A Case For Reinventing Job Descriptions

I recently had an opportunity to speak at Glassdoor’s inaugural Employer Branding Summit. I made the case that corporate recruiting is still rooted in dated practices, and explored what recruiting might look like if it was built from the ground up today.

One of the points we discussed was job descriptions, and the fact that they’re one of the least evolved tools in our corporate recruiting tool belt.

We’ve stuck to the script for years. Laundry list of vague responsibilities? Check. Unrealistic qualifications? Check. Compliance-driven language? Check. We’re not touching on many things that matter in today’s market. We can do better.

Job descriptions tend to be written for the benefit of the employer, not the employee.

When we write for compliance or legacy, we fail to give prospects a true sense of what our organizations are like – our culture, our teams, our perks, physical office space. We try to convey the soul of our organization in text alone. We’ve become over-reliant on our career sites as the place to share images, video, and our people.

Today’s prospect are busier (and more distracted) than ever. We have a limited window to get their attention, particularly for high-demand talent. A boilerplate JD won’t do it.

What if job descriptions looked more like this?


Candidates don’t want to rely upon boilerplate JD’s to give them a sense of whether they should explore your jobs. They want to know about things like specific deliverables, success measures, growth plans, and perks. They want to know what their desk might look like, what tools they might use, and what their colleagues are like.

Why don’t we consider things like…

  • Include a 30 second video from the hiring manger about why you might want to work in this role
  • Share stories of past employees in similar roles and their career growth
  • Include LinkedIn/social profiles of the team
  • Embed photos or videos of the office
  • Include infographics and other visual mediums to convey the opportunity
  • Make job descriptions text more dynamic by including hyperlinks to more content (press, awards, employee blogs, multimedia, company social links, etc.)

What are they keys to a great job description in your mind? Do you have any examples of other companies getting job descriptions right? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment and let’s start taking steps to give prospects something better.

11 thoughts on “A Case For Reinventing Job Descriptions

  1. I couldn’t agree more! It’s about time we disrupt the job posting mechanism. It’s time to use different yardsticks for job postings. I am tired of looking at job positings that don’t convey the “message”. Companies should recognize that their postings can be a unique differentiator and need to pay attention to what and how they post. Check out this link as a good use case. It’s time companies recognize the unique advantages of crafting creative and meaningful ads and get away from “post and pray” culture.

  2. Great post! I also can’t agree more. Job Descriptions are broken. We know this. Now we just need the technology and training (for our hiring leaders and recruiters) on HOW to improve. I sense a lot of people in the industry feel lost about what to do now… At Dell, we are working on a more visual graphic based JD. We are also exploring video but as we all know, video can be tricky – expensive and time consuming if you focus too much on quality but poor quality can kill the experience (my biggest pet peeve – poor audio).

  3. I echo Jennifer’s comment, a great post and thanks for focussing in on one of the most overlooked, yet important pieces in the recruiting mix; attraction. I’m hoping Job Descriptions could be one of those pivotal and eureka moments in recruiting where they facilitate a necessary and greater coming together of business functions, across HR, Marketing and Hiring Managers to finally create an exciting and compelling experience to a candidate at the very beginning of the hiring process. For too long the usual, predictable and one-size fits all Job Description format has really only served the active job seeker (and barely at that) yet what of the passive audience? Or as John Sumser puts it, “imagine a scale of receptiveness to an employment message (full article here

    It’s great that the article and comments mention video because I fully believe that it will prove to be a game-changer and differentiator in how employers recruit. Cost and time (and by association, quality) have always been barriers to entry to using video but we’ve found a way to remove those barriers to create an incredibly cost effective and repeatable way of advertising jobs, especially across social media. It gives employers a platform to innovatively showcase their opportunity and why candidates should consider a career with them.

    If you’re interested or know of others who are interested in exploring video further and would like to participate in a case study with our company, then we’d be delighted to talk further.

    A great post again Lars, and thank you for the opportunity to comment, albeit with a slightly small plug! (@andykerney)

    • Hi Andy – Thanks for your comment. I know your firm focuses on video job adverts, so imagine you think about this a lot. In your mind, what are the ingredients of a compelling video job description?

      • Hi Lars, my pleasure and you’re right this is on my mind quite a lot and a passionate area for me, so apologies for the lengthy response (again).

        As you mention in one of your videos, every organization has its own DNA, so we see two key ingredients as the starting point to a compelling job advert; emotion and practicality. Finding a new job or considering looking for a job or even talking about a new job can be an emotional and stressful experience for many reasons, so delivering content in a practical way that helps to remove, reduce and ease those feelings is vital.

        It’s a bit left field but I believe Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be adapted to reflect the emotional content that should be considered; so in reverse order and without the benefit of a pyramid of course:

        Physiological – How does the company value and help me – salary, benefits, health and wellness, family recognition, flexible working, performance review, interview process, timeframes, training

        Safety – Who are the company, what’s their story, what do they do, what’s made them successful, where are they going, what’s being said about them (employees – current and ex), brand, social media

        Love/Belonging – What is their working culture, how does it contribute to an employee’s success, how can employees contribute to that culture, what do they do socially/voluntary to underpin the culture, where will I work, what tools will I have access to

        Esteem – How will I be valued in the context of my role, do I have a voice, what’s the DNA of the team, the Department/function, who are the team, how long have they been together, what makes them successful today

        Self-actualization – what will I do, what am I expected to deliver, how will I be helped from the beginning to be productive and successful, how can I grow, what are the essential skills for my role

        These are of course my own interpretation and there may be others that could be added but I think they cover the majority of questions that jobseekers want answers to, to help them make an educated and informed decision to apply. The ideas you suggest in the body of your article are absolutely spot on and great examples of the creative ways to engage and get this information across.

        Practicality comes in the way this information is delivered. It’s not feasible to create complete videos with all of this information for every job which is why many organizations do not use video, even though they may have this information already in various formats. And that’s where our service is different, because we have a cost effective way to take a company’s existing video material and combine it with multiple different media types, text, images, websites, videos, maps and audio to deliver engaging and informative job adverts, repeatedly.

        You put it very nicely when you say companies have become “over-reliant on our career sites as the place to share images, video, and our people.” We take the careers site and put it heart and soul into the video job advert. Literally!

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  6. Steven McConnell

    Thanks for addressing such a necessary topic. I was recently very impressed Uber’s JDs – not quite bristling with multimedia as in your example, but simple, engaging and to the point.

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