A job description contains details about the job opening. By reading it, a job seeker with keen eyes can form a mental picture of what a typical day looks like in that role.
So in a sense, a job description is actually a window into the company’s management style and culture. As a result, bad language or writing style can easily raise red flags in the mind of the job seekers.
Avoid the following when you are writing a job description. All examples came from real job advertisements, a majority of them on Startup Job Asia.
1. Typo or messy writing
Have at least 2 years working experience with a team that implements proper develops processes and has delivered finished products.
Quite obviously, deep knowledge of Objective C and/or Swift. Swift is optional, though.
The impression it gives: sloppy work is tolerated there.
2. Inconsistency between the title and content
Backend Software Engineer
- The backend engineer will be expected to work with a team in architecturing and designing the system to suit business needs.
- The responsibilities include project management, team management, product development and customer engagement.
(It looks more like a tech lead or CTO role.)
- Has experience with NoSQL databases such as MongoDB or RethinkDB
- Proficient in using RESTful APIs and tokens
- Knowledge in cloud computing services such as AWS and Azure
(It looks more like a full-stack developer role.)
The hiring manager is probably thinking: an employee need to be flexible in a startup environment.
The impression it gives: there is a lack of engineering budget there, so they need someone junior who can take on multiple things.
3. Unnecessary / long-winded / overstated responsibilities and requirements
What you will do:
- Design and build scalable REST APIs for the platform and other microservices
- Collaborate with Frontend team to decide how an API method should work
- Work with Product team to build innovative, robust, and easy-to-use features for our users
- Improve and optimise performance of infrastructure and database
- Write clean, human-readable code with unit tests
- Triage bugs and troubleshoot production issues
- Improve code quality and increase unit and end-to-end test coverage
- Mentor junior engineers when necessary
Writing clean code with unit tests is one of the implied responsibilities of a software engineer, that you need not mention explicitly.
The impression it gives: I am expected to do everything as told. (Note that if micromanagement is a norm in the company, then this is probably fine.)
- Minimum 10 years experience in coding and software design.
- Experienced in Java, C++, C#.NET, Python or Go.
The hiring manager is probably thinking: we do not know what we need to use yet, but we will settle on something once we have hired our first tech employee.
The impression it gives: They have not gotten a tech co-founder / leader yet, yet they want to run a tech company.
4. Salary does not match the job title and responsibilities
You will be either
- Managing & Improving Web-based and Mobile Application Projects
- Manage, build and continuously upgrade Database and Informational Management System
- Monitor, Maintain & Upgrade IT, Networking & Security
- Develop key IT project partners
- Manage constant changes in IT architecture in early-phase of business infrastructure build-up
2500 – 4500 SGD
The impression it gives: They don’t value engineering talents.
5. Missing company name and description
We have an opportunity for Full Stack Developer/Senior Developer at Singapore with one of our esteemed client.
The reader is thinking: I already have one loose end on my side: whether the job is right for me, having another loose end is too much.
6. Flamboyant company or founder description
We are ventures-backed and have recently just closed a major funding round. All co-founders are ivy league graduates, serial entrepreneurs who have tons of experience founding successful startups. You will get to hang around with some of the most talented and committed individuals out there in the startup scene.
The impression it gives: they are probably looking for someone like them. I am not the one.
7. Signaling poor work-life balance in the company
- enjoy working in a fast-pace high-intensity team environment.
- able to multi-task and switch among multiple client projects as needed.
- can handle stress well.
- can commit to hard deadlines and take responsibilities of the projects.
The hiring manager is probably thinking: this is a typical work environment in a high-growth company. I only want job seekers who are comfortable with it.
The impression it gives: they are a sweatshop.
If some of the above sound familiar, note that they are not making a mistake of misrepresenting the management style or culture of the company, as what they described may indeed be the truth. Rather, what they should improve on is the way of expressing the truth.
By making careful choices of words, one can convey the intended message across without eliciting a negative impression from the job seekers. We shall share more about the techniques for writing a superb job ad in our email course.
Meanwhile, the meme below illustrates the different perspectives on a job role.
I have also written a guide for writing a proper tech job advertisement here.