February 12, 2024

The no-nonsense guide to creating better job descriptions in 2024

Before we start, here’s why you should listen to me

Hey there. I’m Nabil. I’m a Product Designer from Houston, TX and I have over five years of experience applying for jobs. From applying on Workday (ugh) and Greenhouse to Lever and Oracle Cloud, and even emailing personalized cover letters to companies and recruiters. I have done it all.

I have come across some really well-written job descriptions (JD) that kept me wanting more, and some that I just closed after reading the first line. The same with the application process. When they start asking too many questions, that’s when I close the window and walk away from my computer.

Most of what I am writing here is based on my experience applying to Product and UX Designer positions. But you should still keep reading.

The problem with job descriptions these days

JDs should be treated as sales tools, attracting the right prospects (candidates) to your offering (a job). These days, everything I read is giant blobs of text that don’t explicitly and accurately tell me about the job and responsibilities. Most don’t contain a salary either. Mediocre job posts attract mediocre candidates. No wonder most companies are overwhelmed with thousands of applicants that don’t fit their needs.

The pool of candidates has never been this big, and it will get bigger as more tech companies announce more layoffs. Your company needs to do more to attract the best talent; the job application process is the best way to start.

Make me want to read more

The average applicant is applying to hundreds of jobs every month, if not per week. They are doing it because they have to, and they will probably not read everything. They might spend 5-10 seconds at best scanning through the headings and important points before they apply.

Times are changing, and you must give applicants an excellent reason to read the job description properly. This is the most significant opportunity in HR in years. While most other companies continue doing the same thing for years, your company has the chance to stand out and get the right candidates. Here’s a structure you can follow:

  1. Two to three lines about the company. talking about what is it that you do, and why should a potential applicant want to join your company.
  2. Put it in the title if it is remote in the United States, in a particular city, or anywhere in the world, regardless of time zone. Don’t put it at the bottom of the JD.
  3. Put the salary. Add the range, but make it believable. Tired of seeing 60k to 250k salary ranges.
  4. In simple terms, explicitly state who you are looking for. If you want a designer, but your ideal fit is a coder, put that in the beginning and not buried in the details.
  5. State the job responsibilities. I have seen a lot of great job posts that put out their 30, 60, and 90-day plans. It gives the candidates a lot to talk about during the interview process.
  6. If you are a startup, post news of your latest funding round and link to any other articles. If you successfully capture the candidate’s attention, they will read it.
  7. Remove any description of obsolete technologies. Adobe XD and InVision do not exist anymore.
  8. If a cover letter is required, make it required. Make your job easier by filtering out candidates applying without a cover letter. Also, add the option for a PDF cover letter alongside a text box.

Here’s a great example I came across from a company called Otta, a London-based job board from which we can all learn. The rest of it was too long

Don’t ask for unsolicited design advice.

Too often, I see companies asking candidates questions on how they would improve the company’s products. You might not be ready to hear the answer they have to say. The best product designers have strong opinions on how a product is designed. They also know that sometimes the best solutions don’t make it to the final product due to numerous constraints such as budget, time, and priority.

To make it worse, they add a small text box for the answer. Candidates don’t have time to audit your website or app. You can pay them an hourly rate to do it for you.

Be clear about the next steps

You may either add this as a part of the JD or email it to candidates once they have applied. These can include:

  1. How long it can take to get back to the candidates
  2. Should they expect a phone call or email? Most people don’t answer from unknown numbers
  3. Will the candidate talk to the hiring manager (a lead or senior employee) or someone from HR first?
  4. Is there a test? A portfolio presentation? Whiteboarding challenge?
  5. How many rounds are there for this particular role? How long does the entire process take?

For Product Design positions, Usually, 2-3 rounds are standard. Anything beyond that, I question whether the company is efficient at making day-to-day decisions. But that’s a different blog post.

About me

Hi, I'm Nabil

I'm a Houston-based Product Designer. I enjoy working on new problems, doing my research, and trying my best to understand the concerns of the business so I can help them grow their business through design.

Photo of Nabil holding a Zoro doll