Small Business Services

Attract the Right Employees: Write Strong Job Descriptions

If you’ve ever written a few paragraphs advertising a position that was open in your company, you probably focused on two primary types of information:

  • The job’s responsibilities, and,
  • The qualifications required.

Hopefully, that ad grew into a much longer document that would become an actual job description, suitable to distribute to prospective employees.

You would include the job’s title, its overall objective(s) and scope, and some indication of where it falls within the organizational structure. You’d provide more specific information about the actual tasks involved, and the skills required to complete them well. You may or may not include a salary range, depending in part on how senior the position is.

Tip: Some companies include the catch-all phrase, “additional duties as assigned.”

The Right Language

Keep your ideal candidates in mind as you write, and consider what might attract them to the position. When you’re describing what you’re looking for in the applicants, you could use phrases like:

  • Welcomes opportunities for advancement
  • Is exceptionally detail-oriented
  • Looks for creative solutions to problems
  • Likes functioning as part of a team
  • Excels at developing and maintaining customer relationships
  • Understands business use of social networks

Be as specific as you can. Will the candidate “occasionally” be asked to lead team meetings, or will it happen 1-2 times/month? Will they spend “some of” their time scouring the web for leads, or will this consume roughly 20 percent of their time? Are long hours the exception, or should the candidate be expected to work late 2-3 days per month?

It may sound counterintuitive, but along with being specific, be as flexible as you can. You want to use a fairly broad brush when you describe responsibilities, but you also want to indicate that you’re open to the employee branching out a bit (if this is the case).

Other Uses

Hiring aside, your job description is a critical element of another management concern. You want to design a roadmap for the employee’s evaluation. Thus, the need for specificity. Employee reviews aren’t so terribly challenging when the individual is meeting or exceeding expectations. The hard part there sometimes is finding suggestions for improvement.

But the employee who is struggling needs to compare those initial expectations with his or her actual job performance. There is always some subjectivity in this process, but if you’ve written a thorough job description, it will be easier to point out concrete areas where the initial objectives have not been achieved.

In the first example, a very positive evaluation may lead you to explore a promotion, or at least to offer the best raise possible within your budget. In the second, you might consider additional training. Worst case, the employee may have to be reassigned to a more junior position or let go. And these days, you need airtight documentation for that.

Job descriptions are some of the most challenging documents you’ll write as a manager. Prepare them carefully and conscientiously, and your new hires should be good fits. You may also be able to head off problems lurking on the horizon.

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