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Doing job descriptions right

Doing job descriptions right

There's often a major disconnect between the realities of a job and the position profiles, job descriptions, job ads, or whatever you want to call them.

Many companies get this wrong so consistently that you would not be blamed for wondering if it was by design. Some reverse psychology to grab attention and hook candidates? Let’s hope not.

The reality is that job descriptions are often the first impression when it comes to recruitment and candidate experience. So, it is critical to pique the interest of top talent and inspire them to act.

The worst thing companies can do is to emulate other cookie-cutter job ads out there and pretend that they’re effective. They are not. Without clarity and a vital purpose, the description will meander and convince few to apply, let alone want to work there.

The following are our Top 5 tips on how to get job descriptions right.


  1. Don’t be lazy

Having read (and helped craft) thousands of job ads over the years, we can immediately spot a job ad that has been copied and pasted. It comes across as disjointed and inconsistent, with some parts reading like carefully crafted marketing copy while other sections feel like someone just jotted down on the back of a napkin.

Don’t dig out the job ad from the last time the same role was available. First of all, if everyone did this, we may as well hand over job-ad writing to a computer and be done with it. Job ads should be about the opportunity today. Why is this job available now? What’s the size of the opportunity right now? Why is this a fantastic time to apply for this role?

  1. Avoid buzzwords and clichés

“Hit the ground running!”

“Think outside the box!”

“Looking for a Jedi/Ninja/Guru!”

Buzzwords and clichés are not only cringe-worthy, but people are becoming savvier at deciphering what they mean. “Hit the ground running,” for example, suggests the company doesn’t have the time or budget to train you. “Great organizational skills” probably means you’ll be doing a whole lot of filing.

Be authentic. If you don’t pepper your everyday language with buzzwords, don’t put them in a job ad.

A balance also needs to be struck in terms of SEO.  You want to make your job ad discoverable but cramming your copy with SEO terms can detract from the message. 

  1. Get the balance right between culture and job details

This is a big one. Job ads are increasingly full of EVP (Employee Value Proposition) details, painting a glowing picture of company culture, perks, and benefits. This is fine, but “selling the dream” isn’t an excuse to neglect the practical details. What does the opportunity involve? What does an average day look like for this specific role? If you can, connect the dots between the job advertised and the EVP.

  1. Consider multimedia

It’s the 21st-century, folks. Depending on the limitations of the platform you post your job ad on, you may be able to move beyond plain text. Instead of writing 200 words about your incredible company culture, why not include photos of the team having fun? Perhaps you could ask the candidates’ future co-workers to make a short video with their smartphones to talk about the role.

Remember, people want to hear from the team they might one day be working with, not from the company CEO.

  1. Focus on the skills you cannot easily train for

The ISM Mastery Model contains over 70 sub-competencies across sixteen categories. If job ads attempted to capture every skill a procurement professional should possess, they would end up being unreadable and turn potentially great candidates away.

Requiring industry-specific hard skills and experience also closes the door to top talent from other industries with transferrable skills.

Most hard skills can be trained for or picked up on the job. Use your job ad to focus on people skills such as communication, influence, leadership, and the ability to build consensus.