Drivers, etc.). 

How to Write Your Job Posting Title 

If you’ve ever thought, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a title,” you may have just identified part of your job posting challenge.  The “big deal” is that your title is crucial. Not only does it affect click-through rates, your title also affects search results. Here are some ways to get it right: 

  • Make it searchable. You may think titles like “Numbers Ninja” or “Service Savant” are cute, but search engines don’t. They’re looking for common industry terms, not clever synonyms.
  • Make it specific. Instead of “financial team member” aim for “bank teller.” 
  • Keep it short. We’ve seen a lot of different numbers for a job title’s sweet spot—it’s dipped as low as 20 characters and as high as 80. Your best bet, though, according to Appcast’s Chris Forman, whose analysis tracked 400,000 job seekers, is to stick to titles that contain about 50-60 characters. If you think this will nix your ability to use locations (Sales Clerk – South Bend, Indiana) and notes (Sales Clerk – Signup Bonus!), you are correct. 
  • Avoid abbreviations. For example, instead of “Jr” use “Junior.” Job seekers might misunderstand abbreviations, and they’re also less likely to search for them. 
  • Avoid symbols. Research has shown that more than two symbols (such as $, &, %, !) result in a 30% decline in apply rates (!!).
  • Avoid internal terms and job req numbers. No one but you knows what a Senior Support Analyst Tier II – Job #10002, Group 0055oU means. (And you may not either.) 
  • Test it. You don’t need to cross your fingers when you’re coming up with a job title, you can use research to inform what’s working. For a simple A/B test, create two different versions of your post to run during the same 60-90-day time frame. You might also want to run your original post as a control. You’ll find more testing information in this great article about optimizing and testing. Indeed’s Hiring Insights can also give you a sense of how your job stacks up next to similar posts. 

Storytelling Versus Scanning

Before we get into the actual writing of your job posting, let’s address the elephant in the room: Is it better to tell a story or use scannable bullets? Recruitment marketers are passionate about this disagreement, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide, armed with these pros and cons: 

STORYTELLING: Pros 

  • Provides a more robust sense of the job and workplace.
  • May be more interesting; appeals to emotions. 
  • More appropriate approach to an important life decision. 
  • More memorable than facts or data alone. 

STORYTELLING: Con 

  • Takes longer to comprehend. 

BULLET POINTS: Pros

  • Provides an overview of the information. 
  • May appeal to those with a engineering or science background. 

BULLET POINTS: Cons

  • Can’t sell the company as well as a good story. 
  • May not provide enough interest or inspiration to turn passive job seekers into active ones. 
  • Makes it too easy to cut and paste, resulting in inaccurate, overwhelming, or contradictory points.  

STORYTELLING + BULLET POINTS 
So, what’s the answer? According to Tue Holmberg, writer of 3,000 written job ads, the answer is a mix. A “good core story can give readers a far better idea about the job and give us the opportunity to sell it.” Bullets, meanwhile, “create the quick overview.” Combining the two, writes Tue, allows us to “activate both feelings and sense.” 

The Core Sections of a Job Posting 
Whether you go for storytelling or bullet scanning, there are elements that should be present in every job posting. Here are the basics: 

Job title 
We covered this above—keep it short, accurate, and search engine optimized. Remember that a good job title improves the quality and volume of qualified candidates, so craft it well. 

Company overview
Think of this as an introduction to the company or the About Us section on your careers site. What’s your organization like? What are your values, what’s your mission, how would you describe your culture? Why should the job seeker choose you? Focus on what sets you apart from the competition while avoiding generalities like “great people!” or “fun environment!” (Even if those things are true, they won’t differentiate you from every other company that’s saying them.)

Location
Coronavirus has changed the work world, putting a greater emphasis on the ability to work remotely. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, our work-from-anywhere mentality will stay, predict many experts in the recruitment marketing space. Physical offices will never go away completely though, thanks to our need for physical community, and since so many jobs are unable to be performed from home, location still matters. Make sure you include the role’s location near the beginning of your posting, and/or note your remote-work policy. 

Job summary 
This is where you want to talk impact—what will the candidate do on the job if they’re hired? What’s the purpose of the role? What’s important about the work they’ll be doing? Who will they be reporting to and working with? 

Responsibilities
Bullet points will come in handy for this section. In this important part of the job posting, you want to give an overview of the role, highlighting day-to-day responsibilities and activities. Put the most important bullet points at the top and condense bullets where possible. 

Requirements
Just as the company overview was “about us,” this section is “about them.” What are the skills and experience you expect from an employee in this role? 

Some companies segment this into “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” This is especially important if you’re recruiting more women for your company: As we noted in our “DE&I and Recruitment Marketing” post, women are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t meet 100% of its requirements. Contrast this with men, who step up with just 60% of the qualifications. 

The requirements section is another good place to use bullet points, so that job seekers can tell at a glance if they qualify. Again, bring the most important points to the top and condense bullets where you can.

Call to action 
A call to action (CTA) defines the next step you want the job seeker to take. Click to apply? Learn more? Upload your resume? Whatever it is, make it easy to understand and follow. 

Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE) statement 
Your EOE statement is a short paragraph that defines your commitment to diversity and inclusion. You can find a boilerplate EOE, along with samples, here. We recommend going beyond the boilerplate, though, and creating a branded EOE that takes a stand on what your company believes in. We’ll cover this more in the Inclusivity section of Tips for Writing a Job Posting, below. 

For more on essential sections and potential outlines for your job postings, check out the end of this article, where the author includes 20 samples of how leading companies organize their job postings. 

