Writing a good job description is critical for attracting and hiring the right candidates. In other words, the better your job description is, the better it will attract the top talent. A good job description should also be optimized for SEO and the platforms or job boards where you plan to post it.
With a well-written job description, you can enhance your brand’s exposure, provide inspiration to job seekers, and accelerate the hiring process.
What Is a Job Description?
The job description should accurately explain the tasks, functions, duties, and responsibilities of the position in plain language. Thus, a job description details who performs a particular type of work, how that work needs to be completed, the purpose of the work, its frequency, and how it relates to the company’s mission and goals.
When you have a well-written job description, it creates a realistic depiction of a job and answers the question, “What does the individual taking up this role will actually do?”
Companies use job descriptions for different reasons, such as deciding salary levels, clarifying the company mission and vision, conducting performance reviews, setting up job titles and pay grades, and creating logical accommodation controls. Additionally, a job description is used as a powerful tool for recruiting.
If you thought a job description is just about explaining the position’s responsibilities, think again because it’s much more than that!
A well-planned and executed job description lays the foundation for proper and speedy hiring, helps in developing and retaining talent, and facilitates optimum work performance by explaining in clear and concise words the responsibilities, results expected, and performance evaluation.
A job description is also a significant component for ensuring legal compliance and maintaining an impartial compensation system. Every year, after your company’s annual performance evaluation cycle, you should revisit this document to revise and update it so it aligns with the performance evaluation.
When writing a job description, the document doesn’t need to include every detail of what work needs to be performed for the role and how it should be performed. The idea is to share adequate and clear guidelines so that the document remains useful even when you bring in minor changes to the role in question.
Job descriptions are usually written by managers or supervisors but they could also be written as a joint effort between the employee and his or her manager/supervisor though the latter must approve it.
Job Description Templates
You can’t find a fit-for-all job description even when the roles are under the same department. For example, the job description for a sales representative will definitely be different from another for a sales manager.
When you go beyond departments, descriptions vary more. A cashier’s job description will vastly differ from a project manager’s job description, for instance. If you want to save time and effort, you could go online and do some research to find job description templates, which can be tweaked a little to suit your hiring needs.
Sometimes, you will come across templates that are reusable and can be tailored to detail the specific responsibilities, requirements, job duties, and skills that a particular open position needs. But you may not always be that lucky.
If you fail to find a suitable job description template, you will have to create one from scratch. And here’s where things get interesting because many may not be sure about what goes into the document and what’s best left out. If you too belong to this league, fret not as we have got your back.
In the next section, we walk you through the step-by-step process of writing a good job description to attract the top talent fit for the role.
How to Write a Job Description
It involves a 6-step process as mentioned below:
1. Conduct a Job Analysis
This step involves gathering, evaluating, and interpreting data about the tasks involved to supply precise information about the job so that your company can perform optimally. Not sure how to conduct a job analysis? Here are the steps you should follow:
- Interview existing employees to note exactly what tasks are performed.
- Observe how the tasks that you have found in the previous step are performed.
- Ask your employees to fill out worksheets or questionnaires related to the job.
- Use other resources like salary surveys and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (in the U.S., for instance) to collect additional data on the job.
Gathering and interpreting the data collected through the steps above will help you outline the job’s requirements in terms of
- Knowledge: information acquired by study or experience.
- Ability: the aptitude to perform an observable behaviour (or a set of behaviours) that helps create an observable product.
- Physical characteristics: physical attributes necessary to perform the job duties.
- Skill: noticeable competence an individual possesses to carry out a learned activity.
- Working conditions: refer to the work environment factors either inside or outside the office (such as travel requirements, exposure to loud noise/extreme heat or cold, hazardous materials, etc).
- Experience/Credential: indicate the minimum level of education, experience, and certifications suitable for the position.
Once the results are documented, you should get them reviewed by the manager or supervisor of the employees who are currently working in the positions. This will help revise or make any changes in the above outline with respect to knowledge, ability, skill, etc.
2. Define the Essential Functions
After you have set the performance standard for a particular job with job analysis, the second step is all about establishing the open position’s essential functions. This step involves the following:
- Ensuring the tasks shortlisted (as part of the job function) are really necessary to do the job.
- Deciding the tasks’ frequency and the time it will take to perform them.
- Determining the outcomes of not performing the established tasks and if this would be harmful to your company’s operation or give rise to severe consequences.
- Deciding if the tasks can be performed in any other way or redesigned.
- Concluding if the tasks can be reassigned to another employee.
