How to jazz up your job specs


jobspecFew of us realise the value of a well crafted and appealing job description.

Many hiring managers don’t even write their own.

Yet in a world where candidate competition is greater than ever, often the humble “job spec” is the first and only opportunity top performers will have to quickly decide how appealing it is to work for you.

In ten years experience working with over 15,000 candidates and 500 different companies, we can say with confidence that most job specs are not very well written.

Many job specs miss the point (they’re supposed to be selling the opportunity to work with you, not be a heavy qualification checklist). A lot don’t emphasise the key things you’re looking for. A lot of them are too long.

And worst of all. Most of them are boooooring.

A rough crunch of our candidate database over the past two years showed that in around 65% cases, candidates wanted to review the job spec before deciding whether to commit to having an initial discussion.

A traditional corporate PDF file or a list of “responsibilities and requirements” is unlikely to get them drooling.

So what actions can hiring managers take to maximise their results?

Here are some simple steps that great hiring managers use to create job specs that are appealing.

They get involved

puzzleAny good writer or artist will tell you that being genuine is essential for success.

You can’t expect HR or another colleague to put something together and hope it is good enough.

For a hiring manager, recruiting the right people is more than half the way to success. With such high stakes, it’s essential to get everything just right and to take control.

As the hiring manager, it’s likely you know the job in question better than anyone else. You’re also the best person to describe the culture. The requirements. The opportunities. Even the challenges.

The best hiring managers treat the job spec like a high-profile brochure. They realise that it’s impact – although difficult to measure exactly – can be profound. That’s why they never leave it to chance. They get involved and ensure it relays exactly the right message.

Great hiring managers help put great job specs together.

They differentiate

clownThe only thing worse than a badly written job spec is a boring one.

We’ve all received job descriptions that look like they’ve come off a conveyor belt. A standard template that looks like all the others. Filled with such enticing words like “requirements”, “key responsibilities” and “competitive salary and benefits”.

So sexy. Not.

In today’s competitive environment you’ve got to stand out. Otherwise, your spec will just look like one of the rest and hit the trash folder faster than you can say “delete me”.

Be original. If you’ve got a relaxed culture, make it clear with the language you use in the spec. If you’ve a young start-up, lead with the fact that lunches are free and you do hack-a-thons with pizza and beer. If you have won a recent high profile award, be sure to mention it.

Even at the most basic level, it’s amazing that many companies still don’t use their company logo or merchandising in their job specs! Times New Roman on a white page word doc is unlikely to stand out.

Whatever you do, make sure people know that you’re different. They’re much more likely to want to find out more.

They keep it short and simple


Many studies are now proving that attention levels are at record low levels.

In this digitally obsessed and information overloaded world we live in, effective messages need to be simpler and shorter in order to stand any chance of connecting with others.

When looking for another person to join your team, it’s tempting to go into detail and create a long list of requirements, skills, responsibilities and rewards. The problem is, if the list is too look or complicated most people won’t even bother reading them.

Great hiring managers realise that in order to create powerful job specs, it’s essential to focus.

A job spec is not a comprehensive interview. In our experience, nearly all jobs can be described into three to five key skills that are essential to the role. Beyond that, either expectations are unrealistic or it’s only something that can be assessed in a more detailed interview.


Rather than creating an intimidating block of dense text, zone into the main aspects of the role. Not only will this catch candidate attention more readily, you will also screen more effectively and select only those candidates that really have the major requirements.

Great hiring managers use words carefully and selectively.

They concentrate on opportunity not qualifications

seeYour job spec shouldn’t just be a check-list of what hiring managers want.

Candidates also want to know what is in it for them.

In a competitive environment, it’s essential to remember that your job spec is also an opportunity to sell the role, the company – and even you the hiring manager.

The one thing everyone wants – including candidates – is more opportunity. Great job specs highlight the unique opportunities in the role, whether that is the people, the learning potential, career advancement or opportunity to earn.

Most job specs have a couple of lines at the bottom of a long list of requirements describing the opportunity for candidates. Many job specs don’t even mention it at all. The best hiring managers however, lead with the opportunities and sell the job well before they start interrogating candidates with questions.

Sell opportunities. Not check-lists.


conclusionMovie companies in Hollywood can often spend up to $100 million just to produce a 20 second movie trailer.

It’s because first impressions are often critical.

Your job spec is your movie trailer.

Hiring managers can gain much from getting actively involved in making the best impression possible and standing out in an ever increasing battlefield in the war for talent.

Does your job spec stand out?

Read more:
Perfected the job spec but still hired the wrong person? Take this guide into your next interview to remind you: How first impressions can fool the interviewer