Writing a Job Description
5 Simple Steps To Writing An Incisive Job Description
The job description is a critical document for every position at every company looking to recruit. A good job description should do exactly what it says, that is to be a description of the job. It should cover a number of important elements:
- It describes the skills and competencies that are needed to perform the vacancy;
- It will describe the duties expected to performed on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis
- It defines where the job fits within the company, the department / business unit and the level of position;
- It is used as the base for the employment contract;
- It is a valuable performance management tool for when you want to look back and measure how well someone is performing their duties
This short blog outlines how to write a job description that is clear, incisive and accurately describes the position – in 5 simple steps.
1. Job Title
First it is essential that you give the job description / position the right title. The appropriate job title should have the following qualities:
- It will accurately reflect the purpose of the job and the responsibilities being performed
- It is generic enough that it can be compared to similar jobs in the industry but detailed enough so you are targeting candidates with the relevant experience to apply
- If the company has an internal grade, this can be included along with its ranking against other jobs within the organisation
- It is free of gender or age implications
- It is self-explanatory for recruitment purposes (in most online job searches, the job title is the main keyword searched).
An example of a good job title is “Business Analyst”, a better example would be to include the industry “Equity Derivatives Business Analyst”. An example of a bad job title for the same position would be ‘Technology Analyst”. With Technology being so vast with hundreds of positions available, this title gives you little indication of what the job is for.
2. Environment and Duties
At the beginning of all job descriptions it is important to include some information on the company or at least the department within the company the vacancy is for. This will start to build the picture for the candidate.
The job description requires details of the duties and responsibilities associated with the role, typically with the amount of time expected to be dedicated to each task. This can be represented as a percentage (i.e. support 30%, requirement gathering 40% etc).
The descriptions of each task should be no more than a couple of sentences and should be result based, containing an action and a purpose (eg ‘gather requirements from the Equity Derivative Front Office teams for technical specifications to be written and passed onto the development team’).
The list of duties and responsibilities will vary in length, but as a rule, should be as short as possible, otherwise the document becomes an operational manual rather than a job description.
Vacancies within smaller companies (eg “IT Support) may have more tasks associated with them, due to their ‘all rounder’ nature, but you should still aim to keep your list to around 10-15 tasks and preferably less.
3. Skills required and competencies
Skills and competencies should be listed separately from each other, as they are two quite separate things. Skills are activities the candidate can perform based on what they have learned in the past, or knowledge they have obtained in past roles or from education. Competencies are the traits or attributes you expect the candidate to display in the role.
An example of a skill is the ability to ask precise questions so you can obtain the information required. It is a skill that can be learned through study and practice. An example of a competency, on the other hand can be, strong communication skills, which is a characteristic displayed by a person.
It has now become a modern trend towards competency-based job descriptions, giving extra weight to the behavioural competencies such as leadership, teamwork, flexibility, communication and initiative.
It is important to include reporting lines and working relationships in your job description. Reporting lines signify the responsibilities of the position by showing who the candidate reports to and who reports to them. This is important, not only in relation to compliance issues, but also to give the candidate an insight into the hierarchical structure of the organisation and how their position fits into it.
Working relationships are the people and departments the position requires the candidate to work closely with. It is a good idea to give an indication of the size of such departments and the extent of interaction.
If the position is senior with management of a large amount of people an organisational chart is a good way to represent relationships in a job description, with vertical lines between boxes demonstrating reporting lines and horizontal lines showing working relationships.
Instead of assigning a particular salary to the position, work out a salary range to include that is competitive for the required skill set, this will allow for variations in education and experience of interested candidates. However, be aware that the wider the salary range quoted, the candidate quality will become more diverse.
Company Benefits- Any benefits offered are not essential to include, but, to attract highly sought after candidates including any perks can make your company and position more attractive.
A good job description is much more than a bullet point list of tasks and responsibilities. If well written, it gives the reader a picture of the environment and what can be expected from the duties involved. It not only provides a clear scope of the position for potential candidates, but is also a useful tool for measuring performance and a vital reference in the event of disputes or disciplinary issues (including probation period reviews)