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How to write an effective job description

Most employers, hiring authorities, department heads and HR department personnel deal with job descriptions in some form or other nearly every day. And we all recognize that it is an important document. It should set the standard for a position from every aspect, i.e. performance, results, timing, job composition, product involvement, experience expected, compensation and many more. Consequently, the job description is vital to the hiring process. Without it, it is impossible to present a position to a candidate—or measure his performance after he is hired. As important as this document is, everyone I have ever spoken to about it has tried his best to avoid writing it. It is one of those tedious, “drudge” jobs we seem to put off, and often try to hand off to others to do. Am I right? I think so.

Most hiring managers feel the same sense of frustration when it comes to assembling a job description as a father feels about assembling his children’s toys on Christmas Eve. Yet, like putting the train set together correctly, a solid job description could be the difference between your hiring staying on the track or not!

Here are a few suggestions to help you write a great job description.

  • Start with the End in Mind

Question: If you don’t know what success would look like in the position you are hiring for, how will you be able to identify the right person for the job? A good job description goes a long way towards identifying the right candidate and shortening your hire cycle!

  • Ask yourself this question, “If everything is going well in one year, what will be happening?” Then, answer it! This should be the basis of your description for a sales person. Here’s an example:
    1. Within 60 days evaluate the product marketing team and make a plan for two product launches;
    2. Meet with the top 10 accounts in the first 30 days;
    3. Achieve annual quota of $2.5 million while adding two new accounts per quarter;
    4. Have a sales pipeline with a minimum of 200 qualified prospects while adding 30 new prospects per quarter.

You get the point. Your job description should have very specific and measurable objectives on it. List down all the “deliverables” of the job. We’ve all seen job descriptions that are a half- page and some that are three pages long.

  • Use It to Get Your Team in Sync

If the job is one that has multiple reporting responsibilities, make sure everyone whom the position “touches” is involved in shaping the description—or at least signing off on it. You should all be on the same page as far as what has to be done, when it has to be done and who is responsible for doing it. During the hiring process is not the time to hammer out these issues. Do it while you are crafting the job description.

  • Use It When Interviewing

You can take the guesswork out of your interviewing by using your job description. Compare your candidate’s qualifications against what has to be done — those specific, measurable results that are to be achieved within a certain timeframe. Either they’ve done it or they haven’t — or everything that they have done in their past tells you that they can reach the stated goals of the position. Ask your candidates for specifics on how they reached their goals.

  • Use it as a Performance Review Tool

Yes, that’s right! A good job description should be so detailed that you can use it to review your new employee after six months, one year or whenever. If you have stated the goals up front, measuring as to the results is easy. Use your job description as your road map along the way— to get your new hire where you want him to be!

So, sit down now and write that job description you have been putting off. These tools should help you. And—your interviews will be far easier, faster and more successful!

Philip Kemper is Founder/President of Kemper Associates, a 37 year old Chicago-based national executive search firm, specializing in Permanent and Contract staffing for Trade Shows and Exhibits, Staging and Equipment Rental, Business Meetings and Events Production, Video, Training and Incentives and more .His more complete bio is on LinkedIn at: . You may view Kemper Associates’ web site at: , and contact Phil with questions or comments, and employment needs at:, or his private phone line: (312) 944-6551.

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