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The pros and cons of standardized job descriptions

By ZoomInsights staff

Job descriptions can be a tricky thing. How do you succinctly explain the full depth and breadth of a given position? Perhaps that is asking too much—maybe it’s better to simply give a general description. In the face of these challenges, many companies and recruiters turn to standardized job descriptions to lessen the burden.

Job descriptions may need to change depending on where you’ll be posting them and how you’ll be using them. According to Salary.com, there are a few common elements to job descriptions that will almost always need to be incorporated:

  • Job title
  • Location
  • Fair Labor Standards Act status
  • Position summary
  • Major responsibilities

We’ve all seen these kinds of listings on job boards and corporate websites. But while standardized job descriptions may make posting openings on the Web easier, they have their drawbacks.

The importance of a good job description

In many ways, the job description is often the first introduction a potential new employee has to your company. According to the website of Grand Roads Executive Search, “If you want to find candidates who have zero percent learning curve, fit into your organization, get the job done and exceed your highest expectations, then don't underestimate the importance of knowing how to write a job description.” So the next time you are tempted to use a few standard categories, industry jargon and stock language for a job listing, you may want to think about investing more time, energy and creativity.

“Most job descriptions are poorly written and have so much HR/legal [terminology] baked into them that they cease to be useful in attracting real talent,” Tim Sackett, executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, told ZoomInsights.

A bad job description can have more impact than you might imagine. “What happens if you don't write a job description well?” asked the Grand Roads site. “Candidates can't do the job. New employees don't fit your corporate culture. Poor performance materializes down the road. Employee turnover increases. Key business objectives are missed.”

With that much at stake, it pays to give your job descriptions the attention they deserve.

Using job descriptions to market your company

So while it may be useful to have standardized job descriptions for internal use, the opposite may be the case for your external listings. According to Grand Roads, “A second key concept is that there are internal job descriptions that are for insider use only and there are external job descriptions that will be read by prospective candidates. The former is very thorough and complete. The latter is an abridged version of the internal job description, typically with more of a marketing slant to it.”

Sackett echoed those sentiments: “A better place for job descriptions to go would be to give them to your marketing department — that way you might actually have a shot at attracting someone to your company using the job description.”

Get a head start

One thing is for sure, good job descriptions aren’t slapped together at the last minute when an opening arises. “It's crucial that you make writing job descriptions part of your overall business planning effort,” Grand Roads advised. “You can't simply start thinking about job descriptions every time you have a specific search to conduct for a hiring requisition.”

So while certain elements of job descriptions may be standard, if you’re looking to make your company stand out to the best prospects, you need to leave room for a little creativity.


You can learn a lot about candidates who respond to your job descriptions by looking them up on ZoomInfo Pro. ZoomInfo’s detailed profiles of 65 million businesspeople include education and work history as well as awards and personal interests. Learn more.