3 Steps to the Perfect Job Description
Vetting is central to the hiring process in any industry. Only by evaluating candidates in a systematic way is it possible to identify the right candidate for the job. But when exactly does the vetting process begin?
Conventional wisdom suggests that vetting starts after receiving a critical mass of applications for the position. To hire with maximum velocity, however, it’s critical to begin vetting at an earlier stage.
By crafting a well-designed job description, you can start filtering out candidates before the first resume even enters your inbox. After all, the goal of the job description is for ideal candidates to think and feel as though the role were tailor-made for them. Through the following five steps, you’ll be able to create a job description that will attract your dream candidates.
Step 1: Nail the Fundamentals of the Job Description
- Think long-term. When hiring, it’s important to first take a step back and think about what the hire means for your company. It’s key to always frame a hire in terms of the value she’ll add to your company, or in terms of her future success.
- Gather the facts and identify the requirements. Any given position is related to many other roles. Check with key stakeholders to confirm they are aligned on responsibilities and qualifications.
- Hit the right length, and don’t be afraid to write longer job descriptions. Research suggests that 4,000 characters is the ideal length for a job description to motivate readers to apply.
- Strike the right tone. Do you have a formal, professional work environment? If so, the tone of the job description should match it. On the other hand, if you are trying to attract candidates who like to play hard and work hard, using an open and conversational tone can effectively draw the right attention. In my experience, I’ve found that injecting your personality into the job description can build the right chemistry between you and your candidates from the very beginning.
- Be transparent about the distinction between reality and aspirations. Transparency is paramount to applicants. I have found that companies sometimes confuse the workplace they aspire to create with the workplace they currently have. For example, a company in the process of addressing its deep-rooted pecking order may want to pause before advertising flat hierarchy as a draw of the position. Be sure to separate aspirations from reality as you approach the job description, especially in the company overview and in the position summary.
Step 2: Know the Building Blocks of the Job Description
To secure a candidate’s attention, it’s important to present information in the order of her interest. Over the years, I’ve found that the following job description structure appeals most to candidates:
- Job title – Job titles should be searchable. Be sure to use a title that will resonate with your audience. One of the best ways to discover common job titles is to go to O*Net Online, a national database of occupational information ranging from work activities to required experience. Examples of Ed Tech business titles recorded on the site include “E-Learning Developer,” “Instructional Systems Specialist,” and “Curriculum and Assessment Director.”
- Location – Is the position remote or located in one of your headquarters? State this information upfront, as it can be a critical factor driving someone’s decision to apply.
- Reporting Structure – Be sure to list the hiring manager’s title and the division containing the position. There’s no need to write out any full names. If you have separate websites for your different branches of business, you can include relevant links in this section.
- Company Overview:
- Summary – What does your company do? Explain in very simple terms so that candidates can quickly digest the information. One or two sentences should be enough.
- Mission – Strong purpose drives strong performance in any context, and work is no exception. In fact, a positive company mission is central to employee job satisfaction. Frame your job description in the context of the company mission, and be sure to state your mission. If the job description resonates with candidates from the very beginning, the rest of the hiring process should go smoothly and feature high retention.
- Culture – Describe your company/team culture. Do you have a strong virtual team environment? A notable work hard, play hard mentality? Other cultural aspects may include collegial camaraderie or matrix organization.
- Awards, data, accolades – This is your chance to highlight significant milestones in the company’s trajectory, such as VC investments, industry awards, and global recognition.
- Position Summary:
- The purpose of this section is to provide a glimpse into the day-to-day activities of the role, as well as how that role fits into your company’s broader strategic efforts.
- Explain what a qualified candidate will be doing in the role. Discuss aspects such as how she will be learning and growing, the impact she’ll be making, and the goals she’ll be expected to meet.
- Show your vision. The best job descriptions not only explain all the relevant details of a position, but also give candidates a glimpse into how they will fit in your company’s overarching vision. You should make sure to communicate both what the candidate will be doing and where she will be going.
- Emphasize your company’s social impact. Highly talented people look for a number of factors when choosing jobs, and social purpose is one of them. In purpose-driven industries like Ed Tech, clearly articulating opportunities for social impact makes the difference between a decent hire and an exceptional one.
- In our rapidly-changing knowledge economy, job responsibilities should be fluid enough to enable candidates to grow into positions. At the same time, you should be very specific about a position’s deliverables. It’s important to evaluate a position’s desired deliverables and to map them against crucial behaviors that can be demonstrated over time. According to O*Net, some key behaviors associated with success in the Ed Tech industry include communicating clearly, keeping up-to-date technically, and actively training others.
- Pedigree, if required
- Prior experiences, training, skills, training, track record
- Percentage of travel, if required
- Use backward design to identify position-specific qualifications. Job requirements vary widely across industries and functions, and there is no one-size-fits-all set of qualifications in any field. To understand what qualifications a candidate needs, it’s critical to work backwards—to understand what success looks like 12 months after the hire, then to backtrack and figure out what sets of skills the candidate would need to achieve that outcome. By solving backwards from a hire’s future success, this backtracking approach positions you well to identify exactly what skills a candidate would need to succeed. While KPIs should be agreed on between the hiring manager and the hire once the position has been filled, it’s valuable to have some ideas about the milestones that should be reached.
- Application Process:
- Provide clear instructions on how and where to apply.
- If you want to truly stand out, explain what candidates can expect in the process. They will greatly appreciate your transparency. Google is an example of a company that does a great job explaining its hiring process.
- Employers typically request a cover letter and resume from candidates to begin the application process. However, you may use this section to encourage applicants to submit any artifacts that will demonstrate their qualifications. For example, software engineers could submit sample code and digital marketing managers could submit exemplary campaigns from their portfolios.
Step 3: Avoid Potential Pitfalls
- Avoid common jargon and acronyms.
- It can be very tempting to cut and paste from an old job description to create a new one. This isn’t always a bad thing. However, in today’s rapidly changing economy, you should think carefully about how roles are shifting and evolving. Creating a new job description provides you with the opportunity to evaluate the direction of your company and to see how the role fits into your company’s broader objectives.
- Use unbiased language.
- Run the final copy of your job description by the key stakeholders involved. Their seal of approval will save you time and help you define hiring rubrics later on. Defining your hiring rubrics will enable you to better determine whether candidates meet your expectations.
- As discussed, you should be sure to provide clear instructions in the job description on how and where to apply.
It’s tempting to quickly push out a job description to attract candidates as soon as possible. But first impressions are everything in recruiting, and the job description is typically one of the first artifacts of your company that candidates will come across. By taking a step back and investing the time to nail the job description, you can save time and facilitate the future success of your company.