Writing Clear and Effective Job Descriptions in 2021

When it comes to attractive job descriptions, what language resonates with Gen Z?

We’re all familiar with those fluffy job descriptions that describe candidates they’re seeking as “rockstars” and highlight their laid back company cultures that sound too good to be true. Or the overly technical job descriptions that make our heads spin just trying to understand the responsibilities at hand. But what makes one job description better than others? 

Tips for writing a clear and effective job description tailored to students

When you’re hiring students for internships or jobs, it’s all about writing job descriptions that are tailored to them, their skills, and the environment they’re looking for. In this post, explore how you can create effective job descriptions for students and use Handshake to proactively source over 7m students.

1. Make sure you’ve got the essentials

Job descriptions help candidates understand a role and whether it’d be a good fit for them based on culture, responsibilities, and more.

Equally important is that students can actually find your job description—how you word your job can limit your qualified applicants. According to CIO, titles like Marketing Ninja can confuse students or put them off from applying to your role.

Consider how students search for your title. If you’re hiring for a role your industry commonly refers to as an Account Manager but you label it as a Client Relationship Manager, you may miss out on qualified student applicants. Rely on trends and data to help inform these decisions.

To create a relevant job description, Justin Cerilli, managing director of financial services and technology at Russell Reynolds and Associates, suggests marrying a bit of marketing, the reality of the role, the necessary skills and competencies, and the organization’s benefits and culture.

2. Focus on skills, not experience in your job description

To tailor your job description to students, you’ll need to rethink what’s necessary to be successful in this role. While five years of experience may be nice to have, most students won’t have that type of experience and you’ll potentially turn off a large applicant pool by requiring such prerequisites.

Instead, focus on coursework, soft and hard skills, and certifications students may have earned through their school or independent institutions. Once you determine these skills, use Handshake’s Student Search to find students who have the skills and coursework needed to be successful in this role.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology suggests highlighting any skills that can be learned on the job and removing restrictive barriers like years of experience. This helps alleviate the experience problem and attracts more diverse students who are eager to learn but lack the required experience.

While it can be tempting to list preferred majors, this can be off-putting to students who don’t define their career paths by their major. In Handshake’s 2019 Campus to Career report, we discovered that nearly 60% of students and recent graduates are open to finding jobs outside of their majors.

3. Tell them what kind of employment you’re looking for

With more and more people looking for supplemental income and turning hobbies into paid side gigs, the gig economy is booming. Job seekers are also turning to gig work as COVID-19 leaves many unemployed.

Handshake’s 2020 COVID-19 report revealed that while students’ location preferences have remained largely the same, they are now more open to various work options. Nearly 70% of underclassmen said that they would consider a job in the gig economy.

We are seeing more openness in general from students willing to accept offers for part-time and freelance contracts as well as gig work instead of waiting for a full-time position. If you’re an employer offering different types of work, make it known in your job description.

If you have a freelance role that may transition into a full-time role after a year, a part-time side gig, or any other promotional tracks, educate students.

4. Let students know you’re flexible in your job description

While remote work was slowly becoming a more desirable work option for many, it became a necessity in 2020. Handshake’s COVID-19 report showed that 3 in 4 students were already set up and able to do a remote internship from home.

With so many students already set up for remote internships, it’s no surprise that 84% would consider a remote position. This can be a game-changer for many students wanting to work for a specific company in another state and for employers that don’t want to limit their talent search to one city.

Make it clear in your job description that you’re willing to hire remote workers and that out-of-state applicants will be considered. This unlocks a nationwide qualified talent pool and ensures you hire the best students for your roles—whether they’re in your town or across the country in their home office.

5. Expand your application windows

For many college students, getting a full-time job when they graduate is a top priority. With so many students experiencing anxiety around the pandemic, they are prioritizing their health and families over their job search (students from underrepresented backgrounds are disproportionately affected).

Show students you understand their priorities right now by removing application deadlines to give them the time they need to complete an application.

6. Show off your culture and be inclusive

Early talent wants to work for inclusive companies that value them, which is why it’s so important that your job description highlights your company culture.

This could include what diversity and inclusion looks like at your organization, employee resource groups, tuition reimbursement, or any other benefits that give applicants an idea of what it’s like to work at your organization. Once you post your jobs on Handshake, make sure to update your Employer Page with photos and testimonials that show off your diversity.

In our Campus to Career report, 67% of students and recent graduates agreed that they would only work for an employer that has built an inclusive company culture and provides a sense of belonging to employees from all backgrounds. While your mission statement and overview can show off an inclusive culture, you’ll want to make sure the terminology you use is inclusive, too. Industry experts recommend using gender-neutral language that doesn’t alienate women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, latinxs, or veterans.

7. Talk about growth opportunities

Are you hiring for an entry-level position with a lot of room for growth? Or maybe your company promotes quickly based on merit? If so, let applicants know. Of students surveyed in our Campus to Career report, an overwhelming 75% believed that they should be promoted within a year.

This generation of early talent is focused on rapid growth, so companies that allow and share their mentorship or professional development opportunities are especially desirable. In addition to your job description, activate Ambassadors on Handshake to personally connect with students with like-minded alumni.

Get started on Handshake

Now that you have the foundations for writing a strong job description down, it’s time to get proactive and share that job description with qualified talent.

Over 500k employers—including all 500 of the Fortune 500—rely on Handshake to post their jobs and connect with students.

With Handshake Premium, employers can scale their program using robust filters to create Segments of qualified students for open positions. With a desirable group of talent, Premium partners can send unlimited personalized messages with Campaigns that drive students to their jobs, events, or page.