Recruitment can be challenging. It takes a well thought through and planned strategy, thorough screening, and the use of careful analysis to get it right.
Being in the grip of a ‘skills short’ market an enticing job description is imperative if you want to attract people to your organisation.
As is often quoted, people grow organisations, not products and services; therefore getting your talent attraction process mapped out with accurate job descriptions that identify the criteria of the person you are looking for is vital.
Job descriptions have been around since the invention of the career. However, the importance of a job description from a “big-picture” perspective is overlooked. Many HR professionals and hiring managers put off updating or developing job descriptions because they believe they do not have the time or that they appreciate how valuable they can be.
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The truth is, an excellent job description aligns people with the goals and vision of a company. They help to define the structure of an organisation, determine how talent needs will be met, and identify gaps in the responsibilities of different roles.
From a strategic perspective, these critical documents can help you to understand what level of functional experience is required for any given job, and how each role fits within the hierarchy of a company.
From a tactical viewpoint, job descriptions work as an essential guide in all aspects of the employment lifecycle from hiring and onboarding practices to setting salaries and managing performance.
When written correctly, a job description is a communication tool that solidifies corporate culture and creates value for employers and candidates alike.
This report is based on our own experience of what is working now when it comes to recruiting high performing employees in a range of sectors from retail, through to construction and education.
Do You Really Need a Job Description?
Successful managers in any industry understand that hiring the right people to work for you can either make or break your business. At the same time, a poor hiring decision could lead to a wasted budget, higher turnover, and an unhappy team.
From an employer perspective, job descriptions provide the benefit of establishing precisely what might be expected from future and current employees. The outline for your job description can double as a performance review, ensuring that your team members continue to excel in their roles consistently.
For applicants, job descriptions provide guidelines to help them determine whether a job is right for them or not. Applicants reviewing a job description will receive an insight into what might be expected of them, and which tasks they will need to complete in the workplace. Throughout their career, a job description can also remind staff of the duties they are responsible for.
A great job description:
- Serves as a reference for both employers and employees.
- Communicates the expectations of the role of both employers and candidates.
- Helps with succession planning.
- Assists with employee satisfaction by giving a candidate an idea what to expect.
- Ensures that brands access the skills and talent they need to fill corporate gaps.
- Functions as inspiration for the development of interview questions.
- Offers a basis for salary increases, goal setting, and growth paths.
- Serves as legal documentation in the event of a termination, or lawsuit against the company.
- Confirms the organisations need for a specific role.
While companies are not legally required to write job descriptions, the benefits of taking the initiative and creating comprehensive job descriptions are hard to argue with. An effectively developed employee job description can work as a roadmap to organisational success, contributing to people-planning solutions, training and even maintaining satisfaction across your workforce.
An excellent job description retains and motivates the best talent by aligning business goals with employee expectations. Without the right job description, all you end up with is workplace confusion, problematic internal communication, and a workforce that isn’t sure what’s expected of them.
Writing the Perfect Job Description: What Does Your Business Need?
Writing job descriptions may seem like an onerous task, but it is not just the time commitment that can lead to avoidance from HR executives or line managers. Some companies fail to write compelling job descriptions merely because they are not sure exactly what they want from their candidates. With that in mind, it is essential to make sure that you thoroughly assess the needs of your business and what your criteria will be before you ever start putting pen to paper.
To begin writing the right job description, make sure you ask yourself the following questions:
What do You Think You Want?
What you think you want, and what a job candidate can realistically deliver are sometimes two different things. For instance, you might think you are looking for a Regional Business Development Manager for a new brand who can also manage to create your marketing collateral. However, most successful business development people, are rarely qualified in marketing and copywriting. Even if they had a marketing education, it is unlikely they will have the time to start developing marketing materials.
Alternatively, you may be looking for a senior DevOpsSec person. What does senior mean? Are you looking for someone with security coding experience for their technical expertise or someone who will also have ‘people’ management responsibility? Titles alone are misleading, we will say more about this later.
Thinking about what you want, then addressing your needs from a realistic perspective may help you to adjust your hiring strategy.
What Does the Business Need?
Rather than trying to fill the gaps in your business by searching for a specific professional, an excellent way to refine your search is to think about what your business needs, both now and in the next 3-5 years to hit your growth objectives.
Consider the different talents or skill sets that you will want to introduce into your company, then think about which roles will need both role profiles and job descriptions.
How Clear are You on Your Needs?
