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ATD Blog

Best Practices for L&D Job Descriptions

Friday, May 10, 2024

Hiring is one of the most critical decisions a manager can make. Depending on whether your team is growing or if the role is backfilled for someone who resigned, you will have different factors to consider such as the job description and how you market the position to potential candidates. A job description is not just an online posting, but your chance to attract numerous candidates and make a good first impression on your future new hire. In addition to accurately presenting the responsibilities of the role, a job description can also express your team’s vision, impact, and culture. Every opening presents you with the opportunity to strategically staff your team with the right skills, experience, and knowledge to best support your team’s mission and your organization’s needs.

Well-written job descriptions succinctly, accurately, and clearly list the responsibilities for the role, alongside the requirements or recommended skills and experiences necessary for candidates to possess. Long job descriptions may inadvertently send the message that the role is poorly defined or that the hiring manager’s expectations are too high. Listing tasks or requirements that are irrelevant or inappropriate for the role, or requiring experience with specific programs or tools that have been discontinued, gives the impression the job description is outdated and that the hiring team does not have the high attention for detail they may be asking for in applicants.

Once you’ve determined which role(s) you’re hiring for, writing the job description yourself (or updating an existing one) allows you to personalize the wording to accurately describe how your team and your organization approaches L&D work. Generic job descriptions found online are not likely to accurately describe your team’s work and may not paint a complete or appealing picture. Remember that the job description is the first exposure potential candidates have to you, and that well-written, clear, and compelling job descriptions will help to recruit candidates whose interests and skills match what you are seeking.

There are a few other items to take note of that can deter potential applicants from feeling like they are qualified enough to apply. Be mindful to not use jargon, such as words, catchphrases, or acronyms that only people within your organization would truly understand. Corporations often develop an internal language that people learn over time. In a job description, however, these terms can confuse and discourage job seekers from applying.


In L&D, there are additional unique elements to consider. There are many variables in the L&D industry that differ from employer to employer, such as the range of tasks an instructional designer is responsible for, to where the L&D team sits within the organizational structure. You may choose to staff your team with roles that are unique to L&D, such as instructional designer and trainer positions. Alternatively, you may decide to also include roles outside of the traditional L&D skillset, such as project manager and data analyst, to expand your team’s impact by supporting different types of projects and deliverables.


Carefully reflect on what the ideal candidate profile looks like and tailor the job description to your vision. For typical L&D roles, consider the following factors:

  • What core tasks will the employee perform?
  • What types of deliverables will they produce?
  • Does the role involve facilitating live training (either in person or virtually)?
  • What skills and knowledge will their colleagues expect them to demonstrate?
  • What other individuals and teams will they partner with on a regular basis? What skills would be complementary or would address any gaps in the organization?
  • What tools, systems, and software will they use? Is there time to learn on the job, or is proficiency expected at the time of hire?

After you have listed these out, take another look at what is truly required and what is preferred. Not all candidates are likely to check every box on a hiring manager’s wish list, but most will thrive in a role that challenges them and provides an opportunity to grow. By narrowing your requirements down to what is truly necessary, you will avoid dissuading any candidates who feel like they are missing one or two criteria. You can still list some of the preferred skills in their own category, but try to keep this list from growing too long.

The hiring process can simultaneously be one of the most exciting and stressful experiences for employees and managers alike. By clearly and concisely communicating your expectations for the role, you lay the groundwork for what candidates can expect throughout both the hiring process and for life on the job. The decisions you make as a hiring manager will affect yourself, your team, and your organization, and a well-written job description is a fundamental step to set everyone up for success.

About the Author

Laurel Schulert is the senior director of learning experience at SAP Concur. She is an ATD Master Performance Consultant and the past president of the Ann Arbor ATD chapter. She presented at DevLearn 2021 as well as the ATD International Conference & EXPO in 2022 and 2023.

About the Author

Diana Xin is a senior instructional designer on the Global Enablement Learning Experience Team at SAP Concur. A graduate of Northwestern University, she previously worked in the Worldwide Learning organization at Microsoft and with several clients across different industries at creative agency Sublime Media. Before moving into learning and development, she taught English and composition both overseas and at higher ed institutes in the Pacific Northwest.

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I would recommend working with your employer's HR, as they likely have a template you will be required to use. You could also use generative AI for a template.
That being said, I highly recommend personally writing the verbiage in the JD that is unique to the role you are hiring for and not using a generic JD such as one you found online or one provided by HR. Writing a custom JD will allow you to most accurately describe life on your team, as well as emphasize what you're most looking for.
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Agree with Greg! I would love to see some templates or examples.
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Great write up! Would love to if there are any templates or other exemplar references you may have (with perhaps showcasing a great example versus a not so good example).
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