Job Descriptions: Getting Back to Basics

job descriptions: getting back to basics

There is a ton of information available online regarding how to make job announcements that stand out. You ought to try video. (Spoiler: yeah!) Is it advisable to eliminate outdated boilerplate formatting? Probably. But in essence, every job seeker is looking for the same four things, and a good job description must include these in order to draw in the right applicants and identify the ideal candidate.

Job Descriptions: Getting Back to Basics

1. Who Would I Be Working For?

You have the chance to describe your business, what you do, and more importantly, why a candidate would want to work with you. What’s your goal? What distinguishes your business from others? What motivates your staff to show up every day ready to work hard? The description can be succinct, but it needs to pique candidates’ interest.

2. What is the Job?

An effective job description is just that—a description of the position. Start by speaking with the professionals: those who are currently performing the duties of the post. Now is the moment to pose serious inquiries. Don’t be content with a simple task list. To understand why, you must move past it. What function does this role provide in the organization? What would the mission statement for this position be, if each role had one?

A decent description should give an idea of what the daily duties entail. For example, does the individual in this position frequently deal with customers? Are they a member of a group striving for the same aim or a lone subject matter expert offering advice to the business? Hit the highlights; no description will be exhaustive. Include the most typical tasks as well as those that might take less time but are nonetheless extremely important. But make it clear where the majority of the time is spent.

3. Am I Qualified?

Here, you should consider your qualifications and competencies. Again, this entails questioning the hiring manager and the workers on the job in-depth. Ask why if they state that applicants must have 3 years of experience. Perhaps they believe that after three years of employment, a person has acquired certain certain talents. In that case, list your skills instead of your years of experience. If you work in the hospitality industry and need a payroll specialist who is familiar with shift work and its effects on payroll, you should look for someone with experience with shift work and variable pay rates rather than someone who has worked in the industry. Try to be as specific and lucid as you can.

Lawyers, surgeons, and scientists are among the professions that clearly call for a degree. Others can demand education or professional experience. The degree is role-specific in both situations. A medical degree is necessary for a doctor. A human resources degree may allow an HR professional to replace some years of experience. However, having a political science degree does not increase one’s qualifications for an entry-level administrative position. Even entry-level employees are required to have degrees by numerous employers. Be selective when it comes to degree requirements; consider whether they are actually required, whether they could replace experience (or whether experience could count in place of the degree), or whether the degree requirement could be removed entirely. A thoughtful, well written list of competencies can often eliminate the need for a degree requirement and will bring in a more qualified pool of applicants.

4. Will I Fit In?

Finally, job seekers need to see themselves in your job description. Is the company one they want to work for? Does the job sound exciting? Are they qualified for this role? Beyond that, they want to know that they will have a place in your organization. If you have a diversity statement, make sure it’s included. A standard EEO statement tells women, candidates of color, candidates who are disabled, and others that you are following the law, but that’s it. Can they picture themselves working in that environment?

Research shows that men apply for jobs where they meet 60% of the qualifications, and women tend to apply only if they meet 100%. Be careful that your list of competencies and qualifications are not overlong, effectively barring some women from even applying. Words also matter. Do research and make sure your job descriptions aren’t gender-coded to exclude women.

There are lots of bells and whistles you can use to get job seekers to check out your announcements, and they are worth exploring. But before you do that, make sure you have the basics covered. Bells and whistles may grab attention, but solid content will help turn the right job seekers into serious candidates.

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Anne Tomkinson

Anne Tomkinson, SHRM-SCP, is an HR professional working in Washington, DC. She is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, and wants every HR practitioner to be an active thought partner in their organization. She blogs at HR Underground and you can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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