How to Create a Better Job Description in 3 Easy Steps

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At the risk of giving away one of my well-kept secrets, I want to discuss the best ways to improve your results when it comes to posting ads for open jobs.

As a third-party recruiter, I am often amazed by the candidates who apply for senior-level IT roles that have absolutely nothing to do with their actual backgrounds. Over the years, I have gotten resumes from sales clerks, administrative assistants, and even basket weavers. (Just kidding on that last one. Does anyone in North America even know how to weave a basket anymore?)

Having gotten so many bad resumes from job postings, I have learned a trick or two over the years about how to improve the quality of candidates who submit their resumes for open requisitions, saving both time and money.

Given that pay-per-click via Indeed and Facebook can get very expensive and the cost for a LinkedIn or Monster job posting can be extremely high, it is crucial to get it right! If job slots are prepaid, that makes revising job descriptions a bit easier, but at the end of the day, time is your most valuable resource. As a recruiter, getting bombarded with a bunch of totally off-the-mark candidates is a gigantic waste of time. So here are my suggestions to help you create job descriptions that will lure more of the right candidates your way:

1. Spend a Little Time on Revision Up Front 

Most companies will provide recruiters with job descriptions they have created, or with links to jobs on their websites. Spending a bit of effort up front to reword this material is wise for several reasons:

  1. Your client may have copyright protection, so if then description is not reworded, there could be a potential legal risk with HR.
  2. If the same exact wording is published, candidates could take clips of content from the ad and use Google to figure out who the client is, bypassing the staffing firm altogether.
  3. If other recruiters are competing, job seekers may see the ad appear identically under a different staffing firm’s name, which could create confusion and mayhem.

2. Lead With the Skills

It has been my experience that job descriptions generated by most companies start off with a pitch about the firm and try to entice candidates with a slew of information about the duties of the role. While this approach has its merits, it has some major drawbacks for external recruiters.

  1. When candidates are surfing the web to apply for jobs, it is a cumbersome and time-consuming process. What they tend to do is read the first paragraph and say to themselves, “Yes, this job looks good.” They never get to the core requirements.
  2. Put the must-have skills as the very first thing listed on the job description. While this strategy will never keep every looky-loo from applying, it will cut down on the number of unsubstantiated resumes you receive.

3. Outline What You Don’t Want

If there are still too many candidates applying who are way off base, adding a note about what you do not want at the very top of the ad is a great solution. Be sure to do it nicely.  Below is an example:

NOTE: This role is only available to US citizens and Green Card holders living in the Greater New York area. Please do not apply unless this role is a very close match to your background. Thank you.

Removing unnecessary verbiage is worth a shot as well. Sometimes, companies create laundry lists of requirements that include everything from being able to sit at a desk while lifting 50 lbs. and juggling erasers to having good communication skills. Think about it: Who is going to think they have bad communication skills and decide not to apply? No one. It is our job as recruiters to screen candidates for personality and interpersonal/language skills.

Bottom line: When posting a job ad or sending it directly to a busy candidate, less is often more. It is best to give the candidate just enough meat to entice them to want to learn more.

By taking the approach outlined above, I have saved myself countless hours and avoided paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars in unnecessary posting fees. Working smarter, not harder helps recruiters screen fewer resumes, which frees up valuable time to find more purple squirrels and make more placements.

Wendy Schwartz, CPRW, is an IT recruiter, resume writer, and career consultant. Wendy is launching  to complement her staffing firm

By Wendy Schwartz