Follow these steps to write job descriptions that highlight the value you place on your staff — and guide your employees throughout their career.
The first look a candidate has into your organization is your advertisement for an open position. Most companies use the job description for the vacancy to create the ad. The description outlines what is needed to perform the work — such as skills, experience, and qualifications. It also provides insight into where the company’s priorities lie. If the job description is too lengthy, you might surmise the company has a micromanagement vibe. If it’s too vague, job seekers may wonder if their duties are predetermined or come what may.
Approximately 1/3 of new hires quit their job within the first 90 days. With all the challenges and costs associated with recruitment, losing 33% of your new hires is an expense businesses can hardly afford. The reason most resign? More than 40% say the job wasn’t what they were led to believe during the hiring process. This costly mistake likely started with a job description that was either inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated.
1. Keep it current
A job description must outline the skills, qualifications, and experience necessary to perform the work. Those basics have to be accurate and current. For HR professionals and hiring managers, annual reviews are a great opportunity to review an employee’s job description to make sure it reflects the work they do and the skills they possess.
Once you’re confident the job description is accurate, it’s time to elaborate on:
- The best parts of the job
- The parts of the job that provide growth opportunities, and
- What the company has to offer the right candidate
2. Emphasize employees’ importance
You’ll want to start your job description with the most important parts of the job — but don’t just list them, celebrate them. Use each line of the job description to outline how you value your employees and their dedication:
“Provides outstanding customer service to internal and external clients and stakeholders.”
“Your customer-centric attitude helps us provide state-of-the-art service to our stakeholders and clients.”
A job description that attracts candidates highlights how significant the new hire’s performance is to the company, and to their own success.
The second duty not only outlines what you need, but underscores how important the employee is to the organization. Every task is necessary: no one hires people to do work that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line. A job description that attracts candidates highlights how significant the new hire’s performance is to the company, and to their own success.
3. Don’t oversell, but don’t underplay
Not every job duty is a party; some are rote tasks that need to be performed. But providing an overarching vision is key. Emphasize how the person performing the work — even the most rote task — contributes to the company. People want to take pride in their work: they want to know they’re an integral part in the success of the organization as they meet their own goals and milestones.
When you know that everything you do — no matter how glamorous or routine — contributes to everyone’s success, you can take pride in each accomplishment. Provide context into how these small duties, which may seem insignificant, contribute to the larger goal. The most boring responsibilities have value when you place value on them.
4. Rethink the rote
Some of the duties in a job description are terribly undervalued. They’re included but not considered a value proposition for the employee or the organization. Tasks like training team members are standard on supervisory or management job descriptions. They can be a line item or an opportunity to promote the worker, their team members, and the organization. Emphasize the importance of training and developing others, and the key role and rewards they will have in developing team members and launching their career trajectory.
Another underrated item is training and development. Many job descriptions include training and professional growth as an afterthought. For companies that value their employees, lifelong learning enhances the employee and the organization. When you include ongoing training, frame it as an opportunity — not a responsibility. Which of these sounds more appealing?
‘Participates in ongoing training.”
“Actively seeks out and participates in ongoing training to grow and develop skills and competencies with an eye to career growth and enhanced value within the role and the organization.”
5. Build on the basics
Job descriptions are roadmaps to success for the worker and the company. When they’re written correctly they outline the expectations for the role, providing the employee with everything they need to know to be a success. They’re a resource for performance evaluations, guiding where the employee has been effective, and where development is required. Job descriptions are launching points for promotions, as well. When the employee excels at every task on their job description, they may be ready to advance.
Start with an overview of the position — with an emphasis on how the role contributes to the worker’s own success, the success of the team, and the organization as a whole. Include 3 to 5 lines that promote the significance of the job. Then list the duties and responsibilities, weighing each task against the worker’s professional development and the company’s organizational goals. Next list the requirements for the position, with an eye to what’s really necessary, what would be a plus, and what’s not needed at all.
6. Ask yourself: is it appropriate for today’s market conditions?
For many businesses, job descriptions have been boilerplate for decades. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies were struggling to meet hiring goals, many of the largest players started dusting them off and rethinking the skills and experience they were demanding of candidates.
When applicants were plentiful, requiring a degree or a minimum amount of experience was fair game. As the market tightened, companies like Google and Apple loosened their degree requirements in exchange for talented applicants, and continue to do so today. The shift opened up jobs to a larger candidate pool, even without the sheepskin. You may have degree requirement for positions in your company, as well. Consider whether they’re actually necessary, or if they would be a plus but not a requirement.
7. Make it inclusive
Read through your job description and remove any language that would suggest one type of person is preferred over another.
A key feature of job descriptions that attract candidates is they include, rather than exclude. Remember it’s about the job, not the worker. Some language in job descriptions (and their subsequent postings) puts job seekers in self-elimination mode. They see words that suggest they’re not the right fit for the role or the company, even though they might be a great candidate.
Words like “go-getter” or “driven” could suggest you prefer younger candidates: replace them with goal-oriented. Job seekers read “compassionate” and wonder if the company is looking for a female candidate: change that to customer-centric. Read through your job description and remove any language that would suggest one type of person is preferred over another. It’s about the work, not the worker.
Job descriptions are the basis for most job postings. When they highlight the value you place on your staff, they attract top talent for every position. Then they go further, guiding the employee and the company throughout the worker’s career. Often the most overlooked tool in HR, job descriptions work from recruitment to retirement.