How NOT to Write a Job Description

How NOT to Write a Job Description

by Michelle Checketts

As an HR manager, I wear a lot of hats. One of my biggest hats currently is “Recruiter.” Somedays it feels a bit like one of those ridiculous 40 gallon costume hats – it’s a big burden and all about the show. Hiring managers expect you to find stellar candidates, and applicants expect your best song and dance to woo them. It’s a lot of pressure!

Discuss actual goals, targets, and company culture as specifically as possible.

So how can you wow both managers and applicants? One of the best ways is by writing excellent job descriptions. And with that, may I present how NOT to write a job description:

Corporate mumbo jumbo – include as many corporate catch phrases in the first paragraph as possible. If you discuss how you plan to “leverage synergies” and “cross-pollinate talent”, you’ll be sure to blend right in with all of the other companies who claim that “talent is our most valuable asset”. Instead, be real with candidates. Discuss actual goals, targets, and company culture as specifically and succinctly as possible.

Vague job duties – remove all specific descriptions of actual job duties and replace it with statements like “work cross-functionally on teams to improve processes” or “provide support to management on special projects”. It’s easy to fall into this trap when a busy hiring manager doesn’t have time to help you write a good job description or isn’t sure exactly what is needed. Push your managers to be as specific as they can so candidates have a good picture of what the job will actually be like.

Unrealistic requirements – include a long list of requirements, even if they are just nice-to-haves. This will ultimately weed out many candidates who are probably qualified and capable, but won’t apply because they don’t meet all of the demanding requirements. Instead, if you don’t really need a graduate degree for the position, but the manager would prefer it, then include a separate list of “preferred qualifications”. Most positions don’t actually require graphic design, data analysis, and computer coding all in one. Help your hiring managers whittle out the legitimate requirements from the wish list of nice-to-haves.

Help managers wittle out legitimate requirements from “nice-to-haves”.

Pretend flexibility – advertise the position as being extremely flexible, even if it’s not. Lots of people are looking to work from home or make an extra buck in the evenings. While this will certainly increase applicant traffic, you’ll end up with a lot of people looking to work schedules that may not fit with your needs. Instead, be as specific as possible regarding hours and your company’s needs for this position.

By avoiding these typical pit falls in writing job descriptions, you’ll increase the quality of applicants, make better hires, and ultimately increase employee retention.

What other common job description snafus have you noticed?

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