Hiring 101

The Anatomy of a Successful Job Description (+ Free Template)

Job descriptions are your first opportunity to make a great impression on new candidates.

They provide the first flicker of interest needed to attract qualified applicants to your role. They set clear expectations and cement a candidate's first impression of your company culture. Even after the hiring process, great job descriptions offer a framework to guide new employees as they onboard in the role.

To help hiring teams and human resources create engaging job descriptions, we've created a step-by-step guide, including a free job description template inspired by real-world Google job descriptions.

How to Write a Job Description That Stands Out

Here's a sample job description, taken from a Head of Marketing opportunity at Google:

“Google is developing groundbreaking cloud solutions for companies, leveraging years of experience in building secure, reliable, and scalable cloud technology. With strong Google differentiation in data analytics and machine learning, security, application development and collaboration software, we’re well on our way -- but we need more people who can help us write, tell, and sell that story. If you’re as excited about building what’s next as we are, Google Cloud is the place for you.”

In the space of a single paragraph, this job posting generates excitement, showcases Google’s company culture, and touts the opportunities awaiting on the other side of the hiring process. Breaking it down, there are three factors at the heart of the description’s success:

  • Context - Job descriptions should be a collaborative effort between the hiring team, the new hire's future teammates, and people who have direct experience with the role. Tapping the expertise of the team allows you to share detailed, accurate information about every nuance of the role—its responsibilities and expectations, and how it connects to the company as a whole.

  • Personality - Your job description might be the first interaction a candidate has with your company. Be intentional about the language and tone you use to paint a vivid picture of your company culture, whether that's relaxed and innovative, formal and traditional, or something else entirely.

  • Balance - Effective job descriptions both inform and inspire. They need to clearly convey key information while also building excitement and selling the benefits of working for your company. As Google recruiter Lisa Metrinko explains, striking a balance is key:

“If there isn't a balance, then either the role is oversold . . . or the description is not provocative enough to catch the attention of a potential applicant.”

These three simple principles will ensure that your job description starts the hiring process on ideal footing, helping your candidate form a clear picture of both the role on offer and the reality of working for your company.

The Anatomy of a Google Job Description

At Google, all of our job descriptions use a simple four-category framework: area, role, responsibilities, and job qualifications. Together, these sections offer a complete overview of the role, from the “big picture” to the day-to-day responsibilities.

But before we dive into the framework, let’s consider how important the often forgotten job title can be. Because it’s the very first thing candidates see for a particular role, it should be chosen strategically. Your job title can either increase or decrease your role’s chance of appearing in job search results and being clicked on by the candidate.

Consider these two tips for writing great job titles:

  1. Avoid company jargon or acronyms - Use job titles that candidates are familiar with and would search for to help your job posting be discovered on your career site and other job boards. For example, at Google we often use the acronym SWE for a software engineer - but we would never use this acronym in a job title since it’s an internal nickname for a common role.
  2. Choose a job title that your top candidates would search for - Make sure to use the most commonly searched terms in the title. For instance, if you have a highly specialized role that few candidates would search for, try to choose a job title that would capture related searches without watering down the role.

Now that you know what goes into choosing the right job title, let’s move on to the four-part framework.

1. Area

Start your job posting by explaining the core purpose of your company. This is your opportunity to help candidates create an emotional connection to the mission of your entire team and allows you to answer questions like:

  • Why does your company exist?
  • What are the shared passions of the company's employees?
  • What problems are you trying to solve?
  • Why is your company best placed to solve them?

Here's an example from the same sample job description featured above:

“Our job is to demonstrate how Google's products solve the world's problems—from the everyday to the epic, from the mundane to the monumental. And we approach marketing in a way that only Google can—changing the game, redefining the medium, making the user the priority, and ultimately, letting the technology speak for itself.”

Google's world-changing ambitions are crystal clear, and candidates are presented with a real sense of possibility. They aren't just “applying for a job”—they're applying for a chance to change the world.

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2. Role

Next, outline the high-level daily functions of the position- think of this as the job's “elevator pitch”. In a single paragraph, share the handful of key objectives new hires would work toward.

