How to Write the Perfect Job Description

To be sure you attract the right type of candidate, start by thinking about the kind of person you’d like to see in the role

When it comes to recruiting new talent for your company, it’s often standard operating procedure to start by writing a job description. However, if you start instead with a description of the person—the personality, skill sets, and growth potential you’re seeking for the long-term growth of your business—your talent acquisition program could change dramatically for the better.

“The key to finding the best talent is to clearly define and understand what you are looking for from the very beginning of the process,” says Mike Zani, CEO of PI Worldwide, a leader in science-driven insights that help optimize the performance and potential of individuals, teams, and organizations. He suggests analyzing the role to determine the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other factors (KSAOs) that are most essential to the position. To accurately do so, you’ll have to consider not just the job, but also the type of person it takes to perform this job.

You should also think long-term, and consider where you see your company, and this particular hire, going. What type of person do you need to grow your business? If you think beyond filling the immediate opening, you will have a greater likelihood of finding someone who will truly benefit your business. And by having a career path in mind and discussing it with candidates, you’ll be more likely to recruit someone who will stay for the long haul.

Additionally, seek input from others, especially those who will be working most closely with the new hire. “By not relying solely on your own understanding of the role and instead conferring with relevant stakeholders on the behavioral requirements of the job, you will be better able to understand what the job entails and which qualities the perfect candidates will possess,” says Zani.

Common mistakes when writing a job description

Here’s what not to do. “Avoid cutting and pasting from the internet; too many companies already do this and then wonder why they keep interviewing the wrong people,” says Zani. Although you may be recruiting for a position that’s offered at many other companies, that doesn’t mean your needs aren’t unique. You still need to examine your specific goals, processes, culture, and existing talent pool.

Copying an existing job description will likely result in a boring post that will turn off candidates. Your role description should encapsulate your company’s personality. When reviewing your listing, don’t just ask yourself if you’ve accurately described the job function and the type of person you need; make sure you’ve conveyed your company’s personality.

Don’t misrepresent your company or the position in an effort to attract candidates. “The more inaccurate a job description is, the more likely you are to make a bad hire,” says Rebecca Blake, director of client services at Insight Performance, a leader in HR solutions based in Massachusetts.

Yes, you want to stand out, but you still need to be accurate and clear when writing your job description. Blake suggests including details on who the new hire will report to, exactly what functions they are accountable for, and specifications or conditions such as physical demands or travel.

By doing the upfront work to craft an accurate and compelling “person description,” you’ll be more likely to attract high-caliber talent with true growth potential.


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