After you have defined the essential functions preliminarily, revisit the list to decide if the functions are truly essential or marginal. Your job description must focus on “essential functions” that explicitly mention what functions the individual has to perform as part of the job.
3. Arrange the Data in a Concise Manner
Though job descriptions may vary from one company to another, all job descriptions within your company need to be standardized. This will make them look coherent and have the same appearance.
When organising the data, you can focus on the following:
- Job title: name of the open position.
- Objective/Summary: summary and overall objectives of the job as well as your company’s expectations for the position.
- Salary: pay range/grade.
- Benefits: from flexible and remote working arrangements to a pension scheme, equity in business, no formal dress code, pet-friendly workspace, etc., everything comes under this section.
- Reports to: the title of the position this job reports to and mentioning if there are multiple stages of supervision or the employee needs to report directly to the person holding the mentioned title.
- Essential functions: as discussed in the section above.
- Education and experience: required and preferred education and experience based on job-related needs that are consistent with your business necessity.
- Additional eligibility qualifications: additional requirements, such as industry-specific experience, certifications, and the experience of working with specific tools/equipment/software, etc.
- Competency: knowledge, skills, and abilities the job requires (or the ones that are nice to have, but aren’t essential).
- Position type and work hours: part-time or full-time, usual work hours and shifts, number of workdays in a week, and if overtime is expected.
- Specifications: related to the demands the job makes, such as physical (sitting, driving, lifting, etc.), environment-wise (exposure to high noise level, temperature, or hazardous materials), travel (local or global, frequency, overnight or not, etc).
- Other duties: as mentioned in the disclaimer section below.
4. Add a Disclaimer
It’s a prudent idea to add a disclaimer where you state that the job description isn’t designed to contain or cover a comprehensive listing of duties, activities, or responsibilities that the employee is required to handle. It’s also crucial to mention here that duties, activities, or job responsibilities could be amended or new ones allotted at any time at the employer’s sole discretion, with or without prior notice to the employee.
5. Add the Signature Lines
This is a crucial step in validating your job description. To show that the document has been approved and that the new hire understands the essential functions, requirements, and duties of the position, you need to add the signature lines to your job description. Both the supervisor/manager and the employee should sign the document.
Once you have drafted the job description, you should get it reviewed and approved by the position supervisor/manager and your company’s upper management. Such a review will give you the chance to evaluate the document and add or remove any detail before it’s approved and put to use.
The finalised job description should be stored in a secure location. You can prepare multiple copies of it, which can then be distributed to the concerned departments to be used for job advertisements and online postings on job boards, interviews, compensation reviews, accommodation requests, and performance appraisals. You could even post them on your intranet if you wish to.
12 Useful Tips for Writing Job Descriptions
Now that you know what goes into a good job description, you can start crafting one. Here are twelve useful tips that could help you make the document attractive and enticing enough to bring in the right talent through your doors.
- Use a concise, to-the-point style to write the job description.
- Avoid writing a lot of mundane stuff about your company that a potential candidate can easily find on your website or LinkedIn profile. Instead, emphasize your USPs as a preferred employer like focusing on DE&I, company culture, etc.
- Be conversational and personal by using ‘you’ instead of ‘the ideal candidate’ so that your target applicant believes, “Yes! That’s me.”
- Be creative. Instead of using mundane subheads like “Job Duties” and “Skills Required,” be creative to engage candidates by using these phrases instead: “What we expect of you” or “You will” or “You are good at.”
- Avoid complicated jargon and use simpler words to enhance understanding.
- Use the present tense of descriptive action verbs, such as operates, writes, or handles.
- Steer clear of acronyms and abbreviations because not everyone may be familiar with them. If you feel acronyms and abbreviations are necessary to use, you should define them the first time you use them.
- Avoid gender-specific language, such as, “He’s responsible for” or “she manages.”
- Shun the use of ambiguous terms. For instance, if you use words like handles, assists, or performs, add “how” the position executes these functions. A simple way to do this is to put “by” following these terms and detailing the tasks, processes, or operations to be performed, which will typically clarify the ambiguity.
- Keep your focus on essential activities, while omitting details regarding occasional tasks and trivial duties.
- Make sure the job description doesn’t refer to other employees’ names. It should refer to their job title (or department, where needed) instead.
- Include just the allotted duties today. Eliminate duties that aren’t required anymore and don’t include possible future duties.
Now that you know about the key sections to include in your job description as well as tips for being clear and concise to sell the open position and attract the right candidates, what’s stopping you?
Go ahead, create that killer job description, and use it as a powerful tool to attract and hire suitable candidates.