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Job Description Writing Tips

Job descriptions are an essential part of hiring and managing employees. These written summaries are important tools as they:

  • Attract the right job candidates.
  • Describe the major areas of an employee’s job or position.
  • Serve as a major basis for outlining performance expectations, job training, job evaluation, and career advancement.

I often hear candidates say they have read many job descriptions, but often these descriptions don’t give them enough information to want to apply for the position. Don’t make this same mistake! Here are seven tips to help you develop a job description which communicates your needs and gives candidates a clear understanding of the job.

  1. Common Title: Use a title which is common in your industry and comparable to those used at other organizations. Candidate should be able to look at the title and already have an understanding of the job duties and requirements.

  2. Clear Language: Be clear and concise. A job description is not the place to communicate your fun corporate culture or your amazing vocabulary. It is the perfect place to be direct and specific.

  3. Accurate Description: Describe the duties, skills, and knowledge required for this position. The goal is to clearly communicate what a candidate needs to succeed in the position. I suggest breaking down the responsibilities of the job into percentages of time required for certain areas. Many times there is a laundry list of responsibilities, but the candidates have no concept of which ones make up the greatest part of the job or largest percentage of time.

  4. Be Real: Describe the position as it exists today. Don’t mislead applicants by describing what the position could grow into or become in the future.

  5. No Jargon: Avoid technical terms, acronyms, or abbreviations that are specific to your company or industry. If you must use acronyms or abbreviations spell them out. You do not want to eliminate an ideal candidate because they are not familiar with your jargon.

  6. Keep it Relative: Relate the skills, knowledge, and attributes you require which directly relate to the duties and responsibilities of the position. Avoid using a generic description of skills that are not really needed.

  7. Require What’s Required: Education, certification, specific training, or experience should not be stated as requirements of the position unless you can demonstrate that they are essential. Again, don’t create barriers between yourself and the ideal candidate that are unnecessary.

Given the tough competition for top talent, writing an effective job description is an essential step toward attracting the right individuals for your company. Resist the urge to be creative; instead focus on being clear and complete. The end result will be a description that meets your needs and those of your potential candidates.

Job Description Writing Tips

Taking on More Responsibility

Fairly early in my career, I noticed that people who did more work got ahead. Simple, really. And, it’s a proven formula. Those who accept greater responsibility, get higher profile assignments, and are the first to be noticed when higher positions or salary increases become available. However, employees are sometimes unsure how to ask for and get duties and assignments. The following are four ways to successfully take on more to benefit both your company and yourself:

  1. Communicate Your Interest
    Managers do not assume that every employee is willing or interested in giving more. If you want to make great contributions, tell your supervisor or manager. But before you do, ensure that your current workload is running at or ahead of schedule. Meeting your current deadlines is a must before asking to be trusted with even more duties.

  2. Focus on Project Management
    To get additional and even higher visibility projects, you need to do much more than just meet your deadlines. You have to manage your work to ensure that it is on time, on budget, and exceeds expectations. You also should communicate the status of your progress to colleagues and managers who need to know. Excellent project management is an important skill and is essential in demonstrating that you are ready to do more.

  3. Creatively Solve Problems
    From a managers perspective, nothing is worse than giving someone an assignment and then having them ask you every step of the way what to do. People who can overcome roadblocks and find creative ways to apply resources and spark collaboration are organizational assets. If you are able to combine problem solving and resourcefulness you will get bigger responsibilities. The reason: You can remove performance and project barriers to success and get the job done!

  4. Don’t Wait to be Drafted - Volunteer
    Added responsibilities go to those who can take initiative without being asked. People who volunteer and take action when they see a need demonstrate a commitment to their work and possess instincts needed for higher level positions and assignments.

To get more responsibilities you must be able to manage the work you have now, and prove that you have the skills and interest to do more. The result of this extra effort is often greater responsibilities at work which can lead to increases in salary and a higher position.

Taking on More Responsibility

When to Talk to HR

One of the most common questions I get from people new to the workplace is: When is it appropriate to contact Human Resources? Before you reach out to Human Resources, HR, it is important for you to understand its role and function.

The HR Department deals with management of people within the organization and is responsible for hiring members of the staff. This includes attracting employees and keeping them in their positions, and ensuring that employees perform to expectation. Members of the HR team are not job coaches or counselors. It is important to remember that when you talk with HR, you are formally talking to an agent of the company. To be direct: HR may have told you to contact them if you have issues or concerns but there are only a few instances when reaching out to HR is appropriate.

Contact HR When. . .

  • You have been discriminated against or have been sexually harassed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects employees against discrimination in the following areas: age, genetic information, religion, national origin, gender, race, color, retaliation, disability, sexual harassment, pregnancy, and equal pay.
  • You have witnessed illegal activity or have been asked to engage in illegal activity.
  • You have questions about your benefits provided by the company or company sponsored programs.
  • You have a change in your status which requires you to take advantage of government or company programs such as Family Medical Leave.

Don’t Contact HR When. . .

  • You have an issue with a colleague and have not already taken direct action. Minor issues such as loud telephone calls, too much perfume, or playing music in the office are not complaints to take to HR. These are issues you should try to resolve on your own or with the assistance of a supervisor.
  • You don’t like your relationship with your boss. Before going to HR, take an objective look at the relationship. Is your boss unfair to you or just not warm and friendly? Differences in personality are not for HR to resolve. In the end, your workplace relationships are yours to manage.
  • You think you are being treated unfairly. Whether your issue is feeling you should be promoted or paid more, you have to focus on the facts. Gather information that is specific to your situation and don’t go to HR unless you have clear and direct evidence. It is important to realize that employees and their situations are all different - making comparisons that seem like they are related often are not.

In the end, HR works for the company not the employees. While the HR department is designed to be a resource to help you protect your rights and understand your benefits, they are not the place to take complaints about your job. Find a mentor or trusted colleague you can talk to about those issues of concern. Decide first if you are just frustrated or really in a situation that requires a visit to HR.

When to Talk to HR