Effective Job Descriptions

Writing An Effective Job Description and Job Description Summary Recommendations

To attract a strong candidate pool for your open job, start with the job description. An effective description will not attract more candidates, but it will attract better candidates!  The result? You will spend less time sorting through resumes! 

Think of it as a blueprint. If you put time and thought into the job description the rest of the hiring process will move along much more smoothly and hopefully more quickly.

Start with the title. Make it clear and concise. It is recommended that you reference the school and/or center in the title.

All Penn jobs have payroll titles but you can also have a posting title. For instance, if the job you need to fill is a Director E in the payroll system, you can call it a Director of Finance and Administration, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Chemistry. 

When you write the Job Description, be sure to list the most important aspects of the job. Make it interesting and, make it speak to the potential applicant!  It is okay to mention projects as well as the day to day responsibilities – sell the job by painting a picture of what it is like to work in the role. You can even drop in the department website to direct the candidate to learn more.

Keep in mind these tips for writing an effective job description:

  • Mention the job title in the summary 
  • Highlight the reporting structure for the position
  • Avoid using Penn acronyms or if you do, make sure you explain what they mean the first time you use them
  • Point out where they fit into the team they would be joining, the positions they will manage and who they will report to
  • List the position’s essential duties using bullet points and focus on crucial responsibilities of the position
  • Mention exciting initiatives going on within the school, department or team that may make the role more attractive

When writing the qualifications, we recommend using a bullet point format.  List specific skills, types and amounts of work experience, educational credentials, professional certifications or areas of knowledge that qualified candidates will bring to the role.

While some of these will automatically populate based on selections made in the “Job Evaluation Factors” stage of creating a job requisition, it is recommended that you list more than the minimum requirements.

Being specific is good and can discourage applicants who are not qualified from applying. However, it is important not to be too narrow, to leave room for the “out of the box” candidate who may have transferable skills.

You will also be required to write a Summary Job Description. The summary section of the requisition is used to give candidates basic information about the job, it is an important section that is visible to all prospective candidates and it should be a thoughtful snapshot of the role you are trying to fill. It should include a sentence about the school or center (connect with your HR Partner for language), a description of the department and a couple of sentences about the job. The summary section can be seen directly above the Description section on all job postings; it should not be the entire description cut and paste. An example of an appropriate summary is:

“As part of the Office of the Executive Vice President, the Division of Human Resources partners with schools and centers to create supportive workplaces and advance their business organizational goals. To learn more about the Division of Human Resources visit: https://www.hr.upenn.edu.

The Senior Staff Recruiter will effectively and creatively source and track prospective candidates for open and future positions across job families. They will consult with managers and HR Directors of schools/centers/departments to obtain information on open and upcoming positions and to identify and screen candidates for knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies…”

Remember, the best potential applicants are basing their decision on whether or not to apply on the job description.