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Job Description Tips and Innovation

Does a Job Description still have a role to play in the recruitment and talent acquisition process? Most people argue that it does. This is because a PD is a unique document that comprehensively reflects the core accountabilities of each role within a company context.

A Job Description, also commonly known as a Position Description (PD) should be the “go to” resource for employees to re-check their focus and objectives and to clarify the specific tasks and activities that will contribute to overall company success.

Often performance measures, commonly known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), are listed within a modern PD. These KPIs allow your company to measure just how well each employee is performing in their role. They set the expectation for each employee and align their contribution to the overall strategic direction of the company.

Some companies release a more generalised Position Overview document to candidates when they apply for a role. This allows candidates to get a better sense for the role without being overwhelmed by any role detail “minutia”. Often, companies will send a more detailed Job Description to those shortlisted for the role.

So instead of ignoring that pile of outdated Position Descriptions (in the soft or hard copy filing cabinet in your office), dust off your PDs and improve them with the following suggestions.

Position your PDs as the cornerstone of accountability for employee performance and in turn, improve your business performance.

Hiring Manager involvement

If the Human Resources or Talent Acquisition team is the ONLY group within your company that cares about, reviews, updates and sends Job Descriptions to prospective employees, you have a cultural problem to resolve within your company.

Buy-in from Hiring Managers or Department Heads is CRITICAL if you want Job Descriptions to play a pivotal role in communicating the tasks, activities and accountabilities for those who work within your company. This buy-in should come in the form of Hiring Manager/Department Head reviews of existing Position Descriptions (regularly!), communicating and re-confirming PDs with existing team members and clarifying areas of uncertainty if relevant.

With a clear sense of direction and focus, you should be surprised by the uplift in output from your teams.

In addition, using Position Descriptions as a reference point for Performance Reviews and ongoing professional development activities is essential if you want this document to play an active role in the performance of your company.

Why? Because in essence Job Descriptions should reflect the work undertaken by your employees every day. In fact, Key Performance Indicators should be developed from your accurate and relevant Job Descriptions and discussed with employees on an ongoing basis.

Customizing Position Description templates

Having a consistent approach to creating Job Descriptions is definitely recommended. Professionally presented and articulated Position Descriptions contribute to your overall employee brand message. They also ensure that there is consistency in the way that the company communicates each role.

This does not mean that the language in each Job Description must be the same. In fact without appropriate customization, Job Descriptions become meaningfulness and irrelevant.

I always like to think of Job Descriptions as “living documents” within your company, not static historical documents that get put in the bottom drawer and forgotten, literally and figuratively speaking!

A checklist for those creating, editing and reviewing Job Descriptions

Check the currency of your existing Position Descriptions

Make sure that your Job Descriptions reflect a current year date. This indicates that your company has spent some time reviewing the various activities, tasks and accountability for each role and updated them as company requirements change.

There is nothing worse than a prospective candidate reading through a Job Description and noticing that the footer contains a document creation date of 3-5 years prior! The work world is evolving rapidly. Your Position Descriptions MUST keep pace.

Check for typos and “lingo” that prospective employees may not understand

It is all very well for you to use acronyms that make sense WITHIN your company context but unless they mean something to those reviewing your JD, the language can alienate people. Try to use language that is universally used in the specific role type and sector.

Also, check for spelling mistakes. Even simple errors reflect poorly on your employee brand.

Salary indicators

Whether you should list the salary for a role on your Job Description is a matter that has been debated for years. There are pros and cons for doing so.

If you do choose to reflect a salary or a salary range on your Job Description, make sure you offer a specific explanation for how your company will determine the salary that will be offered to the successful candidate. The salary should be aligned to the candidate’s level of experience and specialist skills and will vary depending on these factors.

Seek feedback on JD format and content

Get regular input from those working within your company about the effectiveness of your Job Descriptions. What works? What doesn’t? Ask for ideas and suggestions for change that will help employees to better understand their accountabilities in their current positions.

Alter your format slightly based on the regular feedback you get from those who work to your Job Descriptions currently.

Outline the “bigger picture”

Most people are not motivated by performing their role in a company in isolation. Driven and talented people like to understand how their role contributes to the success of the company as a whole.

Contemporary Job Descriptions include reference to how each role contributes to the overall strategic direction of the company. Of course, in turn, this drives improved company performance. Use your Job Description as a opportunity to demonstrate the pivotal role each employee makes to overall company success. Employees like to work for companies that have goals, focus and strategic objectives in place to win!

Regularly review employee performance against PD accountabilities

If there is a disconnect between your Job Descriptions and Key Performance Indicators, the JDs becomes redundant. Modern PDs often contain (or make reference to) KPIs aligned to each accountability in the PD itself.

However when your Job Descriptions and KPI’s are in alignment, Hiring Managers or your Talent Acquisition team can easily have conversations with employees about their performance, targets and goals.

The result? Employees with a clearer understanding of their responsibilities and a greater sense of buy-in given they are clear on the ways in which they contribute to overall company performance.

Experiment with format to spark curiosity and “lock it down”

Gone are the days when you can impress candidates with a black and white Job Description that sparks no interest or curiosity. Make your copy compelling, experiment with your layout and then lock the document down.

Try to find ways for your Job Descriptions to stand out from the crowd without falling victim to passing fads in design and layout. Make sure that your Job Descriptions can be easily read on mobile devices as this is the format most candidates will be using when they review the document.

Once finalised, don’t send WORD format Job Descriptions to candidates in the marketplace. Your employee brand will suffer. Use imagery and company design standards (including specific fonts) to bring your Job Descriptions to life and inspire talented candidates to submit their applications before your application close date.

Checklist for talented individuals reviewing Job Descriptions

Ask if a Job Description is available for your review before an interview. Read the Job Description before you head in to any interview. That way you can clarify any points you don’t understand during the interview(s) you attend

Use the Job Description as a cue for forming examples of key achievements that you can discuss at interview. The more relevant those key achievements are to the role being interviewed for, the better

If the Job Description doesn’t reflect weightings for each task, activity or accountability, consider asking what the bulk of your time will be spent in the role. For example, the JD might reflect administration and support tasks as well as strategic tasks. Try to get a sense for how much time you are likely to be spending in each area to get a better sense for whether the role is a good fit for you

Beware of Job Descriptions with very old file dates. It is unfortunate but common for candidates to be shown JDs that are quite out of date. This might reflect that the Job Description bares no resemblance to the work you will ACTUALLY be tasked with in advertised positions

Further Reading and Resources

Recruitee – The modern job description template

How to craft highly effective job descriptions | cio.com

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