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Time to Re-Write That Job Description?

August 21, 2018

By: Crystal Spraggins

In today’s fast-moving work environments, it’s not uncommon for someone to take a job without even seeing an actual job description...often because one doesn't exist! And if the job applicant is lucky enough to see one, chances are it's completely out of date because of rapid changes in responsibilities. Many times, outdated job descriptions don’t refresh until finding a new hire becomes a priority. It’s a vicious cycle.

Whether creating a job description from scratch or working from an existing one, you’ll want to jot down the traits and behaviors a new hire will need to succeed in the position. You’ll then use that information to craft an amazing job posting that will attract – rather than repel – the most highly qualified candidates. But that's step two...first and foremost, we need to accurately capture the vital information that job seekers and employees look for in a job description.

The Art of Writing a Job Description

Writing a job description can be frustrating, time-consuming, and sometimes just boring!  However, a solid job description heads off many problems at the pass.

To attract and retain top employees, every job description should contain the following elements:

  • Job Title (no brainer, but it happens)
  • Summary of Job (i.e., what is the main purpose of this function?)
  • Reporting relationship (to whom does this position report to? Does the position have direct reports of their own?)
  • Non-essential but regular job duties
  • Education requirements
  • Skill and ability requirements
  • A bit about your company culture and benefits. (You’ll be able to expand on this in a job posting.)

Bonus points if you describe not just what should be done, but how it should be done. This isn’t a call for micromanagement. Rather, it’s a call for clarity. Let’s say the job is for an accountant. If that accountant is responsible for the month-end close, which needs to be completed by the 15th of the month following, then the job description should say as much.

It’s All About the Traits

Perhaps the hardest part of constructing the job description is writing the traits needed for the job. This requires a good understanding of the technical aspects of the job as well as the work environment. Suppose you have a sales position that necessitates cold calling and offers no face-to-face with prospects. That job description should include behavioral traits that would cause someone to thrive in this environment, such as building rapport quickly over the phone, an engaging and persuasive style of communication, and an entrepreneurial spirit that would drive that salesperson to ask for a close over the phone.

After documenting the traits needed for the job, you’ll want to take steps to ensure you hire someone with those traits. Don’t rely on the interview alone. Check references and, more importantly, incorporate a behavioral assessment into the hiring process for an objective look at your candidate’s job qualifications.

Lastly, Avoid This Common Job Description Mistake

Job description mistakes aren’t limited to what’s not included. Sometimes the description contains too much information. These everything-and-the-kitchen-sink job descriptions are a bear to create and a total turn off to most qualified candidates. If the candidate is experienced, they probably know the job requirements and (or even better) than the hiring manager. Job descriptions that go on and on are a tip-off to the expert that the job environment may be rigid and the supervisor prone to micromanaging. In addition to everything else, a job description is a marketing tool for the company since it is now common practice to include job descriptions in job postings. Does it lure good candidates in or act as a deterrent?

It’s easy to ignore the importance of the job description, believing it can always be written “one day.” Meanwhile, work needs to get done, and a body needs to get in the chair…now!  That’s great if someone is meeting or exceeding expectations. It’s not so great when someone isn’t, and then it becomes obvious those expectations weren’t clearly communicated, to begin with. Don’t make that mistake. For the best chances of hiring the right person for the job, and save yourself some frustration, take the time to craft a carefully worded job description from the get-go.

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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