There’s a big difference between deciding you do not have enough help around the office, and hiring to fill the gaps, and determining fundamental skills that your company needs to scale.
Think carefully about what you want to achieve with your new hire. Write a list of the most critical tasks that need to be completed in your company, which aren’t currently getting the degree of attention they require or are causing organisational performance issues.
Is This an Established Role? Alternatively, Something New?
Sometimes, the unique needs of your business will be such that you will not be able to describe them using a pre-existing job title. On the other hand, you might need to create a “hybrid” job role that combines skill sets from two inter-connecting areas.
If designing a new role from scratch is not realistic, then you may have to think about some alternatives. For instance, can you give some of your existing employee’s extra responsibilities so that you can write a more specific job description for your new staff member? Alternatively, could you consider hiring two people instead of one to fulfil different roles?
The Common Mistakes to Avoid with Job Descriptions
Some hiring managers and business owners can start to feel as though if they have read one job description, then they have read them all. Why is this? Many job descriptions are rushed, vague and generic. Unfortunately, those are the descriptions that will never get you the ideal candidate.
A job description is your number one attraction tool when it comes to reaching the right candidates for your position. If your descriptions are outdated, recycled, or dull, then you will not get many ‘hidden or passive’ candidates applying for your role.
On the other hand, a well-crafted job description calls out to great candidates while discouraging the unqualified at the same time.
Of course, to create an incredible job description, you will first need to know what mistakes to avoid, and which slip-ups could damage your chances of attracting and recruiting that great hire who will deliver for your business.
Mistake 1: A Confusing Job Title
Because you know what you mean when you say you want a “Growth hacking expert”, that does not mean your candidates understand you. A lot of organisations feel the need to rebrand job descriptions to make them sound more appealing. However, making your job titles as transparent and straightforward as possible will go a long way towards making sure you recruit the right candidate for the job who then goes on to perform well in the role.
When thinking of an appropriate job title, it’s worth looking on job boards to see if the title does exit. If it does exist and there are already adverts for this role, do the job descriptions match what you are looking for.
Mistake 2: Too Much Jargon
Many businesses find that, after enough time in the industry, their company begins to create a language of its own. While this might be fine for people inside your “inner circle”, be careful not to use corporate jargon when writing a job description. Too many technical terms will create confusion, and send your candidates scrambling for a dictionary rather than their C.V.
Mistake 3: Missing or Inaccurate Information
No matter how you choose to make your job description stand out from the crowd, it is essential to ensure that you are always informative. The last thing you want to hear from a new hire is; “That is not in my job description”.
Before you begin writing, think about which specific skill sets or job functions are critical to your new role. Let your recruitment consultant know which skills are a must have (in other words do not send me a CV if they have not got this skill) and which are nice to have, (if they have that too, it is great though I will still see them anyway).
Make sure that you include all essential responsibilities in the description, and remember to keep your language clear and concise so that you do not end up confusing your applicants.
Mistake 4: Setting Unrealistic Expectations
While most organisations will be looking for a candidate that surpasses all their expectations, that does not mean that you should be unrealistic. Looking for someone too specific is likely to lead to disappointment, as the chances are that you will have to make a few compromises when it comes to finding your ideal candidate. Prioritise the requirements that you are looking for, and make sure that you only focus on those that are most crucial to the job.
Mistake 5: Going Too Long, or Too Short
There’s a fine line to walk between an informative, engaging, and helpful job description, and one that contains far too much information. “Brevity is the soul of wit”, but you also need to make sure that you are not missing out any essential information while keeping your job description concise.
The easiest way to make sure that your description is neither too long nor too short is to edit it when you have finished the first draft. Cut out anything that’s unnecessary and keep all the vital parts. Where possible, using bullet points could be your saving grace. This is where an experienced recruiting partner can help. They will have reviewed thousands of job descriptions and importantly be aware of the ones that worked when it came to being clear and attracting the ideal candidate for the role.
Mistake 6: Make It Attractive, Representative of Your Brand and Informative
Writing a job description is not only your opportunity to seek out the best possible talent for your organisation, but it is also your opportunity to showcase your corporate culture to potential new employees. Remember, you want to attract professional and skilled individuals, but you will struggle to do that if you do not look professional yourself. Follow the current style guidelines surrounding your job descriptions. At the same time, avoid offending anyone with terms that are sexist or ageist. For instance, use “energetic” instead of “young”.
Mistake 7: Being Too Outdated
While re-posting the same description from last year might seem like a useful way to save time, the truth is that it is not the best way to get your hands on the right candidate. Update the language you used, inject some personality that better represents your brand, and refine the requirements and responsibilities section.
