July 20, 2021
Job Descriptions: Why They Matter + How to Do Them Right

How much time and effort does your company put into writing stellar job descriptions? Do you have a process? Do you and your team regularly review roles and job descriptions throughout the organization?

At this point, you may be thinking, Are job descriptions really THAT important?

The answer is a resounding YES! Writing effective job descriptions comes with many benefits, from hiring the best employees to holding onto them to planning for your business’s future goals. 

Stick with us as we break down the benefits of using job descriptions and how to write them to ensure you find the best fit for every position.

Benefits of Using Job Descriptions

Paint the Picture

The job description is a great opportunity to share your company vision and direction and show the prospective employee how they fit into the big picture. How will their role and responsibilities make a difference and contribute to the success of their team or the overall company? 

Keep in mind that you must sell them on your business just as they need to sell you on their skills, knowledge, and qualifications. When you illustrate how the candidate would fit into your organization, you also ensure their goals align with yours. After all, you want everyone to be going in the same direction.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear job expectations starts with the job description. When job descriptions are well-written and specific, both candidates and current employees will clearly understand the expectations, essential responsibilities, and requirements for the position. This aids in external and internal recruitment, as well as employee retention.

Collect Compensation Data

Compensation should be based on the job duties and responsibilities rather than an arbitrary title. Part of job description development is doing market research to find out the value of the role and ensuring the compensation you’re offering is competitive with the rest of your industry. Plus, your HR team can evaluate the role on how it fits within your compensation structure compared to other positions within your company. 

Comply with Labor Laws

Maintaining job descriptions is not legally mandated, but developing and updating them regularly can help your company stay compliant with employment laws. Two examples include:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act: You’ll have to classify exempt vs. non-exempt roles through the job description development process.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Your job description should define the physical, mental, and environmental requirements. It should also differentiate between essential and non-essential job functions so you can make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. 

Plan for the Future

As you develop job descriptions, you and your team should review the organization’s current staffing situation and future people goals:

  • Current Roles & Gaps: Gather a complete list of roles in your organization to identify which jobs are not filled or where you may need to develop new positions.
  • Career Paths: Job descriptions should include the future career path of the role, which also helps your hiring managers to consider a candidate’s fit against the bigger picture of future advancement.
  • Training & Development Needs: When you understand the skills and competencies necessary for each job, your leaders can strategically implement training for each employee based on their career goals and the business’s needs.

How to Develop Effective Job Descriptions

1. Make it a Team Effort

Job descriptions should never be created in a vacuum. Consult with relevant managers and employees for perspective and accuracy. By talking to those who will be working with the new hire: (i.e., superiors, colleagues, and direct reports), you can ensure the candidate fits in with the rest of your team.

Not to mention that when you involve current employees, you show them that their thoughts and opinions matter. This helps put them in a more positive and supportive mindset regarding the new hire or promoted colleague.

2. Perform a Job Analysis

Once you have the team assembled, it’s time to conduct a job analysis. While you should do this for every job opening, it’s vital to do so with newly created roles. A job analysis should address the following questions to all relevant parties mentioned above:

  • What needs would this position be fulfilling for your company and/or team?
  • What are the job responsibilities of current employees both in the same position and department?
  • How have the demands of this job changed within both your company and your industry over the past five years?
  • What differences do you notice between an example job description and one posted by one of your competitors for this position?
  • What is NOT included in the typical requirements of this position?
  • How will this person support other specific roles?
  • What technical and soft skills will a new hire need to perform this job successfully?
  • What work duties, tasks, and responsibilities will this employee need to accomplish?
  • How does the compensation package you offer for this position compare to competitors?
  • What is the most important outcome or contribution(s) needed from this position?

3. Determine What to Include in the Job Description

Write each section of your job ad with a certain goal in mind. What do you want the candidate to take away from that specific part? Show them that your company and this position is an excellent fit for their career.

Essentials to include in a job description are:

  • General position description and areas of responsibility
  • Engaging and accurate job title
  • Essential job functions with a couple of examples of each
  • Required knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Mandatory education and experience
  • Description of physical demands
  • Clear employment terms (e.g., full-time vs. part-time, salaried vs. hourly)
  • Description of the work environment

And don’t forget these bonus tips to attract top talent:

  • Highlight the “must-haves” early (i.e., mandatory education, certifications, and skills) to interest the most qualified candidates.
  • Describe your workplace culture, history, and the perks of working for your company.
  • Use a conversational voice that aligns with your company’s brand and adds a personal touch.
  • Showcase career paths and opportunities for growth by explaining how they will be evaluated (i.e., goals and metrics for salary increases and/or bonus eligibility).
  • Incorporate flexibility so that employees can cross-train and develop/advance.
  • Format your job descriptions to be clean and easy to read with spacing, bullet points, and headers.

4. Create an Engaging Job Title

A job title needs to attract your ideal candidate and be accurate. So, what does attract your perfect candidate? 

Cater to their specialties, so they know they will be doing the work they love most. You’ll also need to consider the most commonly used and accepted job title for the position, as that title will have the highest search volume. An example that captures both would be “Senior Accountant – Mergers & Acquisitions.”

5. Tailor the Responsibilities & Requirements

Responsibilities and requirements should be different from every job description to the next, not simply copied and pasted. Ensure applicants get a clear and accurate picture of the position and what it entails by tailoring and refining the responsibilities and requirements.

Responsibilities: These should be a high-level look at what they will be doing in the role. Include ideas of projects, tasks, and day-to-day work without getting too technical.

Requirements: This is where you list specific requirements and qualifications you want candidates to possess, such as years of experience to certifications, and proficiency in specific tools and applications.

6. Review & Revise the Job Description

As with any professional written communication, it’s crucial to review and edit your work. Here are a few tips for revising a job ad:

  • Confirm your job description flows and each section makes sense individually and as a whole.
  • Share the job description with members of your team for review, particularly those with some of the skills you are looking for, so they can verify its accuracy.
  • Read it aloud to spot awkward, unclear, or boring parts. This will also help ensure everything sounds genuine.
  • Make relevant changes based on feedback from your team and your read-out-loud exercise.

Making the Most of Job Descriptions

Strategic, thoughtful job descriptions are a critical first step toward recruiting the best candidate for any position. Every organization should have a job description development process.

Here are two final tips to ensure your organization’s job descriptions are compelling:

  • Review each employee’s job description, goals, and where they are spending their time regularly (at least quarterly, ideally monthly) and assess if their job description is accurate or needs to be updated.
  • Actually USE the job description throughout internal and external hiring processes to help you hire the best candidates and maintain employee engagement and satisfaction.

Do you need someone with an outside perspective and professional experience to help you write enticing job descriptions? Contact BlueLion today at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com to discover how we will set you up to land great new hires!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.