An accurate and effective job description is one of the main building blocks in any successful recruitment process.

If you simply dust down an old role profile, update a few points and alter the job title you will be missing a huge opportunity. More importantly, you could be opening yourself up to a long, expensive and ultimately fruitless recruitment process. Even worse, you could end up hiring the wrong person.

A Clear Vision

If you want to hire the right person, you need to formulate a crystal-clear picture of the type of employee you’re looking for.

A good job description should give an overview of the purpose of a job, what it contributes to the hiring organisation’s aims and how it fits into the overall structure – including the main duties, responsibilities and reporting lines.

Your job description has to go beyond experience and education to include professional and personal traits that can influence a person’s ability to thrive in your organisation.

The job description you create will have multiple purposes:

  • It is the foundation of your recruitment process, hopefully attracting the right people to apply 
  • It is the first opportunity for your company to make a good impression with applicants 
  • It helps focus your screening process, enabling you to choose only the most suitable candidates 
  • It allows you to develop high-impact interview questions that help you select the employees you need 

Here are six steps to creating an effective job description.

1. Start with the job title

The job title should be descriptive and conform to the standards for your industry. Don’t use a title which might be understood only by a select few within your organisation.

For example, don’t label the role of ‘Receptionist’ as a ‘‘Welcoming Agent & Telephone Intermediary”. Lack of clarity here will reduce the amount of applicants.

2. Main duties

List four of five of the key duties that the role holder will perform. Think this through thoroughly. A vague or incorrect description will make it harder for you to match a candidate.

If you’re not sure what the job entails, then the applicant has little chance of reading between the lines correctly.

3. Experience

What type of background is required to get the job done?

Industry/sector familiarity, practical knowledge, academic qualifications, professional certifications – these will all be crucial in helping you screen the candidates you attract.

4. Skills

What skills should the ideal candidate possess?

Look at the duties the role holder will perform and assess what skills are required to complete those tasks.

A customer service representative, for example, will need good phone manners and may also need to be a good listener, while a customer services team manager may need leadership skills and project planning abilities.

Your list should include hard skills (what the persons knows) and soft skills (how the person applies the knowledge).

5. Working style

How will the successful applicant get the job done?

Particularly in a small to medium-sized business, the way a person works can often be as important as what they do. For instance, a person who thrives off the energy of others won’t prosper in a company where everyone works on solo projects. In the job description, try to get across the general working methods to ensure applicants have realistic expectations.

6. Temperament

What kind of personality succeeds in your company?

Building on working style, consider the attitudes and manners you’re looking for in the perfect applicant. Your goal should be to find the type of person who is most productive within your working environment and who will complement your workforce.

Develop a list of character traits you most value – things such as honesty, a good sense of humour, empathy, etc. These personal attributes will help you choose between applicants, particularly during more in-depth interviews.

At what cost?

A well-conceived and well-written job description is one of the key steps on the path to a successful appointment. Getting it right is a vital part of attracting the right candidates and reducing the time it takes to screen, select and hire.

Take a wrong turn at this important juncture and you could find yourself appointing someone unsuitable for the role. And how much will a bad hire cost your organisation?

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