How to write job descriptions that convert (with examples)
When talking to candidates, they usually say things like "the job descriptions are all the same" or "they're all long and boring". Yet some companies have many more applicants than others, even for the same roles, in the same industry, and at the same stage of growth. We see it all the time with Crew customers.
The #1 thing they do is that they don’t do like everyone else. If you stand out, you’ll instantly improve your conversion rate. Simply because almost all companies do the same thing: They copy the publications of others, and put their laziness before the candidate’s experience. Change that, and you’ll instantly get more incoming candidacies.
Interestingly, even when going outbound and reaching out directly to candidates, you will need one. Because you can’t say it all in a short message, you’ll inevitably will include it, to let the candidate know more. It can then improve your reply rate, sometimes even the positive reply rate.
Huge thanks to Léo Bernard, Co-Founder at Bootcamp T-Shaped Recruiter, for his help on writing this article 🙏.
Before we start, a few key elements to think about when writing your career pages & job descriptions:
- 26 secondes. In average this is the time candidates spend on reading a job post.
- Candidates skim through job descriptions, they rarely read them in detail.
- When skimming them, candidates focus first on (in this order)
1/ Salary range and benefits
2/ Day-to-day details and job’s content (jobs-to-be-done, objectives, direct reports…)
If this doesn’t match what they are looking for, they won’t go further and won’t read the rest (company culture, mission…).
“I don't want to waste time reading about a company and their vision/mission if I don't fit the role” say some candidates.
- Candidates rarely spend time reading the company description and mission statement. If they are interested, they will instead visit your website, test your product, and search for press releases.
Knowing that, here are our recommendation.
- Copy/past others job posting. Do spend the needed time to create an authentic one. That’s how you’ll stand out.
This does not prevent you of course from reading other offers, to see which wording they use, the compensations they offer, how they structure their offers etc... When doing so, ask yourself: would I apply for this offer? If not, why, what is missing?
- Use generic words (excellent, great…), generic culture descriptions (”at [Company] we have a culture of excellence…”), generic values (Curiosity, Respect, Accountability…), and buzzwords - that everyone uses at the end (Ninja, Rockstar, Family…). Instead use precise words and examples (see below).
- Ask candidates to create an account before applying
- Ask too many questions - or questions that need a lot of work to be answered - in the apply form
- Discriminate. Be careful especially about unconscious bias, sometimes we are so used to some words that we forget that they can be discriminating (Salesman, Chairman, one of our guys etc…). Tools like Textio can help.
- Disclose the salary range (and if applicable the stock options range) + Perks and benefits
Since this is the most important part for most talent.
- Work on your titles
Since candidates scan the descriptions top-down, before reading it in detail, you need to work on section titles, to make readers want to read more. One way to do it is instead of using generic words like “requirements”, use more engaging and/or original titles like “what you are really good at”, instead of “compensation” you can say “Some nice rewards of working here”
- Focus on why this job will be great for the candidate, not why your company is great
Most job postings begin with a long section describing the company, but as said above, candidates care more about compensation and the jobs-to-be-done. Try to spend more time in this area, focusing on the client’s needs (= candidate), not why your product is so great.
- Emphasize what is unique to the job
That’s primarily what will make you stand out. What is so unique that they should apply to your job more than any other one. It comes back to the unique selling points of the job.
- Be precise
Use detailed examples, measurable goals, and numbers.
- Use “You”
Instead of an impersonal “ideal candidate” person. This way, candidates will already imagine themselves in the role.
- Track sources
Find out which source (job board, social networks, etc.) performed best and where the most qualified candidates come from (quality of sources).
- Give a good sense of what the job and working with the team will look like once hired
Since this is the 2nd most important part, for candidates.
▪️ How the job is done today
▪️ What a classical week or month at this job will look like
▪️ What’s the team structure
▪️ What are your expectations in terms of what needs to be shipped and goals to be achieved.
▪️ Ideally focus on the outcome, not the experiences, skills or credentials. It’s what we call the performance-based job descriptions over skill-based job descriptions. Which is a great way to favor diversity.
▪️ Bonus: What’s your philosophy about the job, and who (or which companies) inspires you.
- Work on the candidate experience
Which is a huge part of your employer brand. When candidates go through an awesome process, they will tell it to their friends, even if/when you’ll reject them, and maybe the perfect candidate is one recommendation away.
▪️ Set up an automatic message that is sent right after candidates apply.
To let them know that you have received their application and that it’ll be considered. But make it
- Nice and unique
- Authentic and human. Too many times it feels like it was written by a robot (”thank you for applying, we’ll get back to you soon)
- Useful. Add some relevant content to candidates, content that can tell them more about your company, culture… And/or help them prepare for next steps.
- Thoughtful of their time. Don’t say things like “if you don’t receive an email from us in the next 3 weeks, please consider that your application wasn’t a match with the role you have applied to”, or even worst “but please reply again in few months as we are constantly opening new positions”. Instead, try to
When I test career pages, even at great scale-ups, 8 times out of 10 I got a dumb message like “Thank you for your application at [company], we received your application for [job], our team will review and get back to you”. Léo Bernard
▪️ Assess all applications and send a custom rejection email to each candidate.
That’s why recruiting tools are useful, to help you do it at scale.
Custom = a different email per rejection reason. Reasons can be a lack of expertise, a lack of skills, missing prerequisite for a language, for a technology, for a specific location etc… You can obviously set up an email template for each reason, in your ATS/CRM, to go faster when assessing applications. And sometimes add additional information before hitting the [send] button, typically when a candidate is great but misses only a few things.
A custom email with a specific reason:
1/ shows that you have spent time reading the application, and considered it
2/ can help the candidate improve and work on his candidacy
3/ will be more accepted by the candidate than a generic one
4/ can trigger referrals from rejected candidates. If they know exactly why you didn’t advance them in the process, they can then think of a friend or a colleague who has what you are looking for.
Examples of great job descriptions
Figures / Link
What makes it great ?
- I really like that Virgile Raingeard, the CEO, made a quick video (on Loom) where he explains why they’ve started the company, how the tool works, what is their mission & what are their objectives etc… Really cool, easy, and quite original way to present the company ✨
- They start with a story: “Figures was created in October 2020 by Virgile, who was fed up with not having relevant compensation”
- The 2nd video is full of humour and jokes, which gives a great idea about the company’s culture.
Buffer / Link
What makes it great ?
- Starts right away about the job that needs to be done. No long company description. 🤩
- Use of “You”, instead of an impersonal “ideal candidate”
- The day-to-day job is well described. Context about what needs to be achieved (”to be successful in this role”), about how the team is structured etc…
Pave / Link
What makes it great ?
- ”you don’t have to just hear it from us — you can hear it from our customers: Allbirds, Hover, Shopify.”
Link to a podcast with the CEO + Customer stories → Reassuring about the quality of the product / company.
- The Salary range is precise, and how the candidate will be ranked in this range is super clear and detailed.
- The 6 values are explained through 6 links to loom videos, which is already great, but even better, the videos are done by 6 different persons! It shows that the culture is shared throughout the team. Kudos for that 👏
- Both the jobs-to-be-done (”Your Primary Focus”) and general work experience at the company ("Life at Pave") are here and well described.
Did you know ?
When using Crew, you can build beautiful career pages in minutes, with zero code. You can also track sources, to know which social media, job-board or even employee's network did perform best. As well as automate a custom rejection email for each candidate, depending on the rejection reason! ⚡️