A Guide to Writing Job Descriptions to Attract Remote Freelancers

Originally published on Scalable Path by Brei on September 20th, 2018.

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TIME WELL SPENT.

No one knows your role better than you do, so spend time thinking about how that role will be structured. Great developers think logically and clearly. If your job description feels hurried and incoherent, it likely won’t resonate with them.

STAY AWAY FROM HYBRID ROLES

Resist the urge to blend disparate roles together into a what we call a ‘hybrid’ role. This is an easy trap to fall into. Let’s say you need a developer and a designer, but you don’t have the budget for both, so you try and blend both skill-sets into the one job description. “Searching for a full stack developer, who can also work in Photoshop and, ideally, is also great at SEM.” It’s a slippery slope…

IF YOU’RE NOT TECHNICAL, GET SOME HELP.

Before hiring anyone you should know:

  • What your maximum budget is?
  • What completion timeframe is reasonable?

CUT OUT THE FLUFF

Freelancers don’t want a five-page list of responsibilities, expectations, KPI’s and fluff. Think of today’s JD as more of an ad for your role. We analyzed over 1,000 job descriptions in our system and found that the most successful were between 250 and 750 words long.

SET THE TONE

The tone of your copy is just as important in a job description as it is in a face-to-face meeting. If you are overly familiar or overly corporate, you may give a false impression of the role and the company. Choose a tone that reflects the culture of your business. Don’t pretend you’re a hip startup if you are a conservative risk-averse company. The goal is to attract people who are right for the position and the company.

JOB TITLE

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KEEP IT SHORT

When you open your inbox, you unconsciously skim through subject lines, deciding which are worth viewing. In-demand freelancers do the exact same thing with the job title part of a job description.

  • Role. For example: Full-Stack Developer.
  • Primary Skill. For example: Android, React.
  • Project/Company. You should only include the brand name if is a selling point. For example Google or Uber.
  • Role Type. The keyword ‘remote’, for example, is a selling point whereas ‘part-time’ is just a datapoint that is less likely to make a candidate want to learn more.

SKIP THE BUZZWORDS

Try and avoid terms like ‘growth hacker’, ‘rock star’ and ‘ninja’. Initially, these terms were original and fun: they reflected the voice of the startups that used them. Now they feel dated and cliche.

JOB DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES

It’s important to get potential candidates to visualize themselves in your role because once this happens they are half-way to applying. This section, in which you give a compelling overview of the role’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities, is a great place to achieve this.

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SELL. SELL. SELL.

Paint a picture of an exciting and challenging role by describing its specific responsibilities and what the candidate could achieve in the role. This is best done by focusing on 5 or so core responsibilities and weaving them into a short paragraph that encompasses the role. Avoid using bullet points here because, while they may be concise, they are less effective at selling the role.

FOCUS ON THE CANDIDATE

Describe what the candidate will be doing, rather than what you are looking for. You should throw in some action verbs here, as they make for more dynamic and engaging sentences. Hopefully, the use of describe’ and ‘throw’ in the previous sentences make my point. Here is a good list of action verbs to inspire you.

COMPANY DESCRIPTION

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  • Will I be paid on time?
  • Will my new colleagues be interesting and knowledgeable?
  • Will they accept me and my feedback? Will I be trusted?
  • Will the company be well-organized?
  • Will the company use exciting tech or will it be conservative?
  • Will I be given challenging work?
  • Will the company help me reach my career goals?

RELATIONSHIPS

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  • Make reporting lines clear
  • Describe the internal and external teams the candidate will interact with.

ONSITE OR REMOTE

If your role is ‘remote’, you should have already noted this in the title as it will be a big selling point for freelancers. It’s also important to show how you will integrate this remote role into existing workflows. To make this simpler, our job description tool specifically requests a few key aspects such as the presence and time of a daily meeting.

SKILLS

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USE BULLET POINTS

If everything is going to plan, you will have sold the role by this stage. The remaining sections of the JD should be used to filter out candidates that are not qualified. This means you should switch from salesy to functional copy. In other words: use bullet points.

REQUIRED OR NICE TO HAVE?

Creating an exhaustive list of skills can be counterproductive. This is because it will exclude great candidates that have the key skills, but not the peripheral ones. They will be excluded but they might feel under-qualified and not apply, or worse, not turn up on search results for the entire skill range.

BE SPECIFIC

Quantify the experience for each skill by including details such as the technology version you work with and how much experience you feel is needed for that skill.

LOCATION & TIME

Always include the date you want someone to begin, the hours required (full-time or part-time) and how long you expect the project to last. This will help candidates work out if this fits the timelines of other projects they are working on and prevent application coming in from people that won’t work out.

TIME ZONE

The success of a project often depends on open, easy communication between team members. When people on the same team are not in the same timezone: communication suffers. They can’t just get on Skype/Slack and speak to each other throughout the workday to sort out problems, brainstorm or just collaborate on their work in general. It leads to frustration between team members, miscommunications, errors and a slower turnaround. For this reason, we match freelancers to clients in significantly overlapping time zones and I would strongly recommend that any employer prioritize working with freelancers in their timezone.

RATE

SUPPLY AND DEMAND ECONOMICS

The hourly rate a freelancer charges is based on many variables. The three most significant factors tend to be their geographical location (cost of living), skill set, and experience.

PAY MARKET RATE

Negotiating rates is to be expected, but it’s important to remember the supply and demand mechanics in play here. If you are looking to hire a freelancer with a rare, in-demand skill set, trying to pay significantly less than market rate is likely to mean you will lose a candidate’s enthusiasm and long-term interest. That’s because they know another role paying market rate will likely come along soon.

PROOFREAD.

I know this is obvious. But many JD‘s out there have avoidable typos and grammar mistakes. Often these can be caught with a tool like Grammarly, but it’s a really good idea to have someone else proofread your JD. I always recommend that someone be in a role similar to the one you are hiring into. That way they can catch any improper uses of industry terms that someone in PR may not be aware of but a candidate would latch onto.

FREE JOB DESCRIPTION TOOL

Creating a good job description takes time, focus and a little insider knowledge. We’ve taken all the advice from this article and stuffed it into a free app — to help you create that perfect job description. The app will create a perfectly formatted JD you can use to promote your role on any freelancer marketplace. (shameless promotion: including ours). Head over to our tools section.

WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Here is the complete example JD we’ve used throughout this article. If you’re not quite as geeky as us and have been wondering what on earth Pied Piper is, it’s from the HBO series Silicon Valley.

  • Strong HTML & CSS
  • Angular v2+ (6+ preferred) — Minimum 2+ years
  • ERB Templates (HTML)
  • API integration
  • Node.js experience — 2+ years
  • API design and development
  • Strong written and spoken English
  • ImageMagick
  • Sketch & Zeplin

Written by

Curated network of premium technical talent with experienced U.S. based project leaders. Visit us at www.scalablepath.com

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