Make Better Hires By Writing Better Job Descriptions




  • — March 15, 2017

    Write a job description before you post the job


    Write a job description before you post the job! Here’s how to be strategic.


    Writing a job description before you post the job is important, because the description will guide your agency’s search. Even if you are hiring internally, the job description will help people transition smoothly into their new roles.


    Here’s a brief overview on my strategy for writing your agency’s next job description.


    Start with your goal


    Begin with the end in mind: What do you want to accomplish by hiring this person? Your job description should cut to the heart of why you need someone for this role. Explain how they will contribute to the agency, the strategy behind their responsibilities, and why their job is important.


    This helps drive the right job title, too. Here’s more on choosing the right job titles.


    What are your Needs vs. Wants?


    Look at what are must-have versus nice-to-have. There are always trade-offs. For example, a need for a web developer position would be “fluent in PHP,” where as a want might be “Masters in Computer Science.”


    Be careful about how you classify your needs vs. wants, because having too many “needs” that aren’t actually necessary could intimidate perfectly good applicants. Skills are important, but many companies hire for attitude and then train for skill.


    Compare other job descriptions for ideas


    As you’re writing a job description, take a look at similar job postings to guide you and make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. In particular, look at the responsibilities that they list to see if you’ve left anything out of your description. Aquent, the staffing agency, has an extensive library of job descriptions.


    When clients ask for my help writing a job description, I point them to the Aquent library first, because the templates will typically save them time and money.


    Ensure language fits your agency’s culture


    As you write your job description, be sure your language fits your company culture. If you have a buttoned-down culture, your job description should match. If your company culture is fun and playful, the job description should showcase that personality.


    Resist the urge to skip the job description


    When you’re in a hurry to hire someone, you want to get the job posted ASAP. You may even already have a top candidate in mind.


    Slow down and take a step back. When an agency owner tells me they have the perfect candidate before they’ve defined the job, it rarely ends smoothly. And when agencies post jobs without thinking them through (that is, writing a thoughtful job description first), they end up doing a great job posting… but for the wrong job.


    Get feedback from your team


    Before you finalize the job description, get feedback from your team. They might catch something you didn’t; we all benefit from an extra pair of eyes. At a basic level—is this a job people would want?


    Translate the job description into a job posting


    Don’t just publish the job description—you’ll need to apply your marketing skills as you convert it to a standalone job posting. If someone had never heard of your company before, would they want to apply? Does the job posting convey what it’s like to work at your agency?


    Question: How do you approach job descriptions at your agency?

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    Author: Karl Sakas


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