A qualified pool of applicants is the key to finding the right candidate to fill a job opening. Hiring managers start the process by writing good job descriptions. Once written, the document can be posted internally to see if a qualified candidate already exists in the company, or posted externally to bring new skills and knowledge into the organization.
In this article, we're going to cover the topic of writing effective job descriptions. As part of that explanation, we'll start by talking about why writing one is so important in the first place. Next, we'll outline a process that can be used when developing the job description. Finally, we'll provide a well-written example.
The purpose of a job description is to relay to the reader the important facts about the position. In practice, they can be used both when attempting to fill an opening as well as providing existing employees with a clearer picture of what's expected of them in terms of performance.
Over time, companies evolve, as does the expectations the leadership of an organization have for their employees. This brings to mind a very good reason to not only write a job description, but also to keep it current. As the company evolves, so does the supporting organization. Having an up-to-date document can be essential to survival in today's workplace.
Writing an effective job description starts with understanding the purpose of the document, which is to identify the truly critical functions of the position. Understanding these functions then allows the writer to:
This last point is an important one because the document needs to identify:
We're going to get into more detail for each of the above elements in the paragraphs below, as we begin to outline the process for putting this document together.
This statement should convey to the reader the overall objective of the job. As mentioned earlier, it's typically three or four sentences long, and should contain the essential roles and responsibilities of the position as well as the objective of the work. This statement should include reporting relationships and the most important functions of the person in this career.
When developing the roles and responsibilities it's helpful to go through an exercise that lists out:
The roles and responsibilities statement will focus on major job functions; however, the information gathered in this step will be used later when writing the Results section. It's good practice to start each functional description with an action verb. This will be demonstrated in the examples provided later on.
Once the job functions have been identified, they need to be expanded by adding to each one the processes used in that function. These are the tools and / or skills that the person in this role will need to possess in order to accomplish their objectives. Processes can include specialized knowledge, skills, or experience.
At this point, the writer should have a list of all the major functions as well as sub-functions. They should be listed in order of importance, which should translate into the percent of time spent on each. The writer should have also listed out the processes that will be used to fulfill each function.
When talking about results, this is another way to think about the purpose of the position. The writer needs to answer the question: What results do we expect this person to achieve? This could be as simple as assembling a given number of widgets each day, or as complicated as ensuring a $160M budget is not exceeded. When the results are added to the above information, the outcome is a more complete statement. The writer has identified the function, the process for completing it, as well as the expected results.
To summarize the steps necessary to complete a job description:
Once the above steps have been completed, it's easier to determine the skills, knowledge, and experience required of the position. Finally, the writer now has enough information to create a position title and summarize the general purpose of the job.
Now that the entire process has been outlined, it's time to put this information into practice using an example. In this case, a project management position was chosen, which involves a complex installation of a customer system.
In this simplified example, the project manager will have only three major functions that relate to cost, quality, and schedule, including:
Next details are added to these functions by supplying the roles, processes, and results:
Now that the expectations of the position have been identified, it's easier to develop a summary statement, choose an appropriate title for this job, identify the skills, knowledge, and experience required of the position. That's exactly what was done in the complete example we've put together and made available for download: Sample Job Description.
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