Startup Recruiting Part 2: Job Descriptions

July 27, 2020

Part 2 – Job Descriptions

As the next installment of our Startup Company Growth blog series, we’re going to cover Job Descriptions – the definition of the role and the responsibilities for your job opening. As we discussed in our first post in the Startup series, talent acquisition is the key driver of startup success. As a startup, it is vital to embrace the latest in best practices and technologies to drive your recruiting processes, and it starts with developing a compelling job description.

Developing Job Descriptions

A survey from the job-search firm Ladders found that jobseekers, when tracked using technology that records where and for how long their eyes landed on a page, spent an average of 49.7 seconds before dismissing a position as a poor fit, and 76.7 seconds with job ads that appeared to match their interests and skills. What’s that mean? You need to nail it quickly and effectively.

First off, you must define who you want for a role. Obviously, your job description needs to describe the skills and competencies that are needed to perform the job. So engineering competencies needed (Ruby-on-Rails…) or sales experience desired (selling big ticket to enterprise…) are important. Plus basics, like entry level or experienced, of course. Also consider the “type” of resource you need. Are they analytical, problem-solvers or will they just need to execute what is given to them? Are they better in a team-oriented environment or do you need a self-starter who can run on their own? Work with your hiring managers to develop a profile for this person, similar to defining a target customer segment for a product. Work those key points into your job description. Then your job description will help yield that ideal candidate.

A good job description should include some key elements:

  • State the Job title. Accurately describe the job function, focusing on its “importance” in the organization without exaggerating. The job title should be free of gender or age implications. Choose a job title that reflects your industry's standards and organization's culture. Don’t use jargon like “data ninja” or “rock star sales person". Using common titles is also important because it will help people searching for a role (like "data analyst") surface your job post.(1)
  • Outline the role and responsibilities. Define the skills and competencies needed to perform the role, while exciting the candidate about the job opening. Don’t make it generic or boring. And don’t make it too long. Prioritize what’s important and aim for a small number of clear, concise goals that gives the candidate a picture of the role. The best job descriptions create an exact picture of what the day-to-day responsibilities of the role are like. Include location, direct reports, reporting hierarchy. Mention any hard skills required, as well as preferred, and other specifics, like 25% travel required or remote location not an issue. It will help eliminate non-qualified and possibly elicit responses. As noted above, here is where you can weave in requirements that drive the “type” of resources – i.e. analytical, self-starter, etc.

  • Include performance goals. Spell out what you want from the new hire. An interesting LinkedIn article on a study they did with job description heatmapping showed that performance goals were focused on and appreciated by candidates.(2)

  • Briefly tell them key points about your company. Describe the company mission, the culture, the strengths, what makes it a great place to work. Define where this role fits within the company and how the candidate will help the company meet its goals. Talk about company perks.  Mention competitive pay, career growth, equity, benefits, transportation reimbursement, gym membership, free bagels, and work from home rules, if it is an attractive component of the company. You want the candidate to get excited about your startup. And you want to find candidates that will “fit in” with your team. Caveat: You need to be brief. Don’t put too much into company. The LinkedIn heatmapping article showed that the company info was the coldest part of the heatmap. Their take is that candidates will look elsewhere for company info. It is a balance between exciting the candidate and not boring them that they lose interest. Focus needs to be on the role.(3) Find the right balance.
  • What about salary? If your company is open to publicizing the position's salary range and benefits (such as 401(k), vacation days, or medical and dental insurance), include those details within the job description. Candidates really want to know what’s in it for them: what work they’ll do, how much they’ll make, and whether they can realistically get the job or not. Again, in the LinkedIn heatmapping study, the salary range and benefits were far and away the most highlighted portions of the job description. And they found that, when asked, 61% of the study respondents said compensation was the most important part of the description.Candidates need to know if it’s worth investing more time in your job opening, and they might be spending seconds on your job description, so important to consider including salary info.(3)

Formatting is also important. Make it easy to consume. Think of it like a marketing email or landing page.  Bullets, bolding, underlining. People scan. Use active, direct language. And put some of your company’s personality into the tone, but don’t get too casual. Studies show that too casual can be polarizing to candidates.

Long vs. Short

How long should your job description be?  According to Indeed, jobs with descriptions between 700 and 2000 words get on average 30% more applicants than jobs with descriptions that are either too short or too long. For job posts on LinkedIn, shorter is better.  Shorter job posts (1-300 words) on LinkedIn had significantly higher-than-average apply rates per view (the number of applications the job post got divided by the number of views). These short posts got candidates to apply 8.4% more than average, while medium job posts (301-600 words) performed 3.4% below average and long job posts (601+ words) did only 1% better than average. A driver for that is the fact that more than 50% of job views on LinkedIn are on mobile devices(1). But that is certainly the trend, so try to keep it on the shorter side.

Bottom Line

Use the above information to guide your job description work. Remember, it’s crucial it performs as effectively as possible. Following best practices when it comes to developing job descriptions is key.  You are going up against a myriad of foes in getting the attention of good candidates; think of it as a critical marketing piece. You must sell your job and company with maximum effort. Put the time in on the job description. Make it work hard for you.


Upsider will continue to provide information in our upcoming posts that focus on this critical aspect of a startup’s life - hiring.  If you’d like to automatically receive new blog posts and insights as they become available, please click here and have the latest delivered straight to your inbox.  

Like this post? Check out the Upsider Blog for more content about the cross-section of data and recruiting.



1. Note: From “Writing Job Descriptions: 6 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them”, posted by LinkedIn | March 26, 2018

2. Note: From “This Job Description Heatmap Shows You What Candidates Really Care About (and What They Ignore)”, posted by LinkedIn | June 19, 2018

3. Note: From “4 New Job Post Stats That Will Help You Attract Candidates”, posted by LinkedIn | August 1, 2018

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