The Secret to Writing Effective Job Descriptions

When you’re hiring–especially for a new company where all the positions are new–writing job descriptions can be almost as much fun as a root canal. You sit down to write it, and your mind goes blank–just what does a finance manager do? You have no idea.

Rather than write something ridiculous, you need a guide–but if you’ve never done the job, do you even have a clue what you need? Sure, you can tell candidates that the roles are still developing, and you’re hiring them precisely for their expertise, but there are a lot of different people out there with different knowledge.

So, here’s a two-step process that you can go through to help figure out the job description.

Step 1: Take a look at LinkedIn.

Yes, LinkedIn is for networking, and maybe that’s where you’ll find your ideal candidate for the role, but you can also look at it as a guide for writing job descriptions. Look for people who have job titles (present or past) for the type of position you think you need to fill. (I say think because reading these may make you realize the kind of position you thought you needed isn’t actually what you needed–it’s all part of the process.)

Look at their skills and accomplishments and use those to start crafting a description of what you need. Don’t just copy and paste–that’s plagiarism–but do use it for ideas.

Step 2: Take a look at O*Net Online.

This job database can give you pretty detailed information about the types of skills needed in each job. You can look up just about anything and find a job description for a general job with that title. Your job will be slightly different, and it won’t have the accomplishments that the LinkedIn descriptions will, but it will give you a jumping-off point.

Looking at these two websites can get you out of stuck mode and into writing mode. And, as a bonus, at the bottom of the job description, it will tell you the salary data for that position–caution, it’s currently using 2019 data, but it’s a start. It will at least let you know that if you’ve budgeted $50,000 for a position that has a median salary of $129,000 that you’re never going to find what you want.

If you want a quality job description, you might want to hire someone to do it for you–an HR consultant or an experienced recruiter–but this will definitely give you a start.

And job descriptions aren’t just crucial for job ads–they also help direct your work and provide justification for the salary and benefits package that comes with it.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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