Writing effective job descriptions is an important part of the job for most HR managers today.
But what separates one company’s job descriptions for the next? How can we get to the heart of “how to write a good job description?”
As we’ve built out our job description software capabilities over the past few years, it’s a question that comes up time and time again.
So here, based on best practices, our own research, and insights from our clients, are six tips to build truly effective job descriptions.
1. Use the necessary level of job details.
A job description is not the same thing as a job posting.
It may seem a minor distinction to some, but it’s a vitally important one if you’re serious about getting the right processes in place. All too often, the terms are used interchangeably, but there are key distinctions in their format and primary purpose.
In a job posting, you might get into more info about the company culture, benefits and perks of working at your organization. Commonly, it contains “just the facts” about what the job is, and is more of a recruitment tool than anything.
In contrast to a job post, which can be categorized as primarily a recruitment tool, a job description is a (often-underutilized) talent management tool.
It serves as the official record of the job requirements. The more detail that your job description contains about the requirements of the job, the more valid they become as a record to refer back to.
On that note…
2. Add competencies to your job descriptions.
How can you take your job descriptions from “good” to “great”?
Writing a great job description depends on more than just style; it requires content that defines what’s needed for success on the job, in clear and measurable terms.
That’s where competencies can come in.
Competencies provide the solid foundation to turn your job descriptions into talent management tools and extend their use beyond the hiring process.
These competencies can also provide the foundation for your behavioral interviews, employee assessment and development programs, and can even be used for visual career path programs for employees.
More on that below, or check out this video for a quick overview.
3. Create consistency with standardized position descriptions.
When companies grow beyond a few departments, job descriptions tend to be written in isolation from one team or department to the next. Without standards in place, consistency and quality suffers, and employees have difficulty transferring their competencies from one team to the next.
For example: if your hiring managers are heavily involved in your current description creation process, think of how the language they use and the sheer volume of requirements might differ from one manager to another.
Some prefer to just list the basic facts of the job, while others feel that they need a laundry list of every possible foreseeable requirement.
Some people write very directly and to the point, while others prefer more vague, flowery language.
You get the idea. And hopefully, can start to see why this is problematic at an organizational level.
A uniform job description format and standardized position descriptions can also help to improve your hiring process, increasing fairness and quality of hire.
And that doesn't necessarily mean you have to blow up all of your company's current job descriptions and start from scratch (although working off effective job description templates certainly helps with that process.) The most important thing is that you start with a consistent format at some point, and build from there.
4. Keep any compliance requirements in mind.
Regardless of whether your organization is heavily regulated or not, having a plan for compliance management can help you avoid major issues in the future and insulate your organization against potential problems. In a recent survey we carried out (The State of Job Description Creation in 2019), 28% of our respondents said that compliance already plays a role in their job description process.
Job descriptions, done right, should function as a record of the job duties that both employee & employer have read and agreed upon beforehand.
Getting employee sign-off on their job descriptions Job descriptions can become a part of your company’s current compliance management strategy. Disagreements over performance, responsibilities, accountability? These things can all be ironed out by pointing back to the job description.
5. Update them over time to minimize the burden on you and your managers.
According to our data, 43% of companies never update their job descriptions at all.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why, when the time comes, getting them up to date can be a pain. Just think about how much your own role has changed over the last five years.
Now think about trying to piece together how someone else’s job has changed in that time span.
(Especially if you're not familiar with the intricacies of what they actually do.)
And since it can take hours to assemble a final, approved job description without the right tools and processes in place, imagine, if you dare, the time spent if you have to update an entire departments in one go.
Keeping job descriptions updated regularly is not just essential from an organizational performance and compliance perspective, but there’s another, more personal benefit: it makes your life easier as an HR professional if you’re starting with a “7 out of 10” job description instead of a “1 out of 10.”
6. Use a purpose-built software tool.
If you’ve read this far, you probably agree that job descriptions are important to your organization.
So why do they have to be such a pain to create, edit and manage?
Actually, they don’t.
CompetencyCore by HRSG gives you the power to create job descriptions without the frustration: pull from huge content libraries, build descriptions quickly, and manage the feedback process seamlessly.
Get employee sign-off within the system to help you with your compliance requirements. Map competencies to your jobs using AI; then use those competencies to generate interview questions that get to the heart of those job details needed to be successful in that role.
Looking for more resources to help you build better job descriptions, faster? Check our Job Description Toolkit: