An effective job description (JD) sets the base for recruiting, developing and retaining the best talent. It also creates an optimum framework for future work performance by clarifying responsibilities, expected results, and success measurements.
Job descriptions play a role in supporting a fair and transparent compensation system and form a foundation for legal compliance.
We have created an A-Z list of elements to consider when building job descriptions. The list is not presented in any particular order and is not exhaustive, but it will help you to develop and maintain effective job descriptions:
A – Attention
Your JD must grasp potential job seekers’ attention quickly and positively to encourage qualified candidates to apply for the role. To do this, the JD needs to be well-presented, comprehensive, but also concise.
B – Benefits
The benefits associated with a role increase the organisation’s employee value proposition and can sway a candidate to apply.
C – Culture
To recruit the right fit for your team, the JD must accurately convey the organisation’s culture in the document style, content, and language used.
D – Defined Success Criteria for the Incumbent
It’s good practice to include a brief statement on what you hope the incumbent will achieve in the role. Look at having one month, three months, six months and one-year targets that describe what they will own and be responsible for and what success will look like at these milestones.
E – Employee Input and Experience
When composing a new JD or updating an existing one, input from employees already in the role is invaluable. Taking on board their views makes the resulting JD more accurate and reflective of the workplace.
Another critical element to include in a JD is a summary of any essential experience for the new employee to succeed. Experience is often over-stated and can dissuade potential candidates from applying. Take care to make the experience requirement realistic for the role; for example, do not ask for 5-years’ experience for an entry-level position.
F – Flexibility
Try to ensure that you allow enough flexibility in the responsibilities for the role to grow and develop over time; being too restrictive may give potential candidates a sense of an organisation that does not allow for innovation and personal growth.
G – Gender-Neutral
Avoid gender-specific language. Avoid using “he/she”, and when you describe your ideal candidate, use gender-neutral pronouns in statements such as “you will ……”, giving a more direct and personalised impression.
H – History of the Company
It is useful to provide a concise history of the company. Some candidates may be looking for a new start-up environment, for example, while others will want an organisation with long-term experience in the marketplace.
I – Inclusive language
Consider carefully the language used in a JD to minimise any biases and promote inclusivity. Some words tend to be more associated with male-dominated culture, and others with female; for example, language such as “dominate” or “work hard, play hard” give a male connotation. Language choices can also suggest other biases, such as age, race or religion.
Consider demonstrating your inclusivity strategy with a standard phrase in the JD, such as “We strongly encourage applications from underrepresented groups”.
J – Job-specific
Make sure to focus the JD on the job role. This may sound basic, but it’s surprising how many JDs start to “creep” into supervisor or team member responsibilities. Carefully review JDs to ensure no significant overlap with other functions or that responsibilities fall outside of the position’s remit.
K – Knowledge
Describe the knowledge that the candidate should possess to be able to carry out the role. This knowledge requirement, like the experience, should be realistic and specific for the position.
L – Location
It is important to include the location for the role, travel requirements, and an indication of expectations for remote working.
M – Measurement
Include details of how performance will be measured using specific targets. Ideally, use a SMART or FAST framework to describe the key goals and measurement metrics used.
N – Nice to have
Remove any “nice to have” requirements. Ask yourself whether the requirements listed are indispensable to getting the job done. Challenge your hiring managers to define which screening qualifications are critical, which skills are flexible, and which can be learned on the job.
O – Optimise language
When writing your JDs, keep your language and content concise, to the point and as clear and readable as possible.
P – Purpose
Ensure that you include the purpose of the role. Candidates need to see how the role contributes to the overall direction and success of the organisation.
Q – Qualifications
As with the knowledge, skills and experience, include only those qualifications required to do the job. Too many job vacancies have JDs that specify vague qualifications, or conversely, are so specific that it considerably narrows down who is eligible to apply.
R – Responsibilities and Reporting Line
Remember to keep the responsibilities concise, clear and focused. Include the reporting line, preferably as an extract of the structure chart, so that the potential candidate gets a sense of how the role fits in the organisation.
S – Skills and Salary Range
Including a salary range in your JD lets potential candidates know that you’re committed to equity and fair pay. Open disclosure of salary ranges allows potential candidates to self-screen rather than apply for roles and withdraw at a later stage.
T – Title
Job titles should reflect the role clearly and unambiguously. JDs with generic titles or ones that don’t reflect the listed scope and responsibilities can look unprofessional. It is good to be creative with the JD, but not so good to be creative with the job title to the extent that it is hard to understand what the job entails.
U – Update
Remember to review and update your JDs regularly to keep pace with how roles develop in your organisation.
V – Visually Appealing
The JD should be presented professionally in terms of layout as well as the content. Consider elements such as fonts, colours, branding, readability and grammar,
W – Working Hours
Be clear about working hours and days expected in the role, including across standard weekends. Another related point to consider is your company policy on being available “on-demand”; for example, do you expect the role holder to be available in their personal time to answer emails and calls?
X – Factor
Try to highlight any unique differentiators in the role that make it stand out from the competition.
Y – Year and Date
Add the date range for applications to be made when posting a JD online for vacancies. Ensure that your JDs also have version control with a creation date you can refer to when maintaining the contents.
Be zealous when creating, reviewing and amending your JDs to ensure that they project the organisation and the role in the best way possible and therefore attract the quality of candidate you require to build your teams.
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