Your Hiring Road Map: The Job Description

The often-skipped step of creating a job description is critical to finding the right employee for your business – the first time! A job description is your road map to determining what type of employee to look for to fill your vacancy. Being clear on the position’s duties and responsibilities and the qualifications required, at the start, will save you time when screening resumes, interviewing candidates and selecting the best candidate because you will be clear on what you’re looking for. No more spending hours reading resumes of unqualified applicants. No more using your “gut-feel” when interviewing. No more hiring the wrong employees.

The most common components of a good job description are:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Qualifications, skills & experience required
  • Reporting structure

Follow these simple guidelines to create a job description which will help you find the best person for the job:

1.  Identify the main duties and responsibilities clearly.

  • Consider listing the daily, weekly, monthly and annual tasks or responsibilities for the position to make sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Summarize these tasks into the most critical functions.
  • Use good descriptive verbs (e.g. create, manage, coordinate, etc.)

2.  Be specific about the qualifications, skills and experience   required.

  • Consider requirements for education, work experience, technical skills and soft skills.
  • Be specific about what qualifications the successful candidate must have. One of the biggest job description mistakes is listing vague & non-specific qualifications.
  • Specify to what degree the candidate needs to possess the skills you require. For instance, if you need someone who needs to be able to do heavy lifting, specify the weight they need to be able to comfortably lift.
  • Include the level of education that needs to have been attained (e.g. grade 12, undergraduate degree in Science, P. Eng).
  • For “soft” skills that you require (e.g. organizational skills, communication skills), specify how strong their skills need to be or what they need to apply their skills towards. For example, “Good communication skills” can be improved by saying “Proven communication skills resolving customer complaints”.

3. Be realistic about must-have skills and nice-to-have skills.

  • Distinguish between what is absolutely required for the position, and what would be nice to have (e.g. must have grade 12 education; preferable to have post-secondary education in business administration).
  • Be realistic. Don’t ask for more than you need, but don’t settle for mediocre either.
  • Asking for too much may prevent suitable candidates from applying; asking for too little may attract too many underqualified applicants.

4. Be clear on the reporting relationships that this position has.

  • Specify who the position reports to.
  • Specify who reports to the position.
  • Resolve any conflicts or problems with the reporting structure before you hire.

A job description can be anywhere from one page to several pages long. Just make sure you are as detailed and as specific as possible. Now that you have a job description, you can use it to advertise position vacancies, to communicate responsibilities to prospective candidates, to develop screening criteria during interviews, and even to set expectations with new or existing employees in the position.

I encourage anyone looking to hire an employee to follow these steps to create a thorough job description first. It will save you time, money and headaches down the road!


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