Job descriptions are sometimes perceived, at worst, as a tedious, time-consuming inconvenience, and a restrictive barrier to broadening an employee’s job responsibilities. Employers may worry that their employees may refuse or be reluctant to take on tasks because it is not “in the job description”. Job descriptions are viewed by some as a mere formality and their potential usefulness to the organization, hiring manager and employee filling the position, is often undervalued. For anyone that has searched job boards for career opportunities, they have seen the broad spectrum in terms of the quality of job descriptions.
Job descriptions are not only one of the most important legal documents in any organization, but they are also an essential tool for the hiring process, onboarding and training, job performance, talent management, performance management and job scope related conflict resolution. They are widely recognized as an important communication tool between employers and potential candidates, outlining the responsibilities, expectations, and requirements for the position. Without an effective job description containing clear job criteria for a job applicant to perform well in the role, the risk of a failed hire is significantly increased.
Job criteria act as a benchmark against which all applicants’ skills, experience, qualifications, background, and behavior will be measured. Without it, recruiters are forced to subjectively compare applicants based on who the best resume-writer or interview presenter is. Furthermore, effective job descriptions significantly reduce risk because the focus is on what needs to get done, NOT who is going to do it. Each point in the job description is objective and relates to the job. This enables the recruiter to then use that job criteria as a benchmark to determine the degree of successful past performance for each candidate and then use that as a predictor of future performance of those activities.
For many organizations, job descriptions are often only used during the hiring process, to post and promote vacant jobs online, and as the basis for evaluating candidates’ potential fit for the position. They provide the basis for assessing whether an individual has the necessary skills, experience, and qualifications for the role. Once the position is successfully filled, the job descriptions are often just stored away until the same position becomes vacant.
Job descriptions should play a central and continuous role in performance management, as they can serve as a reference point for setting goals, evaluating performance, and providing feedback to employees. They are also a vital tool to ensure clarity, consistency and alignment between employers and employees regarding job responsibilities and expectations.
Very few companies invest time and effort in writing compelling job descriptions. Why not stand out and write compelling job descriptions to grab the attention of active and passive candidates? Why not attract the best talent to apply and strengthen your employer brand?
Here are some tips to writing effective job descriptions:
1. Most job descriptions are painfully long and boring and written like a legal contract. You should use quickly understood, simple, plain English for the busy candidate.
2. They are typically written using the impersonal 3rd person giving the impression that employees are treated like cogs in a wheel. Make it less stuffy, be conversational, direct and personal so your top candidate thinks, “Yes, that’s me!”.
Use “You”. For example,
you will be responsible for….
you are a good fit if you have experience in….
Replace ‘the Ideal Candidate’ with ‘You’.
3. Avoid discriminatory language: Use inclusive language and avoid any terms or phrases that may discriminate against certain individuals or groups. Avoid any race, age, disability or gender-biased wording, such as, salesman, guys, manpower or workmanship
4. Use questions to make it more conversational: Do you have a passion for marketing in the ABC industry? How would you like to be part of the fastest growing company in the XYZ sector?
5. Avoid using standard, boring job description subheadings like Job Responsibilities and Candidate Requirements: Use some imagination and creativity to breathe life into the headings, keep them engaged long enough to read the whole job description and avoid them simply glazing over. Examples could be: ‘What We Will Trust You To Do?’ or ‘You’re Amazing At…’.
6. Use an organized and consistent format:
Organize the job description in a logical and easy-to-read format. Use bullet points or subheadings to break down different sections, making it easier for candidates to scan and understand the information.
Make sure they are consistent in how they are written to help build a professional employer brand: Use the same order / sequence of job description sections, use the same or similar headings, boilerplate About Us sections, single point of view (1st or 2nd person or 3rd person but not both), consistent length and attractive font and format.
7. Include salary and benefits! This is one of the most important criteria for a candidate in deciding whether to apply. If your salary is competitive – and it should be if you want the best candidates – then you should include it clearly on your job description.
8. Start with a clear and effective job title. This is often the first thing a job applicant sees. Use a concise (1-3 words or 10-20 characters) and accurate job title that reflects the role’s responsibilities and level within the organization. This should be a title that is well recognized by target applicants so they can easily find it when searching online for job postings. Avoid using the location, name of the business/organization, full-time versus part-time, symbols (#, $, %, etc.), or mention of a bonus.
Avoid being overly creative with the titles, for example, Chief Happiness Officer, Happiness Hero, Associate to the Executive Manager of Marketeering, Talent Delivery Specialist, etc.
Use the KISS approach: Keep It Simple and Straightforward!
9. Provide a compelling Job Purpose or Job Summary: Begin the description with a brief overview of the position, highlighting its importance and how it contributes to the organization’s goals. This part addresses WHY the job exists, not WHAT needs to be done.
As Sales Director at XYZ Company, you will play a vital role in supporting the company’s goal of becoming the market leader in our segment and continuing our consistent growth and market penetration worldwide. You will be responsible for developing sales strategy, overseeing local and regional sales efforts, and managing a team of talented salespeople and account executives to achieve profitable sales growth and client retention.
10. Don’t start with a long “About Us” section: Candidates want to find out quickly whether the position fits what they are looking for and they care more about themselves than you. About Us sections are usually identical throughout a company’s job descriptions, Google considers this as duplicative content and so the job will rank lower on the Google results pages when they search for a job. Candidates can learn about your company somewhere else. They can refer to your website or a careers site or page, if you have one, or a LinkedIn Company Page.
If you want to provide a company overview portion, move it to a less prominent position and keep it brief and concise. Instead, use the prime real estate at the top of the job description to provide reasons on why target candidates might want to work there and sell them on the opportunity, such as company culture and core values, work environment, career growth, employee benefits and perks.
11. Outline key responsibilities: Clearly list the main duties and tasks associated with the role. Use action verbs to describe what the employee will be doing and be specific about the expected outcomes. Tasks should be tied to objectives. Keep it to 7-10 max. to focus on the most critical or important performance areas for success. These should indicate what is to be done rather than how it will be done.
Describe a day in the life of…to give candidates an idea of what the job will look like and an idea of how they will progress over the first 6-12 months. Describe challenges and projects; the best candidates will want to make an impact and be driven to succeed, not just coast along.
12. Specify required qualifications: Clearly state the necessary qualifications, such as education, experience, certifications, and skills. Differentiate between “required” and “preferred” qualifications to help candidates understand the minimum requirements.
Cut back on the list of requirements to focus on and emphasize what is really needed to do the job. Brief and punchy, easy to read from a cellphone, NOT long and boring.
13. Proofread and revise: Ensure that the job description is free from grammatical errors and typos. Review it multiple times to ensure clarity and accuracy. Remember, this is often the first impression that you are creating for your employer brand so it has to look professional and polished.
14. Get input from relevant stakeholders: Consult with hiring managers or team members who are familiar with the role to gather insights and ensure the job description accurately reflects the position’s requirements.
By following these guidelines, you can create effective job descriptions that attract the strongest, qualified candidates, set clear expectations for the role, facilitate effective performance management, and help ensure hiring success and employee retention.