How to write a job description

Are you currently recruiting for a new staff member or even in the early planning stages for a new hire and wondering where to begin? You’re not alone if the thought of developing the job description seems like a mountainous task.

Learning how to write an effective job description is an absolute must for any hiring manager - the job description is the most important place to start when recruiting for your next employee and, if it’s well written, it can mean the difference between attracting your next star employee or just so-so candidates to apply for your role. Use our job description template tips below to maximise your application rate.

Step by step guide: How to write a job description:

1. Jot down the key responsibilities before starting to write your job description
While you probably have a great idea of what your new staff member will be doing on a day to day bases, it is important to commit these ideas to paper. Identifying the essential tasks and responsibilities that this new employee will undertake will form the basis of your job description and will help you recognise the types of skills and experience you should be looking for during the hiring process.

2. Refine your job description
Once you have written up a ‘shopping list’ of tasks, the next step is to take a closer look at the job description in detail. Ask yourself:

  • What takes priority amongst the range of duties?
  • What lines of reporting are there, and to whom?
  • What results should the employee actually deliver?
  • If your employee has a managerial role, ask yourself: what is the extent of his/her authority?

3. Determine your essential employment criteria
Based on your answers to the above questions, the next step to creating a quality job description is putting together the key criteria – this should be a mixture of functional qualifications, skills and character traits that the candidate must have to successfully fulfil the position. Don’t confuse qualifications, skills and personal characteristics with one another, because there are subtle differences to each. The below is guide on what makes each unique:

  • Qualifications relate to what the candidate needs in order to do the job: experience, education and any other references.
  • Skills relate to what the candidate can do, for example working with different computer programmes.
  • Personal characteristics are not as easy to measure or define, such as a pro-active attitude and a strong personality.

The above employment criteria will become especially important if there are several candidates vying for your position. Having a clearly defined set of key requirements will allow you to remove a large number of candidates from the list who won’t be a perfect fit for your role. 

4. Decide on a salary band
Salary is an important part of the job, and while it is not essential to include on job descriptions when advertised, it is often advisable. 
You should be prepared to set a salary on the basis of the employee’s education and experience, along with the general salary benchmark within your organisation, department, location or industry.  In any case, there is a variety of sources you can use to assist you, such as governmental agencies, salary research like the Robert Half Salary Guide and your own internet research.

5. Writing the job description
With the above completed, the next step is to write the job description. In general, this should be practical, functional and clear.
The job description template should include elements such as:

  • Job title, the department and the person to whom the employee will report.
  • The person’s responsibilities: what does the position involve and what is the aim of the position?
  • The most important tasks and responsibilities – list the most important first and the least important last.
  • Skills and characteristics that a good candidate should have. For example: ‘a good organiser’, ‘suited to leading a team’ or ‘capable of working independently’.
  • Other requirements and desired level of education.

Don’t forget that your job description is not merely used to attract the best candidate, it is also a chance for you to tell prospective employees the benefits of working for your business.  Provide a few points on your unique employer value proposition to distinguish your job description from the crowd.

Finally, keep in mind that whilst it might be tempting to try to rush through the job description in an effort to fill your role quickly, this may backfire if you end up with an unsuitable hire. 

Taking your time to determine a clear job description and to find a candidate that fits your culture and workplace values will save you effort and money in the long run; and more importantly, attract the best candidates to apply for your role.

Are you hiring at the moment and want help sourcing top talent? Contact your local recruitment consultant today for expert advice on job description and position templates. For more information on writing a job description read our related articles: 

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