An abstract illustration of updating a job listing with the right details to attract candidates.

The key to writing a great job listing is including the right details to paint an honest and engaging picture of your organization and the open role. Oftentimes, your Idealist job listing is the first point of contact between a potential candidate and your organization, so you’ll want to make sure it is as tailored as possible.

This means you’ll want to carefully consider what you’re including in your listing, and also omit anything that may confuse or deter applicants from hitting the submit button.

Here is a list of four things commonly included in job listings that you’d actually be better off either screening for during interviews, or removing from your hiring process altogether.

1. Subjective characteristics

Describing the ideal candidate as one with “a sense of humor” or “fast-paced energy” can be distracting and even confusing for applicants. And since these characteristics cannot be measured or quantified, hiring managers won’t be able to screen for them using application materials alone.

2. Intangible references to your organizational culture

Highlighting your organization’s culture is important, but be careful about referencing experiences that differ from person to person. Rather than listing immaterial aspects of workplace culture that current employees “feel,” include specific examples of how your organization has built an inclusive environment.

For example, if your office is pet friendly, include that. But steer clear of saying “our team feels like family” in the job listing. If you feel strongly that the family vibe is an attractive benefit to applicants, consider encouraging interviewers to highlight their favorite aspects of the organization’s culture for interviewees.

An ad to post a listing on

3. Role preferences, or "nice-to-haves"

When drafting a new job listing, take time to consider what essential skills and requirements are needed to complete everyday tasks. If you find items in your description that aren’t on your list of essentials, remove them. Getting rid of these “nice-to-haves” can help to ensure that you don’t miss out on great candidates who may lack one or more of the stated preferences.

One thing we often see is language related to the ability to lift a set amount of weight. You should only include language about physical requirements (or any requirements for that matter) if they are an essential part of the job. If the person in the role isn’t going to be doing any heavy lifting, leave it out of your listing.

4. Exclusionary language

Avoid language or terms that are industry- or sector-specific, and be sure to spell out relevant acronyms. New employees can learn your organization’s internal language on the job, and referencing nonprofit lingo may deter sector switchers who want to join your mission.

Make sure to check your job listing for bias and remove terms that are commonly associated with age or work experience. Including something like “recent grads” for entry-level positions can come across as exclusionary, as it can evoke a traditionally-aged student. On the other hand, terms like “seasoned professional” may discourage younger applicants from applying to roles they’re qualified for.


As you continue to build your job listings, we hope the above tips will be useful to you in finding engaged and diverse candidates. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our support team for additional guidance.