Note – this guide is for creating a job advert for external candidates to view before they enter your hiring process. It is NOT a guide to creating a “full” job spec to articulate a role internally or guide a new starter.
While we can give guidance on this topic, only you and your colleagues know the demands and responsibilities of a role and what you need to achieve within a particular timeframe. A full job spec is an internal document by necessity.
This guide will always be a work in progress. Got a suggestion to help us improve? Drop us a line.
High-quality job posts are necessary to attract the top 10% of talent. “High-quality” does not mean flowery prose or rhetorical gimmicks, it means informative, legible, as brief as is feasible, and searchable.
Informative: The more a candidate can immediately tell about the role the more likely they are to consider it. Most of the information should be obvious (title, salary, location, part-time/full-time, key responsibilities and skills), but also try to include a brief description of the business (size, heritage, positioning), what the working structure/hierarchy will be like (who will they work under, is there a team etc) and what the “nutshell” business driver is (ie what is this job “for”?)
Legible: Use consistent and clear formatting. Check and re-format when copying’n’pasting from another source. Consider splitting paragraphs if they reach more than six lines. Always write in complete sentences, including when using bullet points, and finish each sentence with a full stop. Contractions (“you’ll, can’t” etc.) are fine but avoid slang and industry jargon.
Brief: Use strong verbs and short sentences whenever you can. Avoid passive voice and passive verb tense that adds extra words (eg. instead of “you will be responsible for driving change…” consider “you will drive change…”).
Searchable: Keywords are still the main element of job advert SEO. When selecting keywords think about what potential applicants will be searching for (or use keyword matching tools online). The title is your most searchable element, so make sure it’s got your most important keywords in it. Once you’ve defined the job title try to use it again in your explanatory paragraph.
Use common terms:
Don’t use – “Tier 2 Policy Implementation Architecture Strategist”
Do use – “Senior Policy Advisor”
(Please don’t use industry buzzwords, so no “coding ninjas” or “media mavens”. If you want the job to sound engaging then describe it in an engaging way – talk about why you need them, what they will achieve and why that’s a good thing.)
Add key skills if they define the role:
Don’t use – “Web Developer”
Do use – “Java Web Developer”
In the rest of the text, try to include relevant keywords where possible. Useful keywords include:
- Company/industry type (from general sector to specific niche)
- Tools used
- Location (for London the specific borough/area may be useful)
- Working arrangements (flexible, remote etc)
- Write acronyms out in full the first time and then use the acronym thereafter (eg. “Software as a service” the first time then SaaS after).
Repeating keywords is a good idea if you can do it organically. Getting the word “managing/manager” in several times for a managerial role shouldn’t be too hard, but do not sacrifice a well-written sentence for the sake of stuffing another keyword in.
It benefits no one if your job shows up on lots of searches but is consistently ignored because it’s not engaging or is badly formatted/written.
Example job advert format (download this skeleton spec as a Word doc):
Exact Job Title
Schedule (part-time/full-time with flex etc)
(Length of contract if necessary)
- Who are you looking for, what main skills will they have, and what sort of company will they be working for?
- Who will they be working with, and what will their key business goal be? How does this fit into the growth or strategy of the business overall?
- What other primary responsibilities will they have?
- What stage of development is the business at, and what positive things can you say about the culture?
- What sort of professional would be perfect for this role?
- Why is this role a great opportunity? (And not just because you’ve used the phrase “great opportunity” or similar).
[Example, (please note, WordPress doesn’t allow for text highlights, but in the full downloadable guide we’ve picked out the keywords for you):]
We’re need a Head of Talent with strong recruitment and people-development skills to join our post-Series A technology start-up. Working alongside the Founder and CTO, you’ll be be responsible for scaling the company from XXX to XXX, primarily in technology and sales. To help with this rapid growth we need you to drive cultural change and embed a values-based hiring process. This is a fantastic opportunity for a high-quality talent professional to own and shape the hiring culture of a business primed for serious growth.
[Maximum six bullet points. Start each one with a strong verb.]
- Identify and hire the best talent for the business.
- Coach the leaders in the business to hire and develop excellent teams.
- Work with the CEO to formulate a talent strategy including recruitment and retention and drive that strategy to fruition.
Background and Skills
[Necessary qualifications and skills (including important soft skills) go here. Maximum of six bullet points.
Start with the most relevant/necessary and work down. Make sure it it’s made explicit whether a skill is necessary or a nice-to-have.
Pick one format here and stick with it. If you’re describing them (“You’re an excellent communicator with strong empathy skills”) then use the same format throughout. If you’re describing the skill or background item (“Excellent communication skills and strong empathetic abilities”) then stick to that set-up.]
- Prior experience hiring software engineers and sales staff for a tech start-up.
- Excellent communication skills with strong empathic abilities.
