3 Most Overlooked Elements of Writing a Job Description

Having trouble finding the right candidate for the job? Don’t overlook these important elements when writing job descriptions for your company.

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3 Most Overlooked Elements of Writing a Job Description

Here's what you need to know:

  • Job descriptions must clearly define responsibilities and authority
  • They must also define success factors and describe the work environment for a role
  • Consider testing the language in job descriptions with a diverse group before finalizing

The job description is an essential document in business, human resources, and recruiting. HR and people staff, hiring managers, and recruiters write job descriptions or are involved in their creation process. They can be dull, dry documents — but they shouldn’t be.

If you’re in recruiting or HR roles, you are intimately familiar with job descriptions. You may use them in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Creating job postings
  • Guiding your candidate interviews
  • Including them in offer packets

job description is a written document that describes a work role. It’s a useful communication tool for practical and legal reasons, and it describes the minimum requirements and experience needed to do certain work.

But it’s more than that. There are elements of an effective job description that are often overlooked or not even included that are incredibly helpful for hiring top talent.

Let’s look at the role a strong job description plays in your hiring process — and 3 of the most commonly overlooked elements when creating them.

The importance of a well-crafted job description

Global consultancy firm Deloitte sees frequent challenges to crafting accurate and engaging job descriptions. Lack of information and inconsistencies in job data make it difficult to define jobs, skills, and competencies. Job descriptions are frequently outdated and unstructured; job grading is often inconsistent across locations and companies. Or, it’s not aligned with current workforce competencies and development needs. Job evaluation methods are inadequate for the changing nature of modern work.

An effective job description holds an important place in your recruiting process. Deloitte recommends replacing traditional job descriptions with a simplified system of defining jobs they term “Job Architecture.” This framework truly defines jobs, roles, and career development, rather than just analyzing and listing jobs.

Another talent industry expert weighs in on job description best practices. Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, says asking hiring managers what they want in candidates is a problem — it prevents companies from hiring the best talent. He says great job descriptions define success factors and work environments for the role. Describing major objectives and what top performers do in the role drives the best hires.

Adler says it’s descriptions like these that allow employers to create great job descriptions — the kinds of job descriptions that drive exceptional candidate experience. He adds that candidate experience should start with a compelling and inviting job description. This makes a well-crafted job description the centerpiece of candidate experience and hiring.

Great job descriptions define success factors and work environments for the role. Describing major objectives and what top performers do in the role drives the best hires.

3 commonly overlooked elements of writing job descriptions

Job descriptions are important not only for documenting jobs — they must define the roles and engage candidates. Traditional job descriptions list responsibilities, educational requirements, experience, and technical skills required. But they overlook important elements that recruiters, hiring managers, and organizations need to truly define their jobs and roles.

Here are 3 key elements that often get overlooked.

Assign responsibility and authority

Award-winning business consultant Renee Fellman discusses the disastrous results of overlooking important aspects of job descriptions. You must clearly define and assign responsibilities and authority. It’s crucial to include who has the authority to make specific decisions in an organization.

Some important areas of responsibility to clearly assign in the job description include:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Purchasing company-wide software
  • Directing work teams for customer orders
  • Establishing prices and pricing policy
  • Implementing financial systems

Fellman advises business leaders to closely examine job descriptions for essential functions. They need to make sure they have clearly defined who has authority for important decision-making responsibilities.

Define success factors and work environment

Most traditional job descriptions have a standard format for skills and experience requirements. They also include tasks, duties, and educational requirements. But Adler recommends designing the job description as the first step in an exceptional employee experience. Define success factors and describe the work environment for the role. This gives the candidate a clear picture of what it takes to be effective and what to expect on the job.

Be careful with language

Limiting and careless language discourages candidates — the opposite of what you want a job description to do.

In Harvard Business Review, innovation and disruption theorist Whitney Johnson cautions job description writers to be careful with language. She explains that limiting and careless language discourages candidates — the opposite of what you want a job description to do.

The job description should invite applicants and be a positive part of the candidate experience. Johnson points out that gender-biased language, either overly masculine or feminine, can discourage candidates of any gender. Roche Diagnostics global head of HR Kristen Pressner suggests testing the language in job descriptions with a diverse group before finalizing.

More tips for writing effective job descriptions

HR and recruiting professionals know that job descriptions have to be more than just static documents. Use these tips in addition to the overlooked elements described above. They help create the dynamic job descriptions you need today:

  • Justin Cerilli of executive search firm Russell Reynolds and Associates says the best job descriptions must include culture, mission, and values. They should combine marketing and a true picture of the role.
  • Robert Half Technology director John Reed recommends getting input on job descriptions from current employees.
  • iCims founder and CEO Colin Day says job descriptions should be exciting and engaging. They must include information about company growth and development.

Presenting an open role to the market requires more than just dull words about job responsibilities and requirements. Effective, engaging, and inclusive job descriptions attract the talent needed for a modern workforce. Make sure your job postings are telling candidates everything they need to know.

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