Top Tips for Writing an Effective Job Description

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Top Tips for Writing an Effective Job Description

Ah, the job description; the advertisement for your open position. Whether or not you realize it, the job description has a number of functions other than describing role responsibilities. Therefore, writing an effective job description is more important than you might think, and for several reasons:

  • If you are a government contractor, there are Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations with which you must comply.
  • In addition, there are EEOC regulations that you need to follow.
  • In a tight labor market, which we find ourselves in currently, it is important to pay attention to the following:
    • Marketing your jobs appropriately.
    • Making it easy for job seekers to identify the jobs you need to fill.
    • Leveraging Google Analytics to insert popular keywords.
    • Understanding the labor markets in various regions.

OFCCP Regulations

It’s no surprise that the OFCCP regularly audits government contractors and the revised regulations have added items that are required to be included in your job descriptions.

The regulations state: “Federal contractors are required to state in all solicitations or advertisements for employment that all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”1

Regulations Implementing the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA)

§60-300.5 Equal Opportunity (EO) clause

“The regulations require that specific language be used when incorporating the equal opportunity clause into a subcontract by reference. The mandated language, though brief, alerts subcontractors to their responsibilities as federal contractors.”2

The full requirements, including the specific language that is to be used, can be viewed here.

EEOC Regulations

The regulations mandate: “The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. … Job descriptions, properly prepared, can support the goal of eradicating unlawful employment discrimination. Racial requirements are never lawful in job descriptions and should not be used under any circumstances. Job requirements based on an employee’s gender, national origin, religion or age can be used in very limited circumstances. Job requirements based on these protected characteristics are lawful only when an employer can demonstrate that they are bona fide occupational qualifications (“BFOQs”) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of business. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(e)(1); 29 U.S.C. § 623(f)(1). Otherwise stated, if a job description includes a requirement based on employee’s gender, national origin, religion, or age, all or substantially all of the individuals excluded from the requirement must be unable to safely and effectively perform the job duties, which are reasonably necessary to the safe and efficient operation of the business. See UAW v. Johnson Controls, 111 S.Ct. 1196, 1204-05 (1991).”3

Marketing Your Jobs Appropriately

With approximately 2.1 million jobs in our My.jobs database, we have seen many examples of what not to do in a job description. Too long, too short, missing/inaccurate information, etc. We’ve seen it all!  So what should you do? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Include the responsibilities but write the description in a more conversational way, rather than a list of bullet points.
  • Describe your company culture to entice a job seeker to want to learn more.
  • Provide a detailed “day in the life” example of what this job will be like for your prospective candidate.

Remember that you are selling this opportunity so try putting yourself in the prospective job seekers shoes. What would entice you to want to work for your company?

Making it easy for job seekers to identify the jobs you need to fill

Many times we find job descriptions that begin with company-specific locations and internal jargon, like this: Harrisburg West Loc 36578 seeking Mgr PRG PLG 3. If you were a job seeker, would you be likely to click on this job? Probably not unless it’s a company you really want to work for or you have been directly sent the link. You will probably move directly past this job description to one that is easier to identify, perhaps something like this: Manager Program Planning Within Operations Department, Flexible Schedules and Great Benefits!

Leveraging Google Analytics to insert popular keywords

Using data from the wider network of the web can help you to understand job seeker search behavior and target those candidates you covet. Keyword searches that job seekers use on Google are measured and reported within Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Try implementing some of these keywords into your descriptions to see if traffic and applicants increase.

Understanding the labor markets in various regions

If you are marketing your jobs all across the country, or even in other countries, it is important to understand the labor markets in those regions. An excellent resource for understanding this geographical data are your state workforce administrators. Through your membership with DirectEmployers Association, you have a direct partnership and we are more than happy to help facilitate these conversations. Equipped with valuable knowledge such as which sites job seekers are using can put you ahead of your competitors. For example, in D.C. job seekers may use Craigslist more than a corporate website or job board.

Making a few minor changes to the way you craft your job descriptions can make a world of difference–not only in filling positions but also in legal terms. What are some additional tips you can provide or lessons you have learned while crafting your job descriptions?



1. “Guide for Small Businesses with Federal Contracts.” DOL.gov. Retrieved July 31, 2017. https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/TAguides/sbguide.htm#Q9


2. “Regulations Implementing the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act.” DOL.gov. Retrieved July 31, 2017. https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/vevraa.htm


3. “Title VII And ADA: Hiring/Job Requirements/Job Descriptions.” EEOC.gov. Retrieved July 31, 2017, https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/2005/titlevii_ada_job_requirements_descriptions.html

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About the Author

Nancy HollandNancy Holland is Vice President of Marketing for DirectEmployers Association. Nancy is a big picture strategist with a focus on branding and positioning. Nancy is completely cutting edge on the technology end of marketing as well as a great people person. This combination provides her with the instincts to bring together branding programs that work. Nancy started her Recruitment/Human Resources career in 1996 assisting students and college graduates with their entry into new careers. In addition, Nancy has worked with hundreds of companies as a recruitment consultant managing the full life cycle of the sourcing, selection and recruitment process.View all posts by Nancy Holland »

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