Starting with a template is fine, but it is essential to make sure that you keep up-to-date, and let your voice come through in your post. Showing your personality and staying modern will help to reflect a more appealing company culture.
In today’s busy recruitment landscape, most candidates will consider reading a well-written job description to be like a breath of fresh air. Remember, a great job description is a talent magnet; it is, therefore, worth putting in the extra effort.
The Ideal Job Description: Sections to Cover
Ultimately, a job description is a critical document and a guideline for every position in your company. A good description can:
- Outline the competencies and skills required for a role.
- Define the position of the role within the business hierarchy.
- Act as the basis for an employment contract.
- Provide a valuable tool for performance management.
While the specific nature of the role you are hiring for will determine some of the critical elements of your job description, some of the universal features to include in any job description include:
- The Job Title
A job title is the first thing that your prospective candidates will look at when it comes to deciding whether a job is right for them or not. Without a proper job title, you will struggle to attract the right attention to your chosen position. Remember, your title should be:
- Self-explanatory, and accurate enough for your candidates to understand.
- Capable of accurately reflecting the nature of the position and the duties to be performed.
- Non-exaggerative, and free of any age or gender implications.
- Connected with the overall hierarchy of the business.
The job description you write should also contain a comprehensive list of all the responsibilities and functions associated with the role, as well as how much skill is required to complete each task. You can represent the time taken to each task with a percentage (such as budget management 25%). Remember, descriptions of duties should only be a couple of sentences long and based on specific outcomes. For instance: “You will compile monthly project budget reports to allow for project planning and cost management”.
How long your list of duties is will depend on the role in question and the nature of your business. However, you should keep the outline as short as possible. This will stop you from scaring off your potential applicants, or provide them with more information than they can handle.
- Competencies and Skills
Competencies and skills within your chosen job role should be listed in separate areas from each other, as they are different things. While skills are activities that the candidate can perform according to what they might have learned in the past, competencies are the attributes or traits that you expect the candidates to show in their role.
For instance, a skill might be the ability to offer exceptional presentations. On the other hand, a competency might be a welcoming personality. While you can teach someone to improve their presentation skills, a winning character is more of an inherent part of what makes someone unique. Today, competency-based job interviews are becoming increasingly common in the search for the ideal role applicants.
This is an area that’s frequently forgotten in many job descriptions, but one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Outlining the working relationships and reporting lines that are associated with a specific role will help your candidate to understand who they will be reporting to, and who will report to them. This is not only essential from a compliance perspective, but it will also give your candidate an insight into the hierarchical structure of your business.
Working relationships represent the people and departments your ideal candidate will need to work with. You could consider using an organisational chart to describe the relationships most essential to a specific role. Talk to your recruitment partner if you need help with this.
Finally, all job candidates want to know exactly what they can expect to receive regarding compensation for their work. Instead of giving a specific salary to your chosen position, you will need to select a salary “range” that you can add to the description that’s competitive regarding similar positions. This range will allow for variations based on experience and education.
There’s a good chance that your salary range will need to be updated with time, as pay scales and preferences continue to change in your industry.
In today’s Millennial dominated economy additional benefits and perks like gym memberships, work at home days, compassionate leave, the ability to be given time off to carry out work in a favourite charity, can all swing a candidate’s decision.
What Candidates Look for in Your Job Description
Often, writing the perfect job description is not only about knowing which sections you “should” cover, but also recognising the things that your candidates will be most keen to hear about.
Studies from the Journal of Business and Psychology outline that the information included in a job description ultimately makes a huge difference to the types of applicants that you attract. The study found that describing precisely what benefits the employer can offer its employees, rather than only addressing the things that employers need from their applicants, can help to increase the number of applicants that apply, while enhancing the quality of those candidates at the same time.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the perfect job description/posting. However, if you are dipping your feet into a particular talent pool, then you are going to have to compete against a range of other companies looking for the same skills as you. With that in mind, it is worth making sure that your job description is attractive enough to make you competitive in the eyes of applicants. Some of the key things that most candidates look for include:
1. Attention to Detail
You know exactly what you want from a new candidate, but it is essential to make sure that your applicants understand what you are looking for too. It is all-too-easy to assume that your would-be employees understand what you mean when you say a particular thing but being clear and detailed is crucial.
Start your search by writing a detailed list of all the things you need from your new candidate, then dedicate yourself to finding the right person to fill those gaps. Remember to outline your minimum requirements for things like certifications, years of experience, skills, and more.
