A Job Posting Primer: Titles, Requirements, and Responsibilities

February 15th, 2018
Ross Coyle
Candidate Experience,
Recruiting Teams

Writing a perfect job posting is tricky even with the best information. The typical posting must grab the reader’s attention and engagement in less than five seconds and hold them for what can be a months long process. If recruiters aren’t bringing their 'A' Game to job postings, they can lose out on excellent candidates before they even hit submit. Here are a few ideas for how to maximize your posting’s impact.

Make Job Titles Clear and Searchable

Who doesn’t want to be thought of as an SEO Ninja? It turns out quite a few people don’t. Today’s candidates expect job titles to be relevant to the roles they want. At best these terms aren’t going into search boxes, and at worst they’re patronizing to the position and the candidate. By the same thread, avoid terminology that is exclusive to your company. Remember that “Level 2 Support Specialist” can mean different things to different companies.

Why It Hurts

It’s tempting to make your employer brand and posting stand out with casual or fun language, but many candidates (especially Millennials and Gen-z) are plugging in a specific role to the search box. You could be shooting yourself in the foot before you even start by depriving your posting of valuable search prioritization.

Furthermore, terms that sound gendered, like ninja and rockstar can turn off diverse applicants. A study by Cornell’s School of Industry and Labor Relations discovered that job titles with gendered language, such as ninja or guru, imply more masculine traits and receive less interest from female applicants. Tech firm Buffer learned this the hard way when they described engineers as “hackers” and found that less than two percent of their candidates were women.

A Better Approach

Keep the job title simple and make it concise. A candidate looking for work that will advance their career is more likely to view and apply to jobs with titles relevant to their skills. Instead of “software guru” or “sales rainmaker,” come back to the basics with “experienced software engineer” or “sales team lead.” Let the candidate glean their responsibilities from the title. 

Qualify Skills Instead of Quantify Skills

It’s a commonly held belief that numbers correlate directly to employee performance but sorting candidates based solely on hard numbers can weed out great potential team members. Avoid posting “produce x amount of content” or other hard numbers that might deter candidates from approaching you during the application process.

Why It Hurts

Dispositioning candidates by hard numbers — such as years of experience or product produced — can weed out other, more important traits before a candidate even sends in a resume. This type of posting, known as “demands-abilities” (D-A) style writing and covered in a Springer Science & Business Media Report, has a lower return rate on high quality applicants.

Instead of showing how an employee’s skills can fit into a company, these postings dictate that this is what the company demands and what what the applicant must provide.

A Better Approach

It’s easy to look at years in field or sales numbers as a vital metric for senior level positions, but for lower and mid-level roles consider letting your applicant’s skills speak for themselves. Let your candidates measure themselves against softer job requirements in the posting. This approach, termed “needs-supplies” (N-S) uses more encouraging language.

Terms like “experience working with” or “proven ability to” will help them see whether or not they fit the bill. Shifting the post’s style to one that reflects what the company needs and what the applicant supplies has proven to return three times as many high-quality applicants.

Avoid Lengthy Job Responsibility Listings

Applicants are looking for jobs that use the skills they’ve developed and learn new skills, they don’t want another faceless role in a large company. Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey indicates that younger job seekers are looking for a company that they’ll know they are making a difference in. Make sure your posting reflects the important and exciting work the applicant will be performing, not a large host of general terms that fall into the role.

Why It Hurts

If your job posting is longer than three paragraphs, you’ve probably already lost the interest your best applicants. It’s easier than ever for applicants to find jobs that appeal directly to their skill sets, so make sure that your posting accurately reflects the position’s responsibilities. It can be tempting to put as many keywords as possible on the posting to boost views, but it can also leave candidates feeling overwhelmed. You may also be reinforcing bias, considering women are less likely to apply for jobs if they don't meet all of the qualifications.

A Better Approach

Know your position inside and out. Keep your posting short and to the point and maximize the space you have with terms that will resonate with your applicant. If they’re a designer, make sure they know exactly what kinds of projects they’ll be working on and tools they’ll be using. If they’re customer facing, make sure they know the environment they’ll be working in and the personas they’ll be talking to. Avoid using generic buzzwords that appear in all job listings and you’ll find a larger initial pool of qualified applicants to draw from.


Step away from your posting before you put it up. Give yourself a few minutes to read through your application as an applicant, not as a recruiter or hiring manager. Is it something that gets you excited about your company? Can you visualize yourself in this role or does it seem unfocused? By reframing the posting through the applicant’s eyes, you can get an understanding of how they’ll not only view your posting but your employer brand.

Is Your Career Page Working For You?

If you can’t do these things, talk to the hiring manager and go through the posting again. Be a consultant, advisor and coach for them as they find out exactly what team member they need so you can build a posting that will draw great candidates.