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How to Create Job Descriptions That Work

Creating a new job description can be daunting, especially for a role profile new to your company or for a critical hire. It's easy to stare at a blank page or get lost reviewing job profiles you've found via Google searches. While other people's job descriptions can inspire or help you get started, they can just as easily confuse you or muddle the message you want to pass on to candidates. Every role is unique, just as every person is. This article aims to help you determine what you need to hire and bring clarity and structure to an often daunting task.

We've also created a very helpful workbook that many of our clients have found to be valuable, guiding you through creating a job description. Follow the link so we can send you your free copy.

What's changed for you?

You first need to understand what's changed in the business that has prompted you to create this role. Clarifying the purpose and mission of a job and any unrealised business need of a new position is essential. You need to be able to quickly and accurately articulate these to a candidate, and importantly, you want to ensure the goals you set align with your higher-level objectives.

No doubt you know a lot about what you need your new hire to do, but it's essential to think about how you will communicate this; plus, this information will help you to create a compelling job advert (which is different from a job description). Senior and experienced hires will want to know they're taking on an exciting challenge, have a sense of purpose, and actively contribute to the business's growth.

Hiring achievers involves building SMART goals into your spec.

If you're looking to hire an achiever, setting goals from the start will help you identify the talent that will make the most significant impact. Before you start to write down a list of duties and responsibilities, it helps to work out precisely the objectives for this new hire.

As you go through this, remember these are objectives, not tasks. You're setting goals and defining deliverables. These could be around revenue growth, building or rebuilding a team, acquiring a set number of new clients, entering new markets, building a product, boosting profitability, creating new processes, enhancing governance, or developing the team. Whatever your goals, they should be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Ideally, you'll have at least three goals for someone to achieve.

Clarifying how this person will contribute to your organisation's and others' success and how you'll measure and track their progress is vital. Have sales targets, product milestones, metrics, or productivity indicators in mind. Even if you change these targets at review, it's great to get your thoughts down and examine how realistic and essential they are.

To hire the best talent, you need to calibrate expectations.

Once you have written down these goals and reflected on them, you should consider what overachievement will look like. To hire the best, you need to be able to identify it when you encounter it.

Consider what an overachiever would do in a year. How would they get there? Make a list of all of the things they would need to learn and master and what milestones they'd need to accomplish early in their career. What habits and traits would they need to embody to overachieve with ease?

This information will clarify the scope of the challenges you want someone to take on. Additionally, thinking about the investment in training and knowledge transfer that you need to make in a new hire should prime you to make a more impactful and successful appointment.

Most importantly, this information brings the role to life for any candidates you're headhunting and achievers like goals.

Be confident you're hiring the right person.

The last step before writing your job description is to think about the experience, skills and traits that someone is required to have so they can successfully achieve the goals you have in mind.

In addition to hiring someone who will be effective in this role, you want to do this in the most effective way where your time is only invested with qualified candidates. You wouldn't want your sales team to chase unqualified leads, so why would you interview unqualified candidates? Often, businesses have seen many people but not appointed anyone because they have not effectively documented what qualifies a candidate for an interview.

Some great questions to ask yourself include:

  • What qualifications are required?

  • What experience will make them successful?

  • What projects will they have led?

  • What clients will they have acquired?

  • How will this person demonstrate their ability to you in a way that gives you the confidence to hire?

  • Do they need any technical skills?

  • Is there any special knowledge required, and is this negotiable?

  • What personality traits will make someone successful in their new role?

  • Who are the best hires you've ever made, were there any patterns in their experience, and what made them special?

This list can quickly grow, so it often helps people to revisit their wish list and decide which points are negotiable versus non-negotiable.

It's important to qualify people in and out, so I would also write down any deal-breakers and red flags and why you have identified these. Be sure to make sure these are reasonable, non-discriminatory and relevant.

Duties and Responsibilities.

With all this information, it should now be easy for you to summarise the daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks and responsibilities this person will have to complete to achieve your goals.

Hire someone who is a positive addition to your culture.

Many people make the mistake of stopping at this stage and thinking their job description is finalised. It's not. While you have a detailed vision for this role and a blueprint for a successful hire, you still need to consider their impact on the rest of the team. Nobody works in isolation; you want to ensure diversity of thought in your business and aim to hire someone who not only excels but also boosts the morale of those around them.

Culture and team fit are just as important as personality and attributes, but not to be confused with each other.

Think about any sensitivities, how the team will evolve in the next 6, 12 and 24 months, and what you'd like someone to add to your culture. Examine the best performers in the team and think about any common traits.

Make your role stand out.

You need to have a compelling job description to present to candidates, one which stands out to the top talent who will get numerous approaches regardless of the jobs market. By this point, you should have a clear idea about the type of person you need and be able to imagine where they will likely work. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what will attract them. This is not always what attracted you or other people to the business, but it's worth surveying the team if you're stuck.

You also want to clarify the difference between the role's selling points and the company's selling points. You hopefully know what makes you stand out from your industry competitors, but you want to make sure you also stand out from your talent competitors. The selling points of a role and the company will be different but can be linked. For example, the company can be fast-growing, which could mean a chance to progress your career rapidly. If you state this, be prepared to answer questions about your promotion criteria and how often you review performance.

Once you have a couple of different selling points for the role in the company, be clear about how you differentiate yourself from your talent competitors as an employer and lead with this information.

Use your spec to assess talent.

With all of this information, you should be able to build an accurate and informative scorecard to assess candidates against at interview. Review the information you've sorted through and identify the top 5 qualification criteria, skills, personality traits, and values you want to assess candidates against.

Every interview should have a purpose. I would suggest covering your qualification criteria initially, then using a later interview to probe into a candidate's skills level and culture fit aspects.

To get your free job description workbook, click here.

Want to know more? Contact Us

We help technology companies and consultancies grow, scale, and become as successful as possible by hiring the best people in the most effective and impactful manner. Lucent was founded to go beyond the usual transactional approach because one size fits does not fill all - businesses going through start-up and scale-up periods need bespoke, adaptable search solutions and services created by experts. So we go above and beyond.

We work differently in the structures, systems and processes we use. That makes us more flexible and responsive – giving you faster access to higher-quality leadership and commercial talent, data-backed market intelligence and transparent progress reporting across executive search, key hires and people solutions.


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