Mastering the art of the job description

mastering the art of the job description

What do you do if a key member of staff hands in their notice? Do you dig out the old job description from the file and ping it across to your recruiter? Update it briefly using a standard template? Or, do you look at it afresh and with insight, to ensure that it reflects the role, the function and duties, the relationships and responsibilities and the key skills and abilities needed?

Involve your recruiter early on

To excel, recruiters have to master something of a black art. They start with grasping the precise needs of their client at this moment in time, and then they work to translate these into a shortlist of potential employees. And not just any candidates, but the very top talent appropriate for the vacancy in hand.

The impact of a poor job description spreads out through the recruitment process, the interviews and the final appointment, making it much harder for the recruiter to do a great job. If it’s vague or confusing, it will hinder the process, may reflect badly on the client’s company brand and ultimately, impact the ability to attract top people.

The challenge is to create a job description that specifically addresses the current realities. By working closely with your recruiter, you can be precise about the job expectations, and build them into the interview process. After all, those job expectations are what the employer will base future performance reviews on. They could be critical for deciding the future of the candidate.

It’s important to get it right

A survey by TinyPulse found that 10% of employees feel like they can’t fulfil their duties because they don’t actually know what their job is! 

And an IBM study in 2017 showed that 40% of those who left jobs did so because they didn’t like what they were doing. For many more, the opportunity to use their existing skills was the key attraction of a new role.

Research conducted by the University of Washington examined the impact of discrepancies between role expectations and job descriptions. It surmised that a high discrepancy increases stress and tension for all employees in the workplace, and that job satisfaction, commitment and turnover may be indirectly influenced because of this.

Where do job descriptions go wrong?

This important document is often too vague, and too generic, and so cannot be used as a baseline from which to measure performance. Before you advertise your role, we recommend you review the job description thoroughly and ensure that you:

  • Identify the current business goals and challenges and establish a measurement for different levels of performance, from the minimal acceptable to an outstanding performance. Include these levels in the document.   
  • Look at where your challenges are. How could the ideal candidate address those challenges? What skills will be needed? And how can you quantify these?
  • Quantify in detail what the ideal candidate would bring to your organisation and be specific about the tasks you expect them to undertake.

Going through this process helps you to really think deeply about the type of person you need. And you’ll find it brings three clear benefits. 

Firstly, your recruiter will be more likely to find you a great match.  

Secondly, you’ll be able to interview in a more meaningful way, as you can relate your questions directly to the job description.  

And finally, the successful candidate won’t get any surprises once they start in the role. They will know exactly what is expected. In turn, this leads to less stress for the employee and their manager and higher levels of job satisfaction and retention. And that’s a winning situation for everyone involved.

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