- Ability to both identify top talent and coach leaders, to create and manage a high-quality hiring process.
- An interest and/or qualification in executive coaching and development is helpful but not essential.
- You’ve got experience hiring software engineers and sales staff for a tech start-up.
- You have excellent communication skills with strong empathic abilities.
- You can both identify top talent and coach leaders, to create and manage a high-quality hiring process.
- It’s great if you’ve got a qualification in executive coaching and development, but it’s not essential.
Schedule & Salary
[Include as much detail as you can on the flexible working arrangements/the flexible culture of the firm – especially if the stated hours are subject to negotiation – and as much as you can about salary, stock options and benefits. The way you talk about these is a strong indicator of the culture of your business, so think hard about what you want to communicate and speak with enthusiasm.]
- The role can be reduced from traditional full-time to 4 days per week. At least 2 of these days will require face-time but 2 could be done from home.
- The salary is negotiable depending on the person. Stock options will be allocated, making this perfect for someone who is passionate about building a business.
Keeping language free from bias
Using non-inclusive language in your job specs can have a significant negative effect, limiting the number and diversity of candidates that apply. But because biases are most often latent, simply trying to “write without them” may be impossible. At Juggle we use augmented writing programs like Textio to screen our language for biases and we suggest you do the same.
The following is a VERY basic and brief introduction to gendered non/inclusive language. This is included only to introduce the concept, and we strongly suggest you use services like Textio as your primary source rather than compiling vocabulary lists from around the internet. This is a situation where “good” and “free” are incompatible.
|Male||Neutral and Female friendly|
An example from Juggle
Because we’re very good to you, here’s an example skeleton that we use at Juggle for our own hiring. We’ll use this as a basic guide before we scrub the language for biases. Bracketed text is stuff that’s actually being used in one of our adverts right now. It’s really just there as an example – you can copy it if you like, but writing bespoke text that fits your business will be MUCH more effective.
This is Juggle
Here we describe what the product is, how it benefits people and how we’re going to use it to achieve our biggest and most important goal (that’s to ensure 50% of business leaders are female by 2027, in case you were unaware).
This is our team
This is where we describe who they’ll be working with. We mention our senior people and include a little bit about their history (not a huge amount, there’s no need for it). We also mention a little bit about our structure – we have staff working remotely from various locations. We finish this section with something about the way we work/what the office culture is like. Something like… [We’re hard-working and results-driven, but the core of our culture is giving great people the flexibility and autonomy they need.]
This is the role
A paragraph about the role. Here we describe the key work strands or a bit about the day-to-day tasks. We also use this space to talk about opportunities outside business-as-usual (ways that the candidate will be able to contribute to the business or platform, for example). This is also a good space for a general explanation of how the role fits into the wider business and who they might be regularly working with.
This is the type of person we need
[The most important thing to us is that you share our values, enjoy the culture we’ve built, and buy into the journey we’re on. We appreciate that this is nuanced and often best explored at interview stage, but below is a list of skills and experience which are important for this role:]
- Talk directly to the ideal candidate, describing them in complete sentences. e.g.: You have experience in recruitment, talent/HR or community management.
- Try to remain conversational by using contractions (you’re rather than you are, etc), but there’s no need to be chatty.
- Some suggested attributes for a good Juggler:
- [You’re process-focused, with a keen eye for detail and a high degree of organisation.
- You’ve got an empathetic manner and the ability to read/influence others.
- You’re driven, care about outcomes and dedicated to delivering excellence.
- You’re tech-savvy: not afraid of video conferencing, online messaging tools, Google Drive etc.
- We’re after people who care about our cause and want to address the gender gap by making flexible working accessible to all.]
These are the key responsibilities
- Describe the key responsibilities in complete sentences.
This is what we give in return
- Being coy about the compensation tells your candidate one thing – you’re trying to hire as cheaply as possible. You very well may be trying to hire as cheaply as possible, but the implication is that you either a) don’t know how much a competent person in this role deserves to be paid or b) you know but would like to avoid it if at all possible. Neither of these implications will help in finding you the best candidate, so if you’re serious about finding the best instead of the cheapest you should at least mention the compensation they can expect. “Competitive salary and share options” is a good start.
- At Juggle we’re up front about what we offer and expect in terms of working hours: [Flexibility to work as and when you need, on your terms – office or home-based. All we ask is that you come into the London office 50% of the time, and are available to support members when they need it (this may include before/after typical office hours).]
- Include as much information about your work/life balance offerings even if you don’t offer above the average (so include things like holiday days) plus any other benefits or perks.
- This is your opportunity to have little fun and get a little of your office culture across (we recommend staying professional when describing the responsibilities, don’t feel tempted to use “fun language” to make a role sound engaging – the spec should do this on its own).
Ready to put your advert to use? Hire a self-reliant, results-focused professional with Juggle.