Every university and job board will have their own specific format with different components. However, there are commonalities and some general principles that can help you craft an attractive position description and attract the students you want. We've put the common elements into a fillable WIL Job Posting Template (.doc).
Before you begin, you will want to make sure you have the following:
- Basic details about the position including the title, start/end date, location
- Any requirements or preferences you have regarding the student’s program and level
- The tasks and responsibilities for this position, listed in order of importance or time
- The knowledge/skills/competencies required for the job split into essential and desirable
- A sense of what you want to convey about your company including values, commitment to inclusivity, work environment, etc.
- Details about compensation both monetary and otherwise
- Any additional information that could differentiate your company and this position such as training, mentorship, networking, etc.
Our resources can help you identify this information.
Finally, review our answers to ‘What kind of work do students want to be involved in?’ and ‘How are students evaluating my company and my job posts?’. This information will help you understand the ‘why’ behind many of our suggestions below.
Below we cover a few parts of a typical job posting that are particularly important when it comes to attracting students' attention and ultimately converting them into applicants.
The Job Title
The title of the job is the first thing students see as they scroll through a long list of postings. You want your job title to be broad enough that potential candidates don’t automatically dismiss it, but also specific enough to attract the right candidates as well are differentiate (in a good way) your position from others that are similar.
For example, let’s imagine you are posting a position that will involve testing electrical software. You are looking for students in an computer engineering program so you submit a posting with the title ‘Computer Engineering ’. That title will catch the attention of a wide variety of students, but the students who aren’t focusing on software will be frustrated when they open your ad and read the details. It would be better to include that detail in the title such as ‘Testing Software Developer’.
Similarly, imagine you are a brand-new online magazine looking to hire a WIL intern. You may think that the best strategy to compete against bigger companies is to get your ad in front of as many eyes as possible so you give the position a broad title like ‘Publishing Assistant’. Again, you may be seen by a lot of candidates but will also create frustration in those who realize the position is actually a lot more specific than that. If instead, you used a title like ‘Start-Up Magazine Assistant’, you are going to catch the eye of those who are specifically looking for that energetic, entrepreneurial environment and those that are interested in magazines. You may end up with fewer candidates overall, but they will be the ones who are truly interested in the role.
The Position Summary
This is your chance to both convey and generate enthusiasm. This section should answer (briefly) the question of why someone would want this job – why does it matter, how does it fit into the company’s larger purpose, etc.
One effective technique here is to use the pronoun ‘we’ as a way of helping the potential candidate picture themselves as part of your team.
This section is also your first opportunity to give students a taste of your company culture or brand. This will come across not only in what you say but how you say it. Be authentic. If you are a young, cutting-edge, highly energetic start-up team, use high energy, casual language. If you are a more established and traditional workplace, be more formal in your descriptions. Don’t pretend to be what you are not.
The Position Description
This is the section where you will list the actual tasks that will be expected of the student. There are a variety of things to keep in mind when writing this list:
- Be Accurate – Ensure that you are painting an accurate picture of the student’s responsibilities. List tasks from most important, or frequent, to least. Use adjectives like ‘often’ or ‘occasionally’ to indicate priority. For example, if sorting mail is something they will spend a large amount of time doing every day, don’t make it the last item in the list. If students feel they have been mislead by your ad, your reputation may take a hit.
- Avoid Jargon – Students may have the relevant knowledge or skill you are seeking but they may not be aware of the way it is referred to in the workplace. Likewise, if you are open to accepting students from different fields as long as they have the required underlying skills, make sure your wording doesn’t exclude those who aren’t familiar with a particular field’s terminology. For example, writing ‘measure ROIs and KPIs’ may only make sense to a business student, however, writing, ‘use statistical software to analyze data and perform calculations that help us measure success’ might attract a skilled computer science student with an interest in business.
- Be Specific – Try to avoid using phrases that could apply to anyone. For example, why say ‘detail-oriented and efficient’ when what you actually mean is ‘able to produce error-free code within tight deadlines’. The first is vague while the latter paints a clear picture of the context in which the skill will be applied.
This section is where you will list your essential and desired criteria or qualifications. If you have used our WIL Position Criteria Worksheet (.doc), you can likely transfer the ‘Final Wording’ directly. However, it is worth taking one final look to make sure the language you are using is inclusive (see ‘How can I ensure my hiring process is equitable’). Researchers have shown that job postings frequently contain unintentionally biased language, especially concerning gender – for example, using masculine-associated phrasing words “dominant engineering firm” or female-associated phrases like “community of engineers”.
Most job posting templates will give you specific places to put details like location, compensation, start and end dates, etc. If they don’t, find a way to incorporate those details into other sections. Students have to make sure WIL experiences are feasible within the constraints of their program and in light of other potentially limiting factors like location, transportation, family obligations, etc. They would appreciate knowing up front if you have requirements they can’t meet before they get excited about and invested in your position. That said, if there is flexibility in any of these details, make sure that is also clear so they don’t unnecessarily disqualify themselves.
Once you’ve filled in all the section of the job posting template, read through it again as a whole. Try to see it from a student’s perspective. Does it give them a clear and accurate picture of the day-to-day nature of the job? Does it help them see how they will both provide and receive value? Are there any missing details that might make them anxious? Will students walk away feeling like this is something they can realistically do but that will also challenge them and give them an opportunity to grow? If you have current employees doing this job or former WIL students, have them read over the posting and provide you with another opinion.
And then…stop. You could keep tweaking things forever, but you’ve probably got a submission deadline approaching. After each round of interviewing and hiring, revisit the job posting to see if there’s anything you can improve.