What’s the Difference Between a Job Description and a Job Post?

You ever read a job post that reads so dry it’s like it came straight out of a company document? So dull that your eyes glaze over and the posting is immediately dismissed from your memory? You definitely have. I know, because I read postings like that everyday, by well-meaning managers, owners and HR newbies, who don’t know the difference between a job description and a job post.

When you’re hustling to fill an open role, copying and pasting existing job descriptions may sound attractive – less work, right? – but it’s a dangerous misunderstanding of what these two things are meant to do, and a waste of your hiring budget. One is a dry, internal document. The other is meant to be eye-catching ad copy. And while the boring document can be used to prepare that far more interesting ad copy, never should the twain really meet.

What Is a Job Description?

A job description is an on-file document that aids in internal and external compliance, and with defining work standards, compensation, and possibilities for advancement. Essentially it is the most complete description of what a given role entails and what relationships it has to other roles in the company, and to clients and customers. Ideally, every role in your organization should have a complete and regularly updated job description on file in your HR office, along with a tidy org tree to help you and other business leaders to understand who does what, and why they’re important.

Job descriptions are compliance and reference documents, and while they’re essential for establishing a starting point in performance reviews and compensation negotiations, they tend to make for boring reads.

What Is a Job Post?

A job post is an announcement of and advertisement for an open position at your organization. It’s not a job ad, in the sense of being a purchased ad spot through Google or the social media network of your choice, but it is an advertisement and should be written with that in mind. Job posts should be relatively short, easy to read, and include only the most essential information about the role. They should also give potential applicants a sense of what your company does and of its internal culture.

That’s why copying job descriptions is the worst and most tragic thing you can do in a job post: it makes you look boring, thoughtless, and boring.

Job posts are the first point of contact that many candidates will have with your organization, and they are your first opportunity to attract the best people for your role. To understand exactly how important a good job post is, put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and run a job search for your industry and region. Without including your company name, try to find your last posting among the hundreds or thousands that come up on Google, Indeed, or other job boards and searches. And, staying in that candidate’s shoes, make a list of job posts that not only matched your basic search criteria, but also got you genuinely interested in learning more about the company.

Job descriptions should be used as a point of reference in writing job posts – you should of course make sure you’re getting the details of the role correct – but the post copy should be entirely new, and tailored with your ideal candidate in mind. It’s not meant to sell the role to you or to other business leaders, but to convince really cool people to apply.

If your organization has in house marketing, advertising, or sales specialists, consider working with them to developing job post – and later job ad – copy that effectively communicates your employer brand and the essentials of the role.

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Megan Purdy

Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.

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