We've Been Wrong All Along: Job Postings Are Not the Same as Job Descriptions
How would you describe the difference between a job description and a job posting and give one reason why you think people, even those in HR, confuse the two?
To help you with the differences between job descriptions and job postings, we asked CEOs, founders, and other career experts this question for their best insights. From confusing reasons like similar form and content to the simple description of postings include descriptions, there are several explanations below detailing both the differences between the two, and why they can leave even HR pros bewildered.
Here are 10 insights into the differences between job descriptions and job postings:
- Similar in Form and Content
- Internal vs. External
- Core Tasks and Skills for Tasks
- Differences in Writing Styles
- Similar Functions but Used in Different Ways
- Persuasive vs. Factual
- Posting is the Description Turned Ad
- Attracting vs. Summarizing
- Job Postings Include Job Descriptions
- Empirical Record of Truth vs Marketing Spin
Similar in Form and Content
A job description is an official document that outlines the responsibilities and other important information about a specific position. A job posting is an announcement that a position is available and that the hiring process has begun.
One reason why people confuse the two is that they are similar in format and content. Both are sometimes written in bullet points and are often organized by sections. Additionally, job descriptions and postings often include similar information about the company and its values. As a result, it's difficult to tell the difference between the two.
To ensure you clearly separate the two, always create your job description first before posting it. This ensures that everything you include in the posting adheres to your company’s standards and expectations for the role. It also helps you create a more targeted ad that appeals to the right candidates.
Internal vs. External
Though there are some very technical ways of differentiating job descriptions and job postings, the difference to me is simple. We use job descriptions for internal purposes and job postings for external purposes.
In other words, job descriptions are meant to inform internal tasks, such as establishing pay grades and conducting performance reviews, while job postings are meant to attract outside talent.
The two are often, and understandably, confused though because they contain many of the same elements. They both outline job duties and responsibilities, as well as minimum requirements. The tone, however, is generally very different and can give each away.
Job descriptions are fact-driven and analytical, intended to be used mechanically for the internal purposes I noted, while job postings are more playful and persuasive, intended to entice outsiders to join.
Core Tasks and Skills for Tasks
The key difference between the two is that a job description captures the core tasks, while a job posting captures the traits and skills needed to do the job.
Individuals can be confused by the two because both involve task listing in different ways. When two items that are essentially the same get listed in different formats, it's easy to think one is the other.
Differences in Writing Styles
Typically, a job description is an internal document. It specifies the responsibilities, duties, and pays range for a job. Consider it an employment manual for both you and your new hire. It explains to your new hires what you expect of them and how the business will evaluate their success on the job.
However, the main objective of job ads is to attract prospective candidates. Typically, a job posting can be found outside of the business. They serve as an outside source for hiring. On job boards, career websites, and other marketing websites, you can find them.
People need clarification on job descriptions and job postings because they have somewhat the same language and follow the same structure, which confuses people.
Since job descriptions are not written for every job while job posts are written for every job so when asked to write, people report the same thing in both.
Similar Functions but Used in Different Ways
Job descriptions and job postings serve similar functions, but are used in different ways.
A job description describes the duties and responsibilities of a particular position and what kind of person would be best suited for that position. It is used to help people decide if they want to apply for the position or not, which means it needs to be clear about what the position entails. A good job description should also indicate how much experience you're looking for in potential candidates.
A job posting is essentially just a listing of all the details about a particular open position at your company like its title, location, salary range (if applicable), etc. that you post online or in another public place so that people can find out about it and apply if they're interested.
Job postings don't tell you anything about what will be expected from you once they have hired you. Instead, they just provide information on where/how to apply if you're interested in applying at all.
Persuasive vs. Factual
In my experience, the biggest difference between a job description and a job posting is that a job posting is always about attracting talent and a job description is about defining what needs to be done to complete a task.
Therefore, a job posting is always persuasive and makes the role look more exciting and interesting. It's copywriting that makes the company sound like a great place to work.
A job description, on the other hand, is more dry and factual. It’s not meant to be read by anyone other than the people who will do the work. It's essential for communicating with candidates about what they should expect if they're hired.
It's not designed to convince readers that this is THE perfect opportunity for them—it just lays out the duties and responsibilities of the position, as well as any required qualifications or experience.
Posting is the Description Turned Ad
A job description should reflect what the company needs, and a job posting is an advertisement to attract candidates who might be a fit for the position.
A job description is a detailed list of the tasks, responsibilities, and duties that employees must complete. It should be clear and concise so that employees know what they expect of them. A job description should also be up-to-date so that everyone agrees. A job description should be written so that it is clear to both the employer and the employee what is expected of them.
A job posting is a company’s advertisement for a job opening. It’s the first thing a potential employee sees when applying for a job. A job posting can be a full description of the job description or just a brief description of what the company is looking for in a candidate. A job posting should be an advertisement that attracts people who are a good fit for the job.
Attracting vs. Summarizing
Job descriptions are formal documents that detail everything that you need to know about the position: the duties, the work environment, the FLSA classification, etc.
A best practice is for new hires to sign their job description upon hire, or at least during the onboarding process. Job postings, on the other hand, are advertisements. We typically write these in a way that showcases the company's culture to attract like-minded individuals to apply.
Job postings should summarize the position, the company, and the requirements needed to apply to the role. In its simplest terms, job descriptions are typically internal whereas job postings are external.
Job Postings Include Job Descriptions
A job description is a point-by-point outline of all the responsibilities of the position. It's an all-encompassing representation of what the role entails on a daily basis.
A job posting is an announcement sharing that a specific position is open and details the most important aspects of the job, company, requirements, etc. that a candidate should know about before applying. A job posting may include a job description but it's only one part of the overall posting.
These can be confusing because many people (HR and candidates alike) use the terms interchangeably when discussing recruitment and hiring.
Empirical Record of Truth vs Marketing Spin
A job description is the empirical record of truth that describes the work to be done, where it is done, its classification, as well qualifications including competencies. Not only this, but also critical information that is needed for compliance, compensation, and talent management. A job posting; however, is an advertisement for a job to be filled. It pulls from a subset of the job description (summary, essential functions and qualifications) often presented with a marketing spin.
If you ask someone in talent management, compliance and composition, they understand that there is a lot more to a job description than what has been written to advertise the job. The confusion lies in the front end (talent acquisition) and job candidates only seeing the posting and not being aware that there is a whole empirical view of the job that helped generate that posting (or at least there should be). Another source of confusion derives from our vernacular and ATS products sometimes use the term "job description" when they in fact, mean job posting.