The May-June 2019 issue of the Harvard Business Review explores how hiring and recruitment have changed since World War 1. It shows how, despite companies spending more money than ever, they still end up with an annual employee turnover rate of a staggering 61%.
So, how do you as a business owner manage this problem and keep turnover low? There are several factors involved, of course, but as we shall soon see it all circles around the right job description.
Why a Direct, Succinct, Thorough Job Description Matters
The HBR report referenced above discusses how companies recruited the majority of talent post WW2. When any position fell vacant, a thorough job evaluation was done to determine how the job contributed to the overall growth of the organization. A job analysis then determined the duties the role involved, and what skills would be needed to fulfill them adequately.
This provided the organization with a very clear picture of what the role was, why it mattered and what was needed to fill it. Then this knowledge was built into the job description and candidates were thoroughly vetted based on these expectations before a decision was made. And the result? Employees stayed with their company, man for their entire working lives.
From a big-picture perspective, a killer job description both shows that you understand what you need from the role and it is your beacon to attracting the right candidates to support your overarching business growth strategy.
More specifically, though, a job description that is properly written enables you to:
- Target the exact skill set you need, which filters out a lot of the bycatch and makes it easier, faster, and cheaper for you.
- Rank high on electronic job boards such as LinkedIn
- Package your brand attractively to the right candidate
- Set expectations early, which enables greater accountability from your employees
- Improve productivity from your final hire
- Protects you against legal trouble today and in the future
So, What Makes a Good Job Description?
Hiring is about an exchange of value. This means a killer job description works much like a good marketing campaign. The value exchange needs to be set out thoroughly in the description so that potential candidates know exactly what they stand to gain by working for you, and what you expect in return.
This calls for a few major details that must be included in the job description.
1. Job Title
A standard job title as used in the industry is a must-have. It conveys information about what the role involves in a few words and helps your posting to become discoverable on search engines and job boards. Non-traditional terms like “ninja programmer” or “rock star salesperson” will not do you any favors regarding setting expectations of the role or visibility of it.
2. Job Purpose
How does the role fit into the overall structure in the organization? What is the scope of the job? This summary should offers a bird’s eye view of the position in a few sentences to help provide context – and a larger sense of meaning – to potential candidates.
Also, include who will they be reporting to here.
3. Duties and Responsibilities
This section tells the applicant about what will be expected of them. Outline all the core duties and be sure to include any that may be unique to the organization. Take the applicant through what a typical day in the role looks like and the responsibilities they would have to shoulder.
Remember the context provided when you explained the “Job Purpose?” This should be reflected in each duty if you really understand your needs well.
4. Qualifications Required
List the minimum level of qualifications you desire for this post including skills, education, and job experience. Be realistic here, as you’re looking for a match, not a catch. Someone willing to accept a low salary if they are overqualified is a red flag and quite likely a flight risk ultimately if they make it through the process. Set your requirements at what is needed, not what a “dream candidate” would look like.
Qualifications can be broken into 3 parts.
What hard and soft skills will be required to carry out the role effectively? Stick to the core skills, as listing too many will discourage some applicants. If it is a relatively well know and standardized role in the workplace, you can get away with something like “all the duties of a receptionist” together with others.
Education is increasingly taking a back seat in hiring but remains very important. State out in very certain terms what minimum education level, internships, and technical training you require.
Minimum Experience Desired
List the minimum number of months or years the ideal candidate should have worked in a similar position. If that isn’t important to you, say so!
5. Remuneration, Benefits, and Perks
Set out what your base salary range is, allowances paid out, medical and retirement benefits, leave benefits, holiday perks, and anything else which will help the candidate decide that your enterprise is the best place for them.
Also consider, is your office dog-friendly? Do you have flexible working hours? Do you have office snacks or an espresso machine? Put these perks on display to help attract top talent.
Seventy percent of job descriptions leave out some of these critical pieces of information, yet they are vital to more than 90% of applicants!
Tips and Tricks to Writing a Killer Job Description
With the basics covered, spend some extra time reviewing the description to make it even more engaging, succinct, and effective. This is also a good time to run it through existing employees to get their input.
You should also have someone in legal take a look to eliminate potential biases, discrimination, and nuances in the language that might put off candidates or cause legal trouble.
With that done, you will want to evaluate how well the description markets your brand. Does it put across your brand and work culture in the best way? Would you want to work with you if you were the one seeing the ad? Usually, a little creativity, innovation, and pure honesty add the “oomph” factor into the posting.
Sample Job Description
Great job descriptions are everywhere. LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and other platforms are full of brands that took job descriptions to the next level. Here are a few that particularly stand out as curated and published by LinkedIn.
Example 1 — See how these images are used to introduce the job in a fun, attractive way.
Example 2 — This example infuses personality into an otherwise serious and professional description of the job expectations.
A great job description explains everything a potential candidate would like to know about you in 300-700 words. It is your pitch to the job market, and you expect good returns. Just remember, don’t lie on the description, don’t brag, and especially don’t be generic.