Five Tips for Writing Effective Job Descriptions

One of the key tools hiring managers have at their disposal when seeking new employees is the job description. Its content and design could well determine whether an ideal candidate responds to your inquiry or passes you by for another offer.

So, where do you begin?

Before putting anything to print, it is advisable to scrutinize just exactly what the job entails and the kind of candidate you are seeking. Seek the input of coworkers, particularly those who will be directly working with the new employee or perform the same tasks.

Exceptions aside, there are five key areas to consider when preparing a job description. They include:  job title, job summary, minimum job requirements, key responsibilities, and a disclaimer.

The job title should be precise, not ambiguous. Are you looking for a clerk or a senior clerk, an accountant or a chief accountant? Don’t be afraid to research how others in your industry are describing themselves in advertisements or trade journals. At the same time, make sure it reflects your company’s needs.

The job title is generally a brief description of the function of the job and a general overview of the position. Keep it brief.

More information may be developed in the job summary which outlines all the duties to be performed. Don’t be afraid to use an existing job description and tweak it if necessary to address your current needs. At this point descriptions are relatively brief, although there are exceptions depending on the complexity of the position.

When listing the key responsibilities, describe the essential duties to be performed. You should keep to the more relevant duties. Minor responsibilities tend to clutter the job description landscape. Also, do not list the ideal skills you would like a candidate to have —  the perfect candidate rarely exists.  This is the time to talk about the essential points of a position and its primary responsibilities. Also, speak in the present tense, using action verbs: (example) “Greets customers at reception desk in a friendly voice.”

By listing minimum job requirements you are telling prospective candidates they need just that, a minimum of certain skills, abilities and knowledge. It should be interpreted that anyone not having those qualifications should not bother to apply for the job.

As a hiring manager you need to determine if a high school education or something higher is required. This is the time to consider a candidates’ experience – time in a particular position, supervisory or management roles, etc. This is also the time to consider special skills such as computer programming, writing and editing, or design skills.

A well-written job description should also contain a disclaimer. The disclaimer should make it clear that the job description is a summary of what a job entails and is not a complete or exhaustive description of what may be expected. It could be that the tasks and duties outlined in the job description may not exactly fit what the position eventually turns into. It should also include language stating that other duties not outlined in the job description may be expected. The idea is to cover all possible bases.

In the end, a well-fashioned job description should serve its purpose by drawing the interest of the best possible candidates.

Speaking of ” best possible candidates,” when you’re looking for skilled and reliable professionals for your Lake Oswego, Portland, Seattle, Anchorage, Tacoma, or Chicago business, contact a recruiter at the Opti Staffing Group. We can place terrific workers in your temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire assignments. We look forward to hearing from you!

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