If you want to find candidates who have zero percent
learning curve, fit into your organization, get the
job done, and exceed your highest expectations, then
don't underestimate the importance of knowing how to write a
Think of the job description as the recipe for creating
the candidate. If the recipe is flawed, the end result
will be flawed.
What happens if you don't write a job description well?
Candidates can't do the job. New employees don't fit
your corporate culture. Poor performance materializes
down the road. Employee turnover increases. Key business
objectives are missed.
Sounds bad, but have no fear — here are some
tips for writing a job description that gets the job
First Things First
It's crucial that you make writing job descriptions part of
your overall business planning effort. You can't simply
start thinking about job descriptions every time you
have a specific search to conduct for a hiring requisition.
Approaching job descriptions casually on a perodic
basis leads to non-standardized job descriptions.
It also leads to some positions having job descriptions
and others not having job descriptions. Essentially,
this says you don't know what people in your organization
do or what they are expected to do. More importantly,
you don't have a road map for the future as to how
roles and responsibilites will evolve. Remember, if
you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
You need to embed preparation of job descriptions within
your human resources group as a central and fundamental
basis for running HR. Take the time to write job descriptions
for every position in your organization, not just
the ones you are currently hiring for.
Internal Job Descriptions Versus External Job
A second key concept is that there are internal job
descriptions that are for insider use only and there
are external job descriptions that will be read by
prospective candidates. The former is very thorough
and complete. The latter is an abridged version of
the internal job description, typically with more
of a marketing slant to it.
High Level Objective of a Job Description
What are we trying to accomplish with a job description?
A job description is used by many different people,
but the main objective is that it should provide a
comprehensive picture of the purpose, requirements
and context of the job. To do that, it needs to be
written clearly in simple language, contain information
but not opinions or judgements, and avoid using words
with “company specific” meanings. A well-written
comprehensive job description for a management position
might typically be about three to five pages in length.
What's in a Job Description?
A thorough, detailed job description should contain
the following components:
- Administrative Information
- Reporting Structure
- Job Functions and Contributions
- Required Competencies
- Interaction / Impact Matrix
- Sign Off and Routing
Part 1 — Administrative Information
This section includes basic information about the
position: job title, a short description of the job
and its purpose, company name, geographic location,
branch or department, supervisor's name, supervisor's
job title, salary target, special benefits, relocation
reimbursement status, special requirements such as
drug testing or security clearance, and a revision
date for this particular draft of the job description.
The most important part of this section is a concise
statement of the purpose of the job, which should
be a single-sentence statement indicating what the
employee is expected to achieve and how he is expected
to achieve it.
Part 2 — Reporting Structure
This section includes an organization chart that shows
exactly where the position fits in the organizational
hierarchy. Any “dotted line” relationships
should be clearly delineated. The position of the
job in the organizational hierarchy gives valuable
information about its significance and the ability
of the employee to make progress and influence decisions.
Part 3 — Metrics
This section includes metrics that are relevant to
the job. These will vary considerably between jobs
but might include: annual budgets; annual revenue
targets; number of staff supervised and direct reports;
number of customer accounts; number of contracts responsible
for; and number of brands managed.
Part 4 — Job Functions and Contributions
This section briefly describes the functions of the
job. Statements should be phrased in terms of the
purpose and the result to be accomplished, rather
than the manner in which the function is performed.
For example, “Responsible for monthly consolidation
of affiliate forecasts and communicating identified
inventory shortages to demand planners” is far
better than “Diligently perform forecasting
Itemize the key job functions for a position and record
them in a matrix. In a separate column, record the
percentage of time the function is performed (should
total 100%). Do not list non-essential job functions
if they are done less than 5% of the time. In another
column, note when the function is performed (e.g.
daily, monthly, quarterly). In a final column, put
a check mark if the function is essential (i.e. fundamental
duties that the individual holding the job must be
able to perform.
Part 5 — Required Competencies
This is where you define the knowledge, skills, abilities,
and attributes that the candidate needs to have. We
recommend you create a matrix that includes the following
information: the competency; the experience, education
or certification that is required; the function which
the competency supports (going back to the functions
matrix you prepared in Job Functions and Contributions
above); and, finally, checkboxes as to whether the
competency is a Minimum Requirement (i.e. they can't
have the job if they don't have it) or if it is a
Preferred Requirement (nice to have but not essential).
Part 6 — Interaction/Impact Matrix
Create an exhaustive list of relevant interaction
entities (e.g. Marketing, External Customers, Administrative
Assistant, Use of Wireless Technology, etc.) in one
column. Then, where appropriate, apply check marks
for the following interaction types, each of which
has its own column in the matrix: Performs Services
For; Negotiates With / Influences; Provides Recommendations
To; Supervises; Provides Directions To; and Develops
Strategies For. This provides a good understanding
of the position and how it will interact and influence
other entities within your organization.
Part 7 — Other
This section captures other elements of the job. Include
a short narrative section that gives incremental insights
into the context in which the employee will do the
job. Important aspects of the environment (e.g. “The
plant in which this employee came to our company through
our recent acquisition of ABC Company”). This
catch-all section might also be used to address the
decision-making powers of the position. What types
of decisions can be made autonomously by the employee
and which will require consultation with senior management?
This section completes the job description such that
it is fully described in all important respects.
Part 8 — Sign Off and Routing
There should be a formal approval process for the
job description before it is transformed into an official
active hiring request. At the end of the job description,
include space for Submitted By, Submission Date, Approved
By, and Approval Date information. There should also
be a standard list of departments to whom the description
needs to be routed (e.g. Supervisor, HR Compensation,
ISO 9000 Coordinator, etc.) with circles around those
who need to receive a copy.
Getting Started — Collecting the Information
Now that you understand the core elements of a job
description, you're ready to get started! Putting
the job description together ultimately involves collecting
information and determining the important functions
and requirements of the position. Once this is done,
writing the posiiton description is relatively easy.
Key ways to collect the information include observing
tasks as they are performed, observing behaviors,
having jobholders write a self-description of their
positions, conducting structured questionnaires about
the roles and responsibilities for a position, interviewing
jobholders, or researching job descriptions for similar
positions posted publicly by third-parties.
Writing the Job Descriptions
Collect all the relevant information, write the job
description, accept feedback from others, revise the
document, and, finally, it will be the perfect job
description that lets you attract and retain a highly
talented, diverse workforce.
Efficiency Hint — Create Templated Job
There's no sense reinventing the wheel every time
you write a job description. We recommend that you
create templated versions of job descriptions for
certain job types. For example, you might create a
generic job descriptions for Clerical/Administrative
positions and these can be slightly modified based
on the specifics of a given position, rather than
starting from scratch.
Follow the steps above and you'll soon have excellent
descriptive positions of the jobs you are recruiting
for. This will result in your enhancing the effectiveness
of your recruiting parties, hiring the best candidates,
and ensuring that all employees have a clear understanding
of their role in your organization and the link between
their contributions and the overall mission of the