3 Simple Techniques for Writing a Winning Job Description


(The following techniques are cited in my book Hack Your Hiring: The Tactical Playbook To Find, Evaluate, and Hire A+ Talent, which gives you 75 PROVEN Strategies, Techniques, and Best Practices to solve any Hiring problem you might have… anything from defining an open position, to attracting & screening Applicants, to beating out other competing offers and closing the Candidate of your dreams.)


 

When it comes time to hire a new position, one of the first challenges you face as a leader is also one of the toughest: How do you describe what you need in this role? The responsibilities, skills, expertise you’re looking for in your perfect candidate?

A lot of bigger corporations will literally purchase Job Descriptions from other companies. While this may be ok for them, for small-to-medium sized businesses, your needs probably are more unique & specific, so a generic off-the-shelf JD is probably not going to cut it.

Use these three simple & straightforward techniques to produce a clear Job Description guaranteed to attract the right people.

SOURCE STRENGTHS & SKILLS FROM COLLEAGUES

 

Reach out to current teammates who you’d consider an A-Player with experience in a position similar to your open role.

Ask each teammate plainly about

  • What Outputs and Outcomes he’s most proud of contributing to or creating
  • What Obstacles he’s faced in his career
  • What they believe contributed to his success in Overcoming those obstacles, from when he first started to his ability to grow and flourish in the role.

Every Job and every Candidate is going to be unique in some fashion. However, no Job is so unique that it’s without ample comparative examples. By compiling a list of obstacles, strengths, and skills from the experience of others you trust, you start building a sort of composite avatar of your ideal Candidate.

GRADE EXPERTISE IN USEFUL TERMS

 

For each technical skill and intangible strength, grade the level of expertise using a method that clearly describes the ideal candidate’s level of competency & expertise.

Useful Frameworks to reference include:

The conventional method of conveying desired levels of expertise was born from the requirement of formal education (2-year / 4-year degree), and in most cases it has outlived its usefulness.

As an increasing percentage of the workforce becomes knowledge workers, the search for expertise hinges on the ability to find candidates who have actually grown and developed a level of expertise or mastery in various skills.

Unfortunately, spending years exercising a particular skill in no way guarantees that a worker increased her expertise in that skill.

Isn’t it true that someone who’s been driving a car for 10 years could still be a poor driver? Or that someone with a good teacher + some natural talent could be an excellent driver in her first few years behind the wheel?

Here’s a personal example: At the time I’m writing this, I am 37 years old. I have been using MS Excel and other spreadsheet software since the age of 10. The claim could be made, then, that I have 27 years of Excel experience, yet I will be the first person to admit that I am far from a Excel/Spreadsheet Expert.

Using a commonly-understand and explicit grading scale to describe levels of expertise is the best way to communicate — both internally and externally — what levels of proficiency are required to succeed in a particular role.

FORCE-RANK DESIRED SKILLS

 

In addition to more clearly defining desired levels of Expertise for a role, classify the importance of a candidate exhibiting each skill to the desired level of Expertise. This can be as simple as classifying a skill as “Must-Have” / “Should-Have” / “Nice-to-Have”, or you could use a more complex ordering mechanism.

There is no position on earth where every desired competency is equally critical to achieving success in the role. Yet, Job Descriptions nearly always provide a list of skills that appear to be of equal importance (and are usually all required).

This can deter many otherwise-qualified job-seekers, while also inviting applications from unqualified candidates who don’t have a clear sense of which areas truly require a level of expertise vs those where familiarity or basic competence are acceptable.

It’s also important to recognize that an Applicant’s expertise in a particular area is constantly changing and would continue to change if they came to work for you. The Résumé they submit is a mere snapshot of a moment in time. If there are skills where “Expert” would be nice but “Intermediate” is Critical, it’s important to call this out.

A Hiring Manager who struggles to fill urgent roles almost always struggles precisely because he’s not explicitly clear — with himself and with others — which skills and skill-levels are critical, important, desirable, or simply a nice bonus.

How to Fix the Top of Your Recruiting Funnel

In this post, I’d like to share tips on how to improve the top of your candidate funnel. Whether you don’t have anybody applying for your job, or it’s just not the right people, I want to provide the tips and tools that you can use to improve the top of the recruiting funnel.

So the first thing you’re gonna wanna do is get crystal clear on who exactly it is that you’re targeting here. Now, I know that you think you might have already done that by writing up a job description / job ad and posting it out online. But what I’m talking about is a little bit different. I want you to really think about who it is that you want applying for this job opening that you have.

What job are they currently in? Why would they be considering looking for a new job? Are they just unsatisfied with where they’re at right now? Are they looking for new opportunities? Are they looking for new challenges? Are they just looking for a change?

So, get crystal clear on what would drive them to be looking for a new opportunity. What do they want in a new job? What do they really need? Where are they spending their time, online and offline? By getting clear on this avatar of who it is that you want applying for your job, you start to get some better ideas about how you might actually reach them. Then I want you to look at your job description. Is the way that you’ve laid it out focused solely on what you need from this person, or is there anything in there about how you might satisfy some of the things that they desire, that they’re looking for in a new opportunity?

You’re also gonna want to really take another look in how you present your organization to candidates. Just like every job description is usually a boring, bullet point list of skills and responsibilities, most company descriptions are yawn-inducing history lessons about how the company was founded, when it was founded, how long you’ve been in business, and how big your team is. These sorts of things aren’t going to appeal to most people, but it is what we naturally go with.

So, now that you know who your candidate is, and what it is they want in an opportunity, what do you think they might want in an organization? What strengths that you have in your organization can you communicate to them? How would you describe your team? Your company culture? Does your company celebrate or embody principles and values that could be attractive to any candidate, especially the one you really, really wanna hire? Is there a way that you can uniquely communicate this to people, before they even consider applying?

You know, there’s a saying that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” And I firmly believe that that is true. That said, it’s also true that people don’t join a company for a paycheck or a list of responsibilities. They join a company because of the people, the leadership, the folks that they meet during the interview process. So, are you truly presenting your leadership — yourself, from the CEO all the way down to the people that your ideal hire’s gonna be working with — are you presenting them to the candidate in any way, shape, or form, before they actually come in for an interview? Introducing a human element into how you present your organization, your leadership, your team, can really go a long way in convincing your ideal candidate to apply and engage in the recruiting process.

Okay, so now you’ve got all this nailed down, you have your ideal candidate avatar. You really understand what they want in an opportunity, and what they’re looking for in an organization, and you’re able to communicate that to them. Now you’re going to want to present all of this using persuasive language. And you might need to hire a copywriter, or use your marketing team, or something, whenever you’re doing this. It will go such a long way in improving the top of your funnel.

Because most job ads are cold and corporate. And as I mentioned, people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. They also don’t join job descriptions, they join teams of people. So these cold, corporate, formulaic job ads are just really not doing anybody any favors.

So, gather your notes. Go to somebody you trust as a good writer, or a great marketer, and get them to whip something up for you. I think you’ll be presently surprised, even by the first draft, and then you can iterate from there. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time out, but I can almost guarantee it’s gonna be better than what you’re putting out there right now.

I wanted to keep this brief, and I hope it was helpful for you. I guarantee if you put some of these things into practice, the number and the quality of people that are applying for your role is going to improve exponentially. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please like/clap/share it all over the Interwebz.