Is your job description working against you?

13th February 2019 | Sam Wilson

Writing a job description (JD) have long been deemed a necessary but arduous part of the recruitment process. You’ve always been told that you have to include one when advertising for a vacancy, otherwise candidates might not apply. However, it’s quite possible that it’s your job description that is putting candidates off. So, what can we do to ensure that our JDs are working for us rather than against us?


It can be far too tempting to continue to recycle old job descriptions – writing a new one each time is far too time-consuming when we can just give the old one a quick update in places and it’s ready to go!

However, it’s amazing how easily a JD can become muddled and confused as the result of a number of updates and revisions. It can also be easy to overlook aspects that can come across outdated and irrelevant – quickly putting the reader off.

As much of a chore as it might be, starting from scratch with a JD will help ensure that it is coherent and consistent.


JDs are so often overly-long documents which makes it unlikely that anyone will ever read them in full. This not only means that all the work you put in to writing it was a waste but also that what you consider to be key information could easily get missed.

Your JD doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list of everything that the candidate might end up doing – it should just serve as a supporting document to your job advert. Think about the absolute essentials in terms of skills, experience and education and just include those.

You could find that with a more succinct, focused JD you get more suitable candidates and fewer applications for those that aren’t qualified for the job.


It can be easy to get wrapped up in the notion that a JD is an ‘official’ document and write it in such a way. Overly-formal language can quickly become inaccessible and for less senior roles, it can be a deterrent.

Review the nature of the role and write your JD to match. Experiment with less formal language and find a tone that works.


Finally, and this is only right for certain situations, why not get rid of JDs altogether?

There is a school of thought that traditional JDs are outdated and unhelpful when it comes to both attracting the right candidates and giving a new starter guidance in their role. Rather than providing a strict JD with specific guidance on exactly how you expect the job to be carried out, consider instead simply providing a ‘job purpose’ (JP). A JP lays out what you are looking for the person to achieve and allows them to decide on the best way to achieve it.

Providing this level of trust and ownership can lead to significantly higher levels of productivity, creativity and achievement.

Make sure your job descriptions are working for you, rather than against you – or try completely doing away with them. When done properly, your JD will help you fill a vacancy with the perfect candidate – when done badly, it’ll drive that person away.