How to write a job description that works

Recruiting the best talent is a competition. Figuring out how to write a job description that conveys exactly who you are looking for – and, crucially, makes your position appealing to that person – is vital if you want to attract the top applicants.

But your job description also needs to be accurate. It needs to be informative. Because if you fire off an inaccurate specification to your recruiter, you make it all the more difficult for them to find you the perfect candidate.

Whatever kind of manufacturing or engineering jobs you need to fill, here are the key points to bear in mind when writing a job specification:

Tips for writing a good job description

1) Cover the basics

Start with the basics. The who, what, where, why, and how (much). Your overriding aim should be specificity:

The Who

Who are you looking for to fill this role? Be specific about the qualifications and experience you simply must have from your candidate. Then list any desirable skills and experience.

It’s also good practice to list the personal qualities you expect from the candidate you want. Are they great when they need to act on their own initiative, for example? Do they have proven experience as a leader?

The What

What is the role you are looking to fill? Create a job title that accurately describes the role and the level of experience you are looking for.

Add a description of the position. Be concise. Be sure to think on the “why” and “where” as well as the “what” when you do.

It’s a good idea to say a little about your organisation too. Describe your company culture or mission. Talk about your industry and the scale of your operation. But try to do so briefly.

The Where

Where will this role be located? You can have thousands of people contact your recruitment agency about your vacancy. But it’s no good if none of them is willing to relocate to a part of the world you haven’t made clear.

Plus, is this a part-time or full-time role? Is it an internship? Maternity cover? How long does it last? These are key details that no engineering or manufacturing job description should be without.

The Why

Why do you need to hire someone? Any engineering or manufacturing job should have specific responsibilities and duties. These are usually presented in a bullet-point list. A good format for each duty is something like, “Developing persuasive business cases for our services on a daily basis.”

See how this very basic example of something required by a sales engineer job description:

  • Is a bullet point
  • Begins with an action or verb
  • States the duty
  • Gives as clear an idea as possible about how often this role involves undertaking this task

Try to use real units of time whenever possible. Phrases like “often” are not always that helpful. The idea is to give your prospective hire as much information about what their job will be like day-to-day.

The How (much)

How much is the role worth to you? It’s rarely a good idea to say you offer “competitive salaries” or some other vague comment. Most skilled talent will be turned away by such sweeping statements.

Instead, write down an actual salary. Or have a salary range based on applicant experience or qualifications.

Be sure to mention the job benefits too. Things like paid vacation days, insurance cover, pensions plans, and so on. These are all powerful draws to the best talent.

2) Use shorter sentences

Short sentences. They create a real impact. Longer sentences, however, tend to become vaguer and less interesting and often run on into multiple clauses while slowly losing the point of what they were talking about in the first place.

As you can see from the example paragraph above, shorter sentences are almost always better. Don’t let your eagerness about the role take you into “waffling” territory.

Any sentence longer than around 15-18 words probably needs revision. Shorter sentences keep your reader actively engaged.

3) Aim for a shorter word count

Somewhere between 300 and 600 words should be ample for a manufacturing or engineering job description.

Don’t be tempted to copy and paste from the last job specification you wrote – unless the positions are very similar.

Copy-and-pasted specifications are often outdated. They also often very obviously haven’t had much care put into them. That doesn’t transmit a good message to your recruitment company – or your new potential hire.

4) Limit bullets and punctuation

It used to be that job descriptions were pretty much half made up of big lists of bullet points. These days, it’s a good idea to tone this down a little.

Bullet points certainly have an important role to play in a well-written job description. They:

  • Break up large blocks of text
  • Present information in an easily digestible format
  • Are easy to skim-read for clients perusing multiple job posts

But they also become repetitive and easy to skip if there are too many of them. Aim for around a quarter of your word count being bullets.

One good idea is to have a short bullet point list (three is a good number) of the key benefits of the role. This is a sure way to attract applicants faster.

5) Consider your style

A great tip for writing an effective job description is to use the same style as you do for your other communications – something that’s in the right tone for your company culture.

This gives an applicant a good idea of what your company is like right off the bat. Are you a young company with a playful culture? Or do you expect nothing but precise professionalism?

Tune the tone of the words you use in your job specification to match.

6) Weigh the words you use

You should also consider the words you use. For example, one big keyword in manufacturing recruitment is “teamwork”. “Collaborate” is the “in” word in many sectors right now. But in manufacturing, “teamwork” has been shown to appeal to more people for some reason.

Don’t forget to balance your “you” and “we” statements either. The modern balance seems to be weighted towards seeing more “we” – providing more information about the job you’re offering and your company culture.

But when you’re writing a good engineering or manufacturing job description, aiming for a balance is no bad thing.

Need to start finding the right applicants for your position?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and manufacturing recruitment agency. Every day we match the right candidates with job descriptions of every type.

Contact us today and let us know who you need to fill yours.