Job Descriptions – is there an ideal length?

Recruiting the ideal candidate is incredibly important. After deciding what you expect from the role, who it will report to and the level of experience you need, you now need to describe the job and what the candidate gets in return. You need to create a job description.


There’s often a lot to get across, and in a temptation to give clarity the JD grows. Beware the ‘goldilocks effect’. Too long and the candidate will lose interest, too short and they don’t appreciate what’s the job is.  


When I write a job descriptions I focus on four main components.  


The Job Title – keep it concise and be specific. This hooks the candidate in and is often how they search for potential jobs. If there is an industry standard, think very carefully before you make up your own title. Here’s few unusual ones I found on the net.

  • Beverage dissemination assistant (bartender)
  • Chief imagination Officer (technology)
  • Thought leader(?)
  • Director of first impression (receptionist)
  • Director of mischief ( no idea but my favourite) 

I quite like to include a couple of sentences which describe the purpose of the role, but keep it simple. It certainly would help for the Director of mischief role.


The description – this is usually the biggest section and describes the key activities or responsibilities you’ll expect the person to do. Recruitment bloggers say this is where candidates spend the most of their time. But keep it simple. We all have a tendency to over complicate rather than use simple concepts. For example “ surprise and delight customers, addressing their needs in a timing and effective manner, and resolving complaints with sensitivity and avoiding escalation”, could be replaced with “provide great customer service”?


You can address the specifics of what good service looks like in your company as part of the induction or in training. You could also explore what good service means to them at the interview stage. See if it matches with what you believe. 


I’ve read 1000’s of job descriptions and written quite a few. I would say the same principles apply to  JD as a CV. If it goes beyond 2/3 pages it’s too long.  Let me illustrate. A JD was shared with me recently, for a part time senior role. It was 17 pages long. My reaction was, this is a lot to get done in the 3 days, and it feels like an over managed working environment. By focusing on what was expected and removing all the “how we want to done” elements we cut the JD length by 50%, and the quality of the applicants improved.


Compensation & benefits – this is more than salary it’s what you offer in return. Draw out what makes your organisation a great place to work or what the ideal candidates might be motivated by. For example career progression, ongoing development, flexibility, funky work environment. 


The ideal candidate –  think of it in terms of “this job would suit someone who…”. And don’t forget to include essential qualification or experience