In recent years we have seen varying trends in our client’s attitudes to towards writing job descriptions and they tend to be one of four main types:
Reluctant writers who prefer to give us a verbal description of the role.
Generalists who see the roles as generic eg: a Purchase Ledger Clerk’s duties are always the same.
Detailed job describers who include ALL duties for each role.
Holistic describers who want the reader to see the importance of the role within the wider context of the business.
There are benefits to each of these and as an agency it is our job to work with our clients’ individual style. We do, however find that writing a formal job description, even in basic form can be a useful tool as part of the interview process. Indeed, as consultants, we have written job descriptions on behalf of our clients, who have used them to develop a clearer focus on a given role.
Broadly speaking, the easiest and most efficient way to formulate the job description is to make a list of standard duties, additional duties and a person specification. This can be used as a checklist for screening CVs and as part of the interview process. At RG we are often asked about processes, or how a client can improve everything from retention to attraction; we know that in order to effectively share what you want, time must be taken to clarify each role and understand how each duty contributes to the wider business.
Whilst all this need not be shared, the more relevant information you can provide to candidates, the more likely you are to attract the best.
Standard duties – What will someone do?
You may feel that your duties are ‘standard’, but it is important not to take this as a given. Candidates may be attracted from a wide range of backgrounds and duties can vary widely at every level.
To fully utilise the job description, some clients choose to RAG rate the duties using a traffic light system. In this way, they are set up for both CV screening and interview.
Clients can therefore direct questions to any areas which are red on the CV and investigate further.
Additional duties – What will someone do occasionally?
This section should not be underestimated as we often receive feedback from candidates that they were unaware that of the specifics of additional duties.
A Junior Accounts Clerk may not be ready to step up and support the Management Accountant in report writing, or alternatively, could relish the opportunity.
Having the information there beforehand allows the interviewer to examine this more closely and allows candidates to deselect themselves from roles which do not suit them.
Person Specification – What must they know, have done, or be able to do?
This is the most essential part of a job description and the very best job descriptions are split into skills and experience. These are surprisingly easy to confuse!
Think ‘Able to manage a small team of credit controllers’ vs ‘Has managed a small team of credit controllers’ and decide just how important actual experience is. If it is a skill they can demonstrate at interview, then it does not need to be in your experience list and including it could result in candidates who are more than capable of doing the job failing to apply.
Often, IT packages are included in this section, so if you need someone who is absolutely confident on SAP and you don’t have time to train them, then it needs to go in the experience section.
These may seem obvious points, but feedback shows that the best results are gained when this separation is explicit.
How important is a Holistic approach?
From a candidate’s point of view, a company who provides them with lots of information is extremely attractive. In a candidate driven market, being able to highlight a company’s and department’s key features and achievements is more likely to attract the best applicants. In best practice examples we have seen companies who are recruiting for more senior roles sharing presentation materials with candidates. If we want to attract the best, why not prepare a pack about the department/company’s key features for ALL vacancies? Including statements from those who already work in the team is a great idea, as it gives the reader an understanding of what it is really like to work there. Why not include ‘A day in the life of …’ and ask those already in the role to write it as part of their appraisal cycle? When managing a large team or performing a HR function, it is often interesting to see the difference between our own and the perceptions of those performing the role on a daily basis.
There is so much that can be done to attract the right candidates at initial contact, through the interview stage and to the all-important offer stage; all of this starts with a clear and informative job description.
Contact us for free help or advice on writing a job description.
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