In addition to clearly conveying information, help candidates actively visualize themselves in the role—and build excitement for the opportunity. Recruiter Lisa Metrinko adds:

“Remember that it is an advertisement. It is an opportunity to relay to the applicant the values of the company and a snapshot of what it is like to work there.”

Here's an example for a Technical Product Specialist role:

“As a Technical Product Specialist, you help maintain the success of our Google customers by leveraging your expertise to help implement a complex product while ensuring high rates of product availability, preventing downtime and offering optimization advice with Sales.”

Instead of getting bogged down in a mundane “to-do” list, the job description focuses on the role's high-level purpose and the impact it will have throughout the company. It shows applicants that Technical Product Specialists play a critical role in helping Google's customers be successful.

3. Responsibilities

After the high-level outline, detail the day-to-day job duties associated with the role. These will be unique to each role but will likely include some combination of the following essential functions:

  • Creating deliverables - For example, “Compose content for apps, communities, emails, and newsletters.”
  • Achieving strategic goals - For example, “Develop business-relevant conclusions from data.”
  • Budgeting and reporting - For example, “Forecast and report business growth and other key metrics.”
  • Collaborating with particular people or teams - For example, “Work with Product Managers, UX researchers, designers and other stakeholders.”

The more information you're able to include on the relevant job responsibilities, the easier it is for candidates to gauge their interest and suitability for the role. As Jeff Moore, Google's staffing manager for Consumer Hardware, explains:

“My biggest tip is to put as much detail into the description as possible. The clearer you describe the role, the more likely you are to attract the ideal candidate.”

4. Job Qualifications

Round off your job description by explaining the qualifications or job requirements—in terms of education, experience, and skills—needed for the role. For jobs with physical demands, such as warehouse worker or truck driver, you’ll also want to include physical requirements and working conditions.

Google job descriptions break qualifications out into two categories: minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications.

  • Minimum qualifications are “basic, certifiable, typically nonnegotiable qualifications that a candidate must have to be considered for the role.” Depending on the role, these might be academic degrees, professional accreditations, or a specific type of experience.

  • Preferred qualifications refer to the “nonmandatory skills and experience of an ideal candidate.” These are typically more qualitative than the minimum qualifications and might include things like “proficiency in persuasive communications” or “teaching background preferred.”

Here's an example for a hypothetical role of UX Content Strategist:

Minimum qualifications:

  • Bachelor's degree in journalism or marketing, or equivalent practical experience
  • Experience in editorial, marketing, or UX/UI writing

Preferred qualifications:

  • Experience writing for voice and video
  • Experience working with user research and customer feedback
  • Experience collaborating closely with product, engineering, and UX teams

Finalizing Your Job Description

Before hitting “publish” on your job description, it's a great idea to run through an internal review process. We recommend reviewing your description from several perspectives:

  • Clarity and accuracy - Run the description past both a hiring manager and a person who performs the advertised role. Ensure the description is clear and concise and a fair reflection of the role's responsibilities. Stick to plain language, and avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Inclusivity of language - Review your job description for gendered terms and unintended bias. For instance, certain job titles, like “rock star” or “ninja,” can alienate candidates.
  • Objectivity - Asking for “an expert in technical writing” is difficult to relate back to concrete performance criteria. Stick to objective descriptors like “experience in technical writing” instead.
  • Structure - Our internal research shows that formatting job descriptions with short paragraphs, clear headings, and bullet-point lists makes them easier for candidates to read.

Finally, even when your job description has been posted, be sure to periodically review it for accuracy. All jobs change over time, and it's important for your job descriptions to keep pace.

Download Your Free Job-Description Template

Job descriptions play a key role in attracting candidates, creating excitement, and setting the stage for new hires to hit the ground running. To help you apply the ideas we've covered, we've created a free job description template. Just sign up below to see each of these principles in action.

About Hire by Google

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Request a Demo to learn more about how you can hire smarter, together, faster, with the recruiting app for G Suite.