How to Write Effective Job Descriptions

job descriptionsReady to hire an employee? You need to craft a job description that clearly states what is expected of the role. Writing an effective job description will help you appeal to the right job candidates, set a parameter for compensation, accurately describe the job role, and set performance expectations.

What should be in a job description?

Summary

Your focus should be on making your job description clear and concise. Most job descriptions start with a short summary of the position. In your summary, you might include:

  • Tasks involved in the role
  • Preferred methods for completing these tasks
  • How the role relates to/connects to other roles at your company
  • Who or what department the role reports to
  • Qualifications needed

The summary’s job is to get preliminary interest from candidates who are qualified, and weed out candidates who are not qualified or wouldn’t be a good fit for the role.

Without reading the entire description, a good summary makes it possible for candidates to decide if the general scope of the position would be a fit for them. That saves you time in the recruiting process.

The job description itself should include:

  • Job title
  • Job objective
  • General nature and level of job
  • Description of the function and scope of the role
  • Duties performed
  • Key functional responsibilities (in order of significance)
  • Role relationships in the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles, related departments, and more

What shouldn’t be in a job description?

  • An exact salary number–use a salary range instead to encourage all qualified applicants to apply
  • Inflexible, rigid descriptors that don’t allow for growth or creativity
  • Company ‘perks’ that aren’t relevant to the position
  • Gendered or biased language that could turn qualified candidates away from the role

More on how gender biased language can hurt your job description from our friends at HireVue: “Using gender-biased words like destroy, kill, hunt, ninja, and rockstar in job listings may be enough to turn a qualified woman away from a position, according to recent studies. One way to eliminate gender bias is by balancing the percentages of men and women in those positions to begin with, and that means bringing in more women.”

Writing the job description

Effective job descriptions use very specific language. Here’s how to ‘speak’ in your job description:

  • Use active, present-tense language, like this: “Greets office visitors, callers, and personnel in a friendly and sincere manner.” Imagine you’re describing someone who already does the job fabulously. What does he or she do? “Prepares detailed weekly reports of growth.”
  • Skip adverbs or adjectives that are subjective, like “frequently,” “some,” “complex,” “occasional,” and “several.” Be clear about what you mean to manage expectations.

Writing an effective job description is a straight forward task, but it’s very important that you clearly define the role or position before you begin writing the job description. If you just can’t define the position clearly at this point, consider holding off on hiring or simply be honest and include that information in the job description:

“This is a new marketing role opening up at our company, and we’ll be learning along with you. We’re still defining the role, so if you feel you’re qualified, we want to talk to you. Tasks will include ___, ___, and ___,  but we are open to suggestions on making that work more efficiently.”

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