The ultimate guide to the perfect IT job description
This is the h2.
June 21 , 2017 | By Lisa Dare, TEKsystems Digital Content Strategist
“The best candidates aren’t looking for another job; they’re looking for a better job.” –Richard Jones, TEKsystems
If you had the pick of IT talent, your organization could accomplish great things. But most companies don’t have the IT talent they want when they want it. And flawed job descriptions are actually a major part of the problem—which means fixing them can give your company a competitive edge in recruiting.
Consider this disconnect: 81 percent of IT leaders report it’s difficult to find quality candidates, while 73 percent of IT professionals say they have a hard time finding IT opportunities they qualify for.
And lots of them blame job descriptions.
In our recent IT skills gap survey, IT pros ranked these among the top three reasons they can’t find the right IT job:
- The technical requirements for the position are unrealistic: 48% (No. 1 answer)
- The experience or expertise requirements are too niche or specific: 41%
- Getting insight about the position (beyond just the job description) is too difficult: 31%
- The educational requirements are too extensive: 25%
- The position includes vague soft skill requirements: 23%
- The experience/tenure requirements are too great: 22%
Best practices for IT job titles
Wanted: Network ninjas, technical gurus and rock star developers?
Job description turn-off: “Trying to recruit ‘rock stars’”–Joshua S., IT professional
To reach the most—and best-suited—job-seekers for your opening, you must standardize the job title.
- So search engines and job aggregators will surface your position faster
- So candidates can quickly determine if the job matches their skills
You can check the title against other companies’ job descriptions and certification levels to make sure you’re using the most appropriate one. A great resource is CompTIA’s Career Roadmap, which provides standardized titles and job descriptions, along with the types of certifications needed for them. This comprehensive resource was developed by a partnership with businesses and skills and technology nonprofit organizations. Or you can use O*Net Online, which keeps a well-curated list of 57 standard IT job title clusters, along with relevant skills.
Finally, don’t get too cute or creative with your title. In fact, avoid any title you see here. But if you have a valid reason for using a unique title, you might add an explanation, e.g., “Customer success maven (CX data analyst).”
Salary: Should you list a range?
Job description turnoff: “I think for me it's no salary because I want to know if that is in my ballpark range. If salary is too low (especially for the type of work involved) it's not really worth pursuing the position”. –Eric D., senior IT support professional
Workers with high-demand skills express impatience with job ads that don’t list salary, and it may be a reason for them to move on to the next position. If you’re competing for a hot skill set in a crowded market, you probably have more to gain than lose by including a salary range.
3 critical elements of your employee value proposition
“One of the things I always found worked in getting talented people interested in an opportunity is to articulate the exact problem your organization is trying to solve, the implications of not solving it, and the amazing things that will happen if you do.” –Melissa McFall, TEKsystems LinkedIn Program Manager
We’ve done a lot of research on this. While compensation is important, most IT workers value these benefits at least as much as getting a higher salary:
- Opportunity for growth or skills development
- Involvement in important projects and the ability to make a difference
- Great workplace dynamic and corporate culture
- Interesting work: stimulating problems, the chance to work with the latest and greatest tech
"Walk them through a typical day. If you have a ticket system, show them volume and metrics. A current projects list. A responsibilities matrix. Show them your ducks are in a row to keep the business functioning at an optimal pace. All you can really do is be honest and transparent." –triad_spacefight on Reddit
- How the role impacts company success: Our IT Stress & Pride surveys show that a large majority of IT pros feel the most pride in driving results, and secondly in making a difference within their organization
- Primary tasks
What to omit: The humdrum administrative tasks. They add little to your job description and waste space.
2. Work conditions
- The on-call expectations
- Remote work opportunities—these can be a real differentiator for IT workers
- The day-to-day working conditions, e.g., will a candidate work in a team or alone?
- The tech stack
3. Opportunities for growth
IT workers have an unusual job security situation: They’re comfortable there will always be jobs but worry their skills will become irrelevant. IT pros want and need to learn new things in every position.
Your job description should highlight:
- Training opportunities
- The ability to work cross-functionally
Biggest job description turnoff: “Seeing a listing that includes every IT and business skill possible and expecting the candidate to have them ALL. Just trimming it down to the essential skills would save a lot of time.” –Curt S., senior IT analyst
"What's really funny is job descriptions demanding 10 years of experience on a technology that's been out less than 5." –klondikegrenade on Reddit
The qualifications section is critical. Get it right, and you’ll probably attract the best, most optimal candidate pool. Do it wrong and you may get no one.
A few best practices:
- Pare down your requirements to no more than five required skills and a few preferred ones
- Clearly delineate the nice-to-have skills from the necessary ones
- Describe the top few soft skills someone will need to be successful
- Omit skills that can be acquired quickly or on the job
Focus on the candidate
A 2015 University of Vermont study showed changing the way you structure a job ad can increase the size and dramatically improve the quality of the candidate pool. Refocusing the ads on the candidate—not the company—attracted more and better candidates. Discuss the skills candidates need to be successful, and what they’ll accomplish while working for you. For instance, “As an applications developer helping with an EPIC implementation, you’ll use your programming and analytical skills to improve patient care innovation.”
Final things to watch for
We’ve created a basic checklist you can download, but here are a few essential things to look for:
- Clichéd language
- Potentially discriminatory language
- Keywords: make sure your description includes keywords job seekers might use, including the most relevant skills and job title variations
- Large chunks of text—use short paragraphs and bullets for easy scanning
- Post early in the week when job-seeker activity peaks
Download our handyIT job description checklist.
Additional resources for optimizing IT job postings
- Google’s Re:Work project uses Google’s data about their internal recruiting failures and successes to create best practices.
- 5 things to avoid in your next IT job description
- Compete for top IT candidates with a winning Employee Value Proposition
- O*Net’s IT job title clusters
- Get help from a TEKsystems account manager skilled in helping create winning job ads and descriptions that appeal to candidates and attract the right ones. We believe in creating lasting client relationships, so offer this help free of charge.