Your Job Description Is Doing Double Duty—And Why That's a Problem

For anyone involved in recruiting, job descriptions are an integral part of the hiring process. Unfortunately, many companies are not using this tool optimally. The misuse of job descriptions boils down to one core problem: Using a single document to serve two completely different purposes.

There should always be a distinction between how you describe a job internally and the way you promote it to the outside world—and the typical job description doesn’t do either very well.

Why is this distinction important? And how can you make sure you’re not guilty of overburdening your job descriptions? Read on to find out.

A mistaken approach to job descriptions

One of the main differences between internal and external job descriptions is that they have very different purposes.

An internal job description is a guide for how you are going to make the hire. While it may include a checklist of things to look for that can serve as the basis of a scorecard, it should also work to align the interview team. Everyone who’s participating in interviews can use the job description to agree on what the role’s responsibilities will be, how success will be judged, and who the person will be reporting to (and who will report to them). This tool can also provide insight on the interview plan and who will play which roles.  

But externally, a job description should be fundamentally different. The purpose of an external job description is to advertise the position and attract the right people. An external job description needs to be written in an enticing manner in order to tell someone why they should want this job. A list of bullets that you copied from a similar job you found online is really not enough.

The Greenhouse approach to job descriptions

At Greenhouse, we’ve always made the distinction between internal and external job descriptions within our product. When you kick off a new role you go through several internal steps before creating a public-facing job ad.

You start by filling out the job details. This includes basic information such as location, level, employment type, and salary range. It also defines the interview team and interviewers’ responsibilities while providing instructions to your team on how to sell the job.

Greenhouse prompts you to fill out job info and create the interview scorecard early in the process.

Next, the recruiter and hiring manager partner to create the candidate scorecard. The scorecard outlines the key skills, traits, and qualifications that will lead to success on the job. It’s important for this step to take place early on in the process because it helps keep the hiring manager and recruiter on the same page about what they’re looking for and how to assess candidates for this role.

Greenhouse also prompts the hiring manager and recruiter to create the interview plan, which determines what should happen during each step of the interview process (how many steps there should be and what they should look like, which questions should be asked, and who should conduct the interviews and assessments).

Everything I’ve just described is part of the internal approval process that occurs before a job goes live.

Once the job info, candidate scorecard, and interview plan have been approved, then it’s time to work on the external job post.

Within Greenhouse, you have the ability to configure several aspects of the job ad to make them as enticing as possible, so, for example, instead of simply listing the location as “New York,” you could say that you’re located in a “hip loft space in SoHo."

You create your external job post after you’ve already aligned internally on what the purpose of the job is and how to sell it to candidates.

Introducing multiple job posts per job

And now we’re taking things a step further. Because we believe that external job descriptions should be treated like ads, we’re making it even easier for you to do the same types of things you can do with all other online ads.

You can use the multiple job posts per job feature to create multiple job ads for the same job. Here are a few of the variations you can explore with this feature:

Copy changes: How does applicant quality vary when you advertise for a “Senior Full Stack Engineer” role rather than an “Engineer III”?

Different languages: Advertise to different populations for the same job by posting both in French and English for a job in Montreal.

Locations: Do you have several openings at different locations but want all applications to be funneled to one central pipeline?

Brands: If you have several brands that ultimately roll up into the same company, you can post the same job to each brand’s website.

Typically in online advertising, you’re able to push out ads to various platforms and monitor which ones perform best. You can also do this with this new feature on Greenhouse: You have the ability to push each variation of the job post to various social platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook), job boards, and to internal candidates.

And just as you can monitor the ROI of your different online ads, you can do the same with your job posts. For each post, you can see how many impressions and applications it receives, as well as what the conversion rate is. When you’re viewing an individual candidate’s profile, you can also see which source or specific job post they came from.

You can easily see the source and specific job post on each candidate’s profile.

If you’re serious about getting the best talent for your organization, it’s time to take job descriptions seriously. It’s simple: Remember to treat your job descriptions as the advertisements they really are. Write them in a compelling way, make the case for candidates that your company is a great place to work, and evaluate all the different channels you’re using.

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Jon Stross

Jon Stross is President and Co-Founder of Greenhouse. At Greenhouse, Jon drives the product strategy and works closely with customers and partners to build a platform that improves recruiting performance. Before founding Greenhouse, Jon served as the GM for and was responsible for the global rollout of the business.

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Talent Brand