How to Write a Job Description
12 May 2020
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Drafting a powerful job description is essential when you’re trying to hire the best and most qualified candidates for your company. The key to writing great job descriptions is to craft the right balance of providing enough detail so candidates understand the role and your business while, at the same time, keeping your description concise. Read on to find out how to write a job description and optimize it for the best results.
What Is a Job Description?
A job description has both internal and external components to it. As an internal document, a good job description clearly states the fundamental job requirements, job duties, job responsibilities and skills required to perform a certain role. If you want a more advanced and detailed job description, you should cover how you’ll measure success in the role, which can then be used later on for performance evaluations. A job description is also known as a job specification, job profile, JD, position description and job PD.
The external aspect of a job description comes into play when you post a job description online for a role you’re hiring for. For this, the job description should cover the essentials like requirements, duties, responsibilities and skills, as well as information about your business that is appealing to candidates. As you describe the job position, you should also talk about your company, what you do, your industry and culture and overall opportunities you offer. Thus, writing a good job description serves both internal and external purposes for your business.
How to Write a Job Description
Writing a good job description comes down to including well-written, concise paragraphs that cover all the key parts. As mentioned, this includes the job requirements, job duties, job responsibilities and skills required to perform the role, but there are additional components as well. Plus, each one of these components has several layers to them, so here’s a look at how to write a good job description, one section at a time.
Targeted job titles are more effective than generic ones, so it’s best to be very specific and clear about the role. Make sure to include key phrases that accurately describe the role. This goes for the level of the role as well, such as using terms like associate, coordinator, manager or director in your job descriptions — pay special attention to the words you use in the title as they can evoke certain salary expectations. A good way to figure out job titles is to look around at similar business’s and companies in your industry, which can be done easily using LinkedIn.
Another important point about job titles relates back to the internal and external nature of job descriptions. You’ll want to avoid internal lingo that a job seeker won’t understand, which could easily deter them. For instance, your company might have a proprietary technology system that needs an administrator to run it. However, if you put out a job description with the name of your system in it, an outsider applying for the role won’t recognize it and may skip over it.
The job summary is not the section where you detail the job’s responsibilities and duties. Instead, the job summary has a broader focus, providing an overview of your company, brand, culture, expectations for the position and similar topics. This part of a job description is more subjective than other sections and includes details about your company’s values, mission, attitude and the reasons why a candidate would enjoy working for you. The job summary section, therefore, is one of the best sections to sell your business to a candidate. Use this space to convey to candidates the long-term opportunities, growth and ways to achieve success in the role and at your organization. You can advertise all the great work your business does, plus any industry recognitions, and how your company is unique in the industry and in general. Lastly, on a more practical note, this is where you can state the location of your business and role.
Job Duties and Responsibilities
The job duties section is the foundation of a great job description. This section communicates the scope, complexity and level of responsibility of the role you’re offering. More so than with other sections, you must be as accurate, concise and specific as possible in the job duties and responsibilities since this section explains what the person will do on a day-to-day basis at your company.
You’ll also want to establish key accountabilities, which are the main areas of responsibility within a job, when you write the job duties responsibilities section. For instance, you could identify three key accountabilities for a role as being budget management, executive support and event coordination. From here, you can break down the individual key accountabilities into specific job duties related to them, which, for budget management, could be preparing budgetary reports, analyzing expenditures and monitoring levels.
Underline the day-to-day activities of the position. Giving candidates an on-the-ground idea of what they’ll be doing can help them understand the work environment and the activities they’ll be taking part in on a daily basis. Providing this level of detail helps makes your hiring more effective because candidates can tell more quickly if they’re a good fit for the role and your company. It also helps you cut out candidates who might be technically capable, but a poor fit in terms of the day-to-day tasks you need performed.
Another good move is to outline how the position fits into your organization as a whole. This is important both internally and externally. Internally, it helps you understand the area of your company that necessitates a new hire, how it relates to other departments and positions and the functions this person will perform. Externally, detailing where the position fits in your company helps candidates see the larger picture, understand how their role impacts the business and practical concerns like which department they fall under and who they’ll be managed by.
Qualifications and Skills
The job description you write should specify the education level, previous job experience, years of experience, certifications and technical skills required for the role. Certifications and technical skills are hard skills, such as being proficient in certain computer programs, in programming languages or certified in specific operations, which can range from being a CPA to being a certified data management administrator. It is also good to include soft skills, like communication, problem solving, organization and prioritization, plus personality traits to fit the role and culture. You might be compelled to list all requirements you see in your ideal hire, but you’ll want to keep this concise. A highly-qualified candidate who meets all your requirements might be simply overwhelmed by the length of the job description and move on to another company’s JD.
The employee benefits section of job descriptions is especially important these days. With the absurd and ever-rising cost of healthcare, for instance, most candidates want an employer that offers health insurance. The benefits section can be very brief and even just bullet points. You’ll outline whether your company offers retirement plans like 401(k)s or pensions, medical and dental insurance, vacation and paid holidays and other related plans.
Many job descriptions advertised do not have a formal section dedicated to how your company will measure success in the role you’re hiring for. However, it is a good idea to outline a section like this for your job description, even if it is solely for internal purposes. Determining how you’re going to measure success helps you understand the value the role will bring to your business and how the role can develop further. Ideally, the way you determine success should be grounded in objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, also known as SMART goals. Constructing your measures of success in this way helps ground your expectations in reality and lets candidates know what they need to do to be successful and grow in your business.
The Bottom Line
The best way to write a good job description is to provide accurate, specific details of the key aspects of the role and outline them all concisely. This might be easier said than done, but by focusing on concrete sections like job summary, job duties and responsibilities, requirements and qualifications and skills, you can get a solid draft going in no time. Your job description should serve both external and internal purposes, both selling your company to the candidate as well as providing practical details for your business like where the role fits into your organization. By striking a balance of detailed information with a concise synopsis, you can create a very effective job description for your business.
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