Hiring 101: Writing job descriptions

Writing job descriptions for your business

If you don’t take time for writing job descriptions you won’t have a clear idea of the type of person you’re looking for. You may think you know, but if you don’t have it in writing then it’s fuzzy. You’ll usually end up misrepresenting the job to potential employees, all with the best intentions in the world. And your employee won’t be able to meet your expectations, because you don’t have any.

Finish writing job descriptions before going into the interview process, or you’ll risk wasting everyone’s time and costing yourself money in the long run.

What to include when writing job descriptions

I think it’s important to point out, that a job description doesn’t need to be complex to be valuable. Before you panic about everything that needs to go into writing job descriptions, here’s all you need:

  • Salary range
  • Desired start date
  • Type of work (permanent, contract, part-time)
  • Skills, experience, and/or traits that you MUST have.
  • Objectives you intend the employee to meet, the methods used to achieve those objectives, and any daily, weekly, or monthly tasks which must be completed.
  • Organisational culture (this will help candidates know what type of company they might work for. A great way to do this is through our subsidiary site, JobAdvisor).

A good job description is more than a job ad. You should be able to literally hand it off to an employee and that employee would have a solid road map of what he or she needs to be doing on their first day. It should be a useful document.

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Note that you don’t have to use a template to do this, and you don’t have to fill it up with big, “corporate” words. It’s important to understand the ideas behind the two major areas (important skills and job tasks) when writing job descriptions.

For example, your job tasks for a receptionist may note that the receptionist must answer all calls by the third ring. The receptionist may also be responsible for distributing mail throughout the office, greeting customers with a smile when they come through the door, and conducting surveys when the front desk is slow. Your important skills might also note you want a problem solver who will listen to the customer’s issue and be assertive about finding the right employee to help the customer out.

Importance of quantifying

Use numbers whenever you can, even for positions that don’t sound numbers based. There’s a world of difference between telling an employee you need him or her to “answer phones” and saying, “answer calls by the third ring.” One is fuzzy. The other is SMART. The receptionist probably will wait until the front desk is slow to conduct surveys anyway, but you might note that he or she needs to complete “25 surveys monthly” if that is an important task.

The more you can quantify the employee’s duties the better off you both will be. The idea is simply to communicate what the employee does all day, why he or she does it, how it should be done and the value that task brings to the table. Writing job descriptions out makes understanding and communicating this much easier.

Taking time for writing  job descriptions helps you stay honest and transparent during the interview process. If you’ve ever taken a job where the hiring manager painted one picture only to find a totally different job waiting for you when you started reporting to work, you know why this is a huge problem. Turnover is high when the expectation doesn’t meet the reality. But you can’t stay transparent or attract the right people to the right jobs if you haven’t even defined what the job is!

What methods does your company employ to ensure you are communicating your job descriptions properly? Please feel free to leave any tips in the comments below.

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John Dietrich

John is the Digital Marketing Manager for Search Party responsible for implementing, tracking, and optimising marketing efforts in the digital space. He's a physics and psychology hobbyist with a strong belief of putting people first in business and life.

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