Sometimes we learn best from seeing what not to do: the following examples contain analyses of job descriptions (altered to protect the identities of their authors), outlining what is done well, where there is room for improvement, and why, to help you write more effective job descriptions.

Job Description Critique #1 (Analytical Insight)


Header:

Clear enough. We know the type of role and where it is located. There is an engaging invitation to “join the team” and learn more.


Senior .NET Developer – Toronto

JOIN THE ANALYTICAL INSIGHT TEAM


Opening Paragraph:

This paragraph says that we’re an industry-leader with a strong and effective team and a little bit about the type of person that will do well there and the culture they want to foster. Clearly they are not looking for former bureaucrats or union-members to apply.


Analytical Insight is a team of bright people that look at buying behavior from completely new and clearly quantifiable angles. We help many of the world’s top brands make informed decisions, based not on anecdotes, or conjecture, or intuition—but on cold, hard facts. We help companies uncover and speak to the issues that inspire their most loyal customers.


Description:

Now we’ve had a lot of build-up to this next section. We think we’re the kind of person they’re looking for. Now we think we’re going to get to the meat of the job…but we don’t. It is a vague re-stating of what we already know. The company is looking for a senior .NET developer and they’re going to be doing technical and innovative things. What this is really saying is that the person who wrote this doesn’t know what a senior .NET developer does and so we’ll just dance around the issue. What this should continue to do is build the excitement of the opening paragraphs with a sense of the types of projects that they’ll be expected to work on, will they be leading teams, is it an Agile development environment. Had the writer expanded on the bullets that are here and given some more context for the role this section might have been fine. But what it says is that they will be doing what any developer in any language in any company does.


Our team, headed by industry maven Regan Dempster, leads the world in analytical research. We’re growing rapidly, developing bleeding-edge technology and research techniques that bring clients the insight they need to make market-winning product development decisions.

We reward out-of-the-box thinkers, radicals, team players and students of life. We abhor standing still and too much process. We get lit up by growth, expansion and stretch-targets.

The success of our company means that we’re hiring for our Toronto office. We’re actively seeking a:

Senior .NET Developer

We have a talented team based in Toronto, ON developing industry-leading solutions and products on the .Net framework. As a member of our team you will have an opportunity to solve interesting technical challenges in an innovative and exciting environment.

Responsibilities

  • Participate in the analysis, design and development of web and client/server applications
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the quality of all deliverables
  • Collaborate with the entire R&D team in effective and timely delivery of all projects

Required Skills:

This section is also high-level and vague. Each of the bullets could be more specific. What version of .NET are they working with, is HTML acceptable or do they need to know HTML5, are they going to be doing front-end and back-end development and if so is this more front than back–end? What versions of SQL Server should they be experienced with?


Required Skills

  • 5+ years of experience in OOP preferably C#/.Net
  • Proven CSS, HTML and Javascript experience
  • Experience with AJAX, jQuery and/or other Javascript libraries
  • Experience with TSQL and SQL Server
  • Completed a post-secondary diploma or degree
  • Strong knowledge of web application development, application security issues, web architecture and databases.
  • Experience with Object Oriented Analysis and Design
  • Strong experience in a team environment

The Bottom Line:

This description starts strong and then quickly fades as it moves into the technical aspects of the job. Suggestions for improvement:


 

  • HR and Development should collaborate on writing this description. If development wants to get too “techie” this is where the HR person can weigh in – maybe – and ask, “is this really a key aspect of the job”?
  • Just as a vague resume leads to disinterest and rejection so too do vague job descriptions. If you work for a great company say so but also ensure that the entire description reinforces that impression. This one doesn’t.
  • Provide more context to the candidate so that they self-censor and know if they’re a good fit or not.
  • In the description above it’s not clear whether they want a senior developer to come in and write code or whether this is truly a senior role where they’ll be involved in architecture decisions, leadership and opportunities for advancement. The description above is general enough to speak to both types of candidate. Candidates invariably get frustrated when they meet “all” of the requirements but either don’t get an interview or the job.
  • This will provide a lot of work for HR in the form of candidates and interviews – but that isn’t the point. It is to convey a clear picture to candidates of the company, the role and the type of candidate that is being sought.

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