Tips for Writing a Job Posting

Use a consistent brand voice 
In “What Is Recruitment Marketing?” we discussed the definition of employer brand. (Reminder: it’s everything you think of when you think of an employer.) To create consistency and awareness, your brand voice should be present in every communication—including your job posting. Funny and irreverent, formal and knowledgeable, warm and welcoming—whatever your brand voice is, make sure it comes through loud and clear.  

Write well 
Recruiters typically write job postings but if resources allow, you might want to consider a professional recruitment marketing copywriter. If you don’t have budget, you’ll find Textio’s quick writing tips here

Be inclusive
Our “DE&I and Recruitment Marketing” post delves deeper into writing inclusive job descriptions and postings but here’s the gist of it: Make sure you use gender-neutral pronouns (“they/their/them” instead of “he/his/him” or “she/her/hers”). Also consider running your copy through an augmented writing tool to flag language bias (for example, superlatives like “world class” have competitive connotations for female candidates, who tend to be more collaborative). 

Hit the ideal length 
In his article on job posts, Chris Forman discusses the “Goldilocks” logic of optimizing the ROI of job postings. Too short (170-250 words) didn’t have a very good click-to-apply rate. Same with too long (2,000 words). But job postings somewhere in the middle doubled their click-to-apply rates. Textio, whose predictive engine is constantly analyzing data to figure out the sweet spot for job posting length, essentially concurs. The company says that right now the ideal length is around 300-660 total words. 

Use keywords 
Keywords are common words and phrases that job seekers use to search for roles. Using the right keywords makes it more likely that your job will show up in their search. Consider relevant, industry-specific words and terms, as well as alternate titles your role might be called. (For example, use “recruitment marketing professional” in your description as well as “recruitment marketer” to cover your bases.)

Focus on what’s in it for the candidate
Hopefully you created candidate personas for your job posting or set of posts. Revisit those and ask yourself, what does this person want in a job? Are they looking for collaboration? Culture? Benefits? What kind of career path is available to them? Make sure to showcase opportunities for development—a job seeker is more likely to apply for a position that has growth potential. 

Make sure to edit 
Ask a few current employees with the skills you’re looking for to take a look at your posting. They’ll be able to advise on whether or not the job posting resonates and seems credible. Then go back and proofread your post a few times to catch any inconsistencies or typos. 
Pro tip: The best way to review your own writing is to read it out loud. This will help you find mistakes the brain would otherwise correct and determine if the post flows well. 

Format
Big chunks of copy intimidate readers, which is why job postings often lean on bullet points. Whether you use bullets or not, try to break up your copy into smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read and digest the information. Subheads are another good way to organize information and make it scannable. 

Take Your Job Post to the Next Level 
How do you stand out in a world of amazing perks and cultures? How do you inspire a passive candidate or woo a highly sought-after active one? Here are a few ideas to bump your postings up a notch.

Compensation and benefits 
According to CareerBuilder, 74% of candidates want to see salary information. If your comp package is impressive, list it. Even a range will help people get a sense of what they’re in for. If you have to—and if it’s true!—you can say “competitive compensation” or something similarly vague. But transparency goes a long way toward building trust, and trust is how you’ll attract quality, loyal candidates.

Benefits tend to vary from region to region, so you don’t need to get too into the weeds on them here. Keep it high level, but if you offer any standout perks, definitely include them. This is also a good place to touch on culture by including intangible benefits like “work-life balance,” “collaborative environment,” and “challenging work.” Additional research from CareerBuilder says that extra perks make job seekers more likely to join a company. 

Video
Ditch the idea that job postings have to be long black and white text documents and start considering the role video can play in your talent acquisition efforts. Video lets you express your culture, team, and work environment in a way that words simply can’t. 

Visuals 
Much like bullet points make it easier to digest information, visuals can make your job posting easier to consume. Find ways to include graphs, awards, icons, maps, ratings/reviews, and other infographics like this Chipotle job posting—which does it all and then some. 

IF … 
This interesting article by Ryan Porter talks about the importance of those two little letters when it comes to writing job postings. To give candidates context on your requirements and how they stack up, you might want to tell them exactly what they would be doing if they were in the role you’re hiring for. His example sets aside a section in the job posting for this “if statement”: “If you were working for us, here are some of the things you would have done last week.” 

Talent Network 
In our “Best Practices for Creating a Talent Network” post, we discussed marketing your talent network by being visible wherever you can—including your job postings. Your job posts are the perfect place to invite job seekers to join your talent network and stay up on company news, open positions, and whatever other topics they opt into.  

When Your Job Postings Suck, Where Do You Even Start?! 

Start with a deep breath. There are bad job postings EVERYWHERE, you are not alone. Fixing all your job posts at the same time is too much—think small at first. If you’re overwhelmed, out of time, and not sure where to begin, start with the following five baby steps and tackle the rest of the best practices in this article when you can: 

  • Focus on fixing titles to make your postings more search engine optimized and help job seekers understand at a glance who you’re hiring. 
  • Prioritize high volume and entry-level job posts. These are typically seen most often, and if you’re a company that’s constantly hiring (retail and trucking, for example), having a top-notch job posting is low-hanging fruit. Plus, those posts take up a lot of your media budget so the more optimized they are, the more qualified applicants you’ll get.
  • Explore technology to help turn unconscious bias into inclusive language.  
  • Make your posts shareable—i.e., one click should let people share a post to their social media channels. 
  • Find inspiration—a North Star job posting can lead you to a better place. These might help. Or these. And these are particularly creative if you want to really “think outside the job posting.” 

Hopefully these best practices and tips will make it easier for you to revamp/rework/rewrite your neglected job postings. Remember: when it comes to recruitment marketing, job postings are one of the most important tools you have. Make the most of them. 

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