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Writing Effective Job Descriptions

What qualities are you looking for in a candidate? Can you picture the perfect person for one of your open jobs? If not, then you may need to revamp the job description for that particular position. The importance of job descriptions cannot be understated. They are not only an essential tool used in hiring and managing your employees, but they are also a legal document that can be used for qualifying job performance and results after the person has been hired. They:

  • Help attract the best-fit candidates.
  • Outline the activities expected from the employee on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.
  • Can be used effectively during worker evaluations….measuring actual job performance against the standard set forth in the description.

What to Include in a Job Description:

  1. Job title. Make sure that this truly captures the “spirit” of your advertised position, for it will be first thing that a candidate will see. Benchmark off of other similar jobs, and use standard naming conventions, if possible. If you use a “jargon-filled” title that is only company-specific, you run the risk of losing a highly-qualified candidate who may not read beyond your title. For example, “sales and business consultant” vs. “account manager” or “territory manager”.
  2. Job Summary. This should be no longer than 3-5 sentences, but should tell a compelling story about the position you are advertising. Remember, this summary allows candidates to quickly determine whether or not this is a job they would be interested in.
  3. Type of employment. State up front whether this is a full-time, part-time, contract or intern position. NOTE: If your internship is unpaid, this is an important article you should read – Think Before You Hire an Intern
  4. List of duties or critical tasks. Include no more than 10 key tasks. You should not make this an all-inclusive list, but you should be as transparent as possible on how frequently each task will be performed. List them in order of significance. If special equipment needs to be used, list it here.
  5. Reporting hierarchy and location. Include information on whom the person reports directly to, who they interact with and, where they are physically located, and where the job falls in line as far as organizational structure.
  6. Job qualifications and requirements. This includes the mandatory, minimum and preferred qualifications to perform the essential functions of the job such as education, experience, knowledge, technical proficiencies, certifications and skills.
  7. Salary range (pay for the position). This should include a salary range and (at minimum) a summary of the benefits being offered – 401K participation, paid holidays, medical and/or dental insurance, etc.
  8. Contact information. This may see obvious, but candidates need to know where to send their information and follow-up on their application. This information has been left off many a job description.

What a Job Description Should Be:

  • Understandable. Use specific language that truly highlights what the person will need to do. For example, don’t just say that they need to “have good communication skills”. Say that they “need to be able to translate/explain industry jargon to a non-industry audience”. Anyone who reads your job description should be able to immediately visualize the best-fit candidate for the job.
  • Free of any litigious language. Remember, a job description is also a legal document, and (because of this) cannot include any discriminatory language. This can include language dealing with:
    • Gender discrimination – for example, referring to a job title as “salesman” vs. “salesperson”
    • Age discrimination – do not give any type of age requirements or upper age limits
    • Other types of discrimination based on physical descriptions (vs. qualifications) of an “ideal” person. For example, no one needs to be of Scandinavian descent to interview for a job. In addition, decide if a certain degree or certification is necessary. If someone could accomplish the job without the degree but with a certain number of years of work experience, then the job description needs to reflect that.

What a Job Description Should NOT Be:

  • A carbon copy. Do not employ the same job description used the last time you hired someone for this position. Organizations and jobs grow and change. Take the time to understand what the company’s current needs are, and rewrite (or tweak) your old job description. You will save yourself a lot of time culling through completely unsuitable résumés.
  • Undoable. As you create your bullet-point list of job responsibilities, make sure that you do not create a job that is undoable in terms of time and other resources, or that you are creating a job that no one is actually qualified to do. For example, finding a skilled welder who can also take customer orders may be difficult.

Proper Language in the Job Description:

  • Keep each statement in the job description crisp and clear.
  • Structure your sentences in classic verb/object style and use explanatory phrases. Do not use eloquent language and “fuzzy descriptors”. Always use the present tense of verbs. Since the occupant of the job is your implied subject, the noun may be eliminated. For example: a sample job task for a receptionist might be: “Greets office visitors and personnel in a friendly and sincere manner.”
  • Use explanatory phrases. Telling why, where, or how adds perspective, clarity and highlights frequency. For example: “Collects all employee time sheets on a bi-weekly basis for payroll purposes.”
  • Omit any unnecessary /uncommon words. This includes “a,” “an,” “the,” industry jargon, or words that are easily misinterpreted (“occasional”, “complex”, “some”, etc.) for an easy-to-understand description.
  • Avoid gender bias. Use the he/she approach or construct sentences in such a way that gender pronouns are not required

Finding the right people for your organization is costly and time-consuming. When you partner with a quality, reputable workforce management partner – such as Snelling – both your hiring costs and other intangible costs (satisfaction level, cost of time, etc) are greatly reduced. You can focus on your business. While we will focus on finding the right seasonal workers to best represent your business. Contact your local office for more information.