4 Biggest Mistakes: Crafting Great Job Descriptions

In the steps leading to recruiting, hiring and training your next top employee—the most valuable stage is crafting the job description. So why are there so many mistakes?

Why is it that so many companies make mistakes with their job descriptions? A complete job description is like any other piece of great sales copy—it engages, informs and creates a strong call-to-action.

Why is it that so many human resources departments make mistakes with their job descriptions?

It could be that many simply do not spend enough time; fantastic job descriptions—as with other notable content—often take several hours to produce.

The four biggest mistakes you are making in your job descriptions; avoid them and your organization will start to see better results, with more great hires:

1.       Misunderstanding the process:

The biggest mistake companies make in creating job descriptions is uncertainty about how a successful post is created.  What action (if any) is used to write job posts for the positions available right now? Is it a structured method, or does one person just type a few words, hoping it is clear?

Hiring managers should be continually updating old and dated copy. Keep in mind that every post can be updated, cleaned up or rewritten for maximum results.

The first, most critical step in writing job descriptions that get results—have a strategy! Start with a checklist of goals, and formulate a structured approach, to deliver the best job descriptions possible:

  • New descriptions or rewrite old ones?
  • Reasons existing job descriptions are not working.
  • What specifics to leave in, and which ones are not required
  • Has the situation changed with time?
  • How will they be used—print or online? (Hint: It makes a lot of difference!)

Create a list of the steps required to develop accurate job descriptions: specify who writes, fact-checks, approves and physically posts them. Companies working with a software-as-a-service or HRM system—Taleo, iCMIS, Ovation and others—can choose from pre written job posts; they are able, but writing them in-house gives a company more control over the process.

2.       Descriptions written by the wrong people:

Who is in charge of writing job posts?  Is it the Human Resources department, department heads or senior management? Are they knowledgeable about the requirements and training necessary to do the job?

Ideally, the job post should include feedback from those who will work closest with the new hire.

Upper management writing job descriptions could turn out be unnecessarily expensive and inefficient, especially in smaller companies.  Often, those high in the corporate chain are not as knowledgeable about the day-to-day responsibilities of a given position—resulting in a less than perfect illustration of what it actually takes to do the job.Beyond Money: How to Win and Keep Top Performers

Talk with the people on the front lines—either the incumbent in the position, or an immediate supervisor. Ask them for particulars; as long as it is someone who knows what qualifications are needed for the ideal candidate.

3.       Descriptions that are out of date:

Top businesses, in any industry, make a point to keep aware of the changing marketplace:

  • Developing new products.
  • Discovering better processes for accomplishing business goals.
  • Using new technologies to get the job done.

Job descriptions used in the past—even as recent as a few months—will most likely be obsolete and outdated. Companies are always looking for people with advanced skill sets and qualifications, and posting these new requirements accomplishes two things—casts an accurate net for just the right candidates; and educates job seekers to what skills they need to be competitive.

Drop the skills that everyone has—such as how to use email or software as Microsoft Word and Office—and list some of the newer qualifications that not everyone will have.

If your job descriptions are old—for example, asking for candidates that know how to use a fax machine—then you may have to start from the bottom up.

4.       Descriptions not optimized for the web:

Most job descriptions are now online— leading newspapers partner with web-based job boards to promote openings. This means there are two key elements to a terrific job post:

  • Headline/Titles
  • Keyword/SEO Optimization

Like the subject line of an email or the headline of a news story, the first words must jump out and grab the attention of the reader; otherwise, an otherwise brilliant career opportunity could be left in the dust. Often, the headline of a job opening is little more than an afterthought. That could be your worst mistake! Take the time—perhaps the majority of time—thinking about how to capture that prize candidate in the precious first few seconds.

The same holds true for keywords throughout the post. Good keyword position will help search engines to find the post and put it at the top—prime real estate on a search result page. The higher the placement, the more candidates will respond to your job opening.

All job descriptions must have a certain amount of adaptability. In the rank-and-file of the organization, job behavior must be relevant to the job description. However, managers or administrative staff must have some flexibility, to determine job qualifications as necessary. They have to have the right to adjust the job requirements to the skills and experience of potential candidates.

This degree of freedom should be always reflected in the job description, or at least, in the description available to middle or upper-management.


Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: FloridaPolitics.com Email: phil@floridapolitics.com Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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