Five essential elements of an effective job description

Why are most job descriptions (JDs) boring to read? And why do they seem to be copy pasted from somewhere, without much thought going into them? Truth is, most hiring managers are usually so busy that when they put their thoughts into action, a lot is lost in translation. The temptation to copy material from a similar job description always exists. Poorly written job descriptions then become the basis on which recruiters select keywords to look for candidates online. Often, this leads to mismatched choices that waste the time and effort of the recruiter as well as the hiring manager.

An effective JD: A critical component to attract the right talent

According to a survey, the percentage of engaged employees worldwide is a mere 13%. Hiring the wrong candidates is one of the most important reasons for disengaged employees and ineffective JDs aggravate the crisis, not to speak of the cost, time, and effort wasted. Poorly written, uninformative and non-targeted job descriptions make it difficult to attract qualified talent and not attracting the right talent has an opportunity cost attached to it.

An effective job description delivers at least four benefits straightaway:

a) Increased employee satisfaction and engagement

b) Enhanced motivation and professional ambition

c) Improved quality of human resources

d) Enhanced reliability of annual performance reviews

To attract the right talent, the best thing your company can do is to develop informative, comprehensive, and standardised job descriptions that portray the job responsibilities and duties most accurately. Your hiring strategy must be built upon effective job descriptions that incorporate the following five key elements.

1. Job title and summary: A relevant title helps define the general nature of a job effectively. A good job title must be categorical and provide a sense of identity for the employee. The summary must convey the position’s responsibilities, duties, nature of work, and purpose – in a short and crisp manner. An effective summary helps a reader quickly grasp whether the job fits him or her. Moreover, it helps the jobseeker gain a general understanding of a position at first sight, without being overwhelmed by specific job requirements.

2. Competencies: Competencies are the most important component of a JD. The section on competencies describes the knowledge, skills, and capabilities required to be successful in the job. The description must be detailed enough for prospective candidates to assess if they have the experience and education to qualify for the position. For the hiring manager, competencies help benchmark a candidate in relation to others.

3. Work environment and activities: By providing a description of the work activities and the environment, you provide a prospective candidate a very important contextual reference to make a decision. This can include the immediate working environment, equipment, and software and hardware tools, extent of interaction with colleagues and management, the work schedule, and level of responsibility. A very important disclosure is the work culture of the company. An effective job description must also organise the daily tasks into meaningful categories.

4. Performance expectations: An effective job description must also detail expectations of performance, benchmarked to departmental and organisational standards of excellence. You can organise performance expectations according to the type of work activities or according to level of importance.

5. Compensation and benefits: You must set realistic expectations of compensation as well as any potential variable compensation components. For many candidates, compensation is an important factor in making a decision and it is also something over which organisations are sometimes sued. It is critical that the job description defines the components that are evaluated when assessing salary grades, if the hiring is based on experience. Finally, the job description must state if the individual is eligible for benefits.

Make your hiring strategy efficient to attract the right talent

An effective job description makes your hiring strategy all the more efficient by helping new hires quickly acclimatise to the unfamiliar environment, and clearly setting the expectations for delivery and behaviours. Give the employee ample time to review and reflect on the job requirements and prepare for the interview by making the job description available with the application. Finally, once you have made the job offer, get the employee to sign the job description and place it in his or her file. This small step helps you hedge against employment-related litigations.

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