2. Plenty of ‘added value’ Perks
When it comes to making your role stand out, remember that no benefit is too small to ‘brag’ about. Look for ways to demonstrate to new candidates that you value your employees. For instance, mention the different team building events that you take part in, or any free meals that might be provided when employees are travelling. Consider whether you can offer schedules that are flexible enough to suit parents and students and outline any opportunities that you offer regarding training and development.
3. Simple Applications
From a job-seeker’s perspective, searching for the perfect new job is tough enough without having to tackle the added frustrations of a time-consuming and overwhelming application process. According to surveys, about 51% of workers are now searching for a new job, and these people do not have time to struggle with complicated online forms.
While you want to make sure that you are only getting the best possible applicants for your role, that should not mean that applying for your position feels like a test. Ask your specialist recruitment agency how you can simplify the process.
Today, people are browsing the internet from more devices than ever before. If you are going to be posting your job description online, then make sure that applicants are free to send their details anytime, anywhere. About 27% of people expect to be able to apply for a job from a mobile device. If your strategy is not optimised, then you could be missing out on a significant portion of candidates, including Millennials. Make sure that at the very least, candidates can read your job description from their mobile devices.
Finally, just as hiring managers are more likely to skip past an unoriginal or boring CV or Resume, job seekers are likely to avoid bland job descriptions. Think about what sets your position apart from the other opportunities out there, and ask yourself why your candidate might want to work for you above anyone else.
Where possible, break away from the dull and traditional language of older job postings, and seek out new ways to capture your job seeker’s attention. Crafting informative and unique descriptions might take more time, but it is worth it to attract top talent.
Successful businesses today understand the value of making the right decisions for their hiring needs. Whatever the reason might be for offering a job to the wrong person, you will find that incorrect hires can be an expensive error. In fact, the CIPD estimates that bad hires cost businesses between £8,200 and £12,000, and it all links back to a substandard job description.
Without the right job description, you cannot hire the right people, and a wrong hire leads to astronomical costs for companies. The Harvard Business Review currently estimates that 80% of all employee turnover comes down to bad hiring decisions. On top of that, the cost of replacing employees is one-fifth of their average salary. The costs quickly add up; don’t they.
Writing the best job description, and making the right hire is crucial to keeping a company thriving. Failing to dedicate enough time and effort to your descriptions can result in:
While you and other managers or team leaders in your business are wasting time trying to manage conflicts between your new hire and your existing staff, your business starts to suffer. All that time spent managing an incorrect hire drains productivity.
When you hire the wrong person, you are not only paying a salary to someone who is not performing according to your expectations, but you are also paying for the cost of additional training too. If you end up firing your new employee after all your hard work, you might also have to manage severance pay, alongside the expenses incurred when you start searching for their replacement. Today, most HR professionals and recruiting managers consider a poor hire to be the equivalent to a loss of thousands of pounds.
Employee Satisfaction Costs
When you are spending all your time and budget on correcting the mistakes that come with hiring the wrong person, or failing to attract the right one, the remainder of your team might become disengaged and dissatisfied. It is difficult to stay upbeat and happy in your role when one specific team member is getting all the help and attention.
Finally, in today’s highly-digital and transparent world, job seekers are continuously connected to a stream of information. In other words, they can easily see when something is not working in your company. If they notice that your employee culture is suffering, or that you are not getting things done correctly because of a bad hire, they will be able to link that back to your unwillingness to write the correct job description in the first place.
Rather than losing all the money and time associated with hiring the wrong person, the next time you need to recruit, make sure that you take your time to write a description that attracts the right people.
The Power of the Humble Job Description
The humble job description is easy to overlook. For some hiring managers and executives, it is easy to consider this document to be nothing more than a shopping list when it comes to finding the right hire for a new organisation. Although writing a job description might not be the most appealing part of any job, and it can often take up valuable time in an executive’s day, that does not make it any less important.
The first mistake leading to an inappropriate hire for any business is often a ‘woolly’ job description. Companies make the mistake of posting a job advertisement that doesn’t entirely outline what they need from a new candidate or isn’t appealing enough to find the right people.
If you struggle to write a job description on your own, then go to your specialist recruitment agency for help or bring different members of your corporate team together to brainstorm ideas. While an excellent job description will always be a significant investment in time and effort, it is one that easily, and quickly pays off. After all, hiring the wrong person is costly, and a job description is the first step to finding that perfect candidate.