Amanda Groves

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A job description is a lot more than just a list of an individual’s responsibilities. A good one lets potential employees know what’s expected of them, tells them where their role fits into the organization, and is a valuable performance management tool. It also clues recruiters in on the kinds of skills and competencies they need to look for in a new hire. Since developing a solid job description can make all the difference in hiring, managing, and encouraging the best performance from employees, we wanted to share some tips on how to develop one that will get results.

Perform a job analysis

Before creating a job description, you need as much information as possible on the duties, tasks, and responsibilities related to the role. While the hiring manager should be the first person you go to to gather this data, it can also be useful to talk to other employees familiar with the role to get the big picture. Looking at the descriptions that other companies have posted when trying to fill similar roles is an easy way to get some additional inspiration.

Select the right job title

Although it might sound easy, choosing the right title for the role isn’t always straightforward. However it is crucial. It needs to be self-explanatory and accurately indicate what the job entails. In some cases, it may even need to help convey where that particular role lies in the organization’s hierarchy. Choose the wrong words for a job title and candidates may never find it. Misrepresent what the role is actually about (by, for example, throwing in the word “manager” when there are no actual management responsibilities), and you could wind up deterring candidates when they find out the role doesn’t align with their expectations.

Describe the duties

A job description should contain a list of the primary duties and responsibilities associated with the role. The description of each of those duties and responsibilities should be short and to the point, but have a clear action and purpose. For example, rather than simply saying that the person will be in charge of invoicing, you might instead say something like “responsible for creating and sending out monthly invoices to clients to aid accounts payable with bill collection.” It’s all about setting clear and straightforward expectations with measurable outcomes so an employee has no doubt how to fulfill their role. One other way you can do this is by giving an indication of what percentage of the employee’s time should be dedicated to each task.

Set out skills and competencies

There will be a range of skills and competencies that successful candidate will need to have to do the job well. Some will be defined skill sets such as knowing how to use Photoshop, being able to use the latest payroll software, or being fluent in Spanish. Competencies are also important and are the kinds of attributes that will help the employee do the best job. These can include things such as their ability to lead a team, communicate, and work well with others. Ideally you should have a good mix of both skills and competencies to ensure that you’re attracting well-rounded candidates.

Clarify reporting lines and working relationships

To ensure that your organization runs well, everyone in the business needs to know who they report to and who they’re responsible for. Making reporting lines clear eliminates confusion about responsibilities and accountability. If an employee is expected to work closely with other departments or employees, this should be clarified too. When everyone knows their role and the kinds of working relationships they need to establish, the chances of miscommunication will be minimized. You might even want to consider including an up-to-date organizational chart that depicts relationships between roles and areas of responsibility to provide additional clarity.

Review regularly

As with all things in business, roles and responsibilities can change over time. Reviewing job descriptions regularly means you’ll have an insight into how employees are performing and what adjustments may need to be made. That could be hiring an additional person, redistributing responsibilities, or providing additional training. Once employees know what their job description is, they are better able to fulfill their role, so the better and more accurate the description, the better the result.

What examples of misleading job descriptions have you seen?

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