To create a clear, simple, effective job description, follow this template.
Job descriptions are indispensable. No matter how robust your business networks are or how well-known your company is, you’ll always need an effective job description to promote opportunities and find the right person for an open position. And frankly, candidates at all levels will expect one!
A job description is your conduit to talent and often the first point of contact. Performing both HR and marketing functions, this document needs to ‘sell’ as much as tell. It must clearly defining the position requirements while attracting and holding the interest of top candidates who often have no shortage of options for their next career move.
While every company and every opportunity is unique, an effective job description follows a consistent template across a range of industries, positions and business cultures.
Yet during my 15 years of working in executive search and corporate talent acquisition, I have seen many companies continue to get it wrong, unknowingly compromising their talent pipeline at the very top of the funnel.
Following these four best practices will help your organization build an effective job description for any role, from entry level to C-suite.
Limit a job description to a single page
I frequently work with LLR’s portfolio companies to develop effective job descriptions, and if I’m going to send them out to our business networks, I make sure they don’t exceed a single page. I get a lot of pushback on this, with companies insisting that the details just can’t fit that small space. But once they develop the discipline, they realize that it can be done and that the resulting document is all the better for it.
Why? If you’re calling on people in your network to help you find talent, you owe it to them to make the task as easy as possible. People are busy, and you’re far more likely to get a response if you give them something that’s simple, straightforward and can be skimmed quickly.
Potential candidates are busy, too, so don’t overwhelm them with the minutiae at this early stage of the process. Keep the job description at a high level that describes what your company does and why they do it, gives a flavor of the culture and describes the key expectations and accountabilities of the position that will create success for the individual and the company.
List accountabilities, not behaviors
I come across many job descriptions that are loaded with soft skills that add bulk without communicating the core business purpose of the role. Behaviors such as communication skills, organization, time management, a strong work ethic and professionalism are important, but they should be a given—especially at the leadership level.
Ultimately, those soft skills are important because they support a specific purpose. Instead of focusing on the skills required, go deeper and define the purpose. What does the person in this role need to do? What are they accountable for? What do they need to achieve by the end of their first year to support the company’s business strategy? Strip out the behavioral statements and replace them with up to five accountability statements that are listed in descending order of importance.
For example: a job description for sales might include reaching a specific sales target; for business development, expanding into a specific market; for IT, improving system performance or reducing system costs.
I call this process “scorecarding” and consider it an essential business exercise. Identifying job requirements in terms of accountabilities can shed new light on those critical yet hard-to-fill positions by replacing vague behavioral statements with clear expectations. For more on how to develop scorecards, read my post, Why Scorecards Help You Find, Hire and Assess the Right Talent.
Showcase company culture in the job description
Culture is the glue that holds your organization together. And it also makes your company “sticky” by attracting potential hires. While factors such as compensation and upward mobility are important, culture is a big part of any candidate’s decision to apply for and accept a new position. That’s especially true of the younger generations who are increasingly motivated to align their careers with companies that share their values.
Your job description should tell a concise but compelling story about the company and its culture. What is the company doing? And how do these things get done? There are a million ways to define culture, but in the simplest terms, it defines the what, the why and the how of your organization. What are you on a mission to accomplish? Why is it so important? And how do you go about getting it done? Does it involve a flat hierarchy? An above-and-beyond commitment to continuous learning? Foosball every Friday?
Think about a job description like a marketer
Marketers need to cut through the clutter, attract a desired audience and inspire them to take action. Effective job descriptions need to perform the same marketing function for the HR department, and their performance can be improved by using these tips to make the document more accessible and actionable:
- Bullets are your friend. Use them to break up the information into an easy-to-skim list
- Break text into short paragraphs that are easier to read and create inviting white space
- Include clear benefit statements that tell candidates what’s in it for them
- Be ruthlessly concise and eliminate vague words like “sometimes” or “often”
- Include a URL where interested candidates can learn more about your company and its culture
Putting it all together: An effective job description template.
To create a clear, simple, meaningful job description, follow this template:
Insert Job Title
This section includes two or three sentences that describes the role, provides some context, and shows how it fits into the company’s strategy.
- Up to five accountability statements that clearly define a specific expectation and align it with a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely) goal.
- Accountability statement #2
- Accountability statement #3
- Accountability statement #4
- Accountability statement #5
Skills and requirements:
Include any education, certification, hard skills, or experience that is required by the role.
About the company:
Describe the company, location, size, key markets and any other important points. Include the mission and vision statements, and provide some insight into the unique culture and values your organization supports. Provide the company’s URL so that candidates can learn more.
Include a statement that defines your company’s commitment to being an equal opportunity employer.
Provide clear instructions on how to apply for the position.