Want the Right Stuff? Start With Your Help-Wanted Ad

A top-performing team starts with writing a thorough and accurate job description. Consider these five tips.

learn more about Katherine Graham-Leviss

By Katherine Graham-Leviss • May 22, 2012

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Want the Right Stuff Start With Your Help Wanted Ad

Do you really know what your employees do?

When it comes to hiring, business owners often hurt themselves from the start because they are unable to accurately convey to candidates the details about the position they're seeking to fill.

All too often, their existing employees don't even have a clue about what their jobs really entail and what is expected of them – a multi-faceted problem that goes right back to the way in which they were hired.

So how on earth are you going to make an effective hire for a position if neither you nor anyone who's ever worked the job in the past knows what it really is about?

Related: How to Start New Hires on the Right Track

I recently came across this particularly mind-numbing description of a production engineer job:

I write ECOs and submit them to the Change Board for review. Our production line operates using the latest DX-4 ERP system from ABC Solutions and I use it to help streamline production operations. I also help introduce new products into the manufacturing process. I work with design engineers and help them design their products for improved manufacturability.

Not only is this description full of indecipherable industry jargon and acronyms, but it then goes into generalities such and "help introduce new products into the manufacturing process," without providing any supporting examples.

For a truly effective hiring process, I recommend establishing a benchmark for each job opening that follows Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, and American Psychological Association and Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology research standards.

Clearly, most business owners need professional help to set that up. But a good first step you could take on your own would be to start thinking seriously about how you describe the various jobs that people hold in your business.

Here are some tips on how to create better job descriptions:

Have a clear description of job responsibilities. Too often, job descriptions broadly describe the education and experience the employer requires for the position, but don't delve into what the workers in the job are actually expected to do. A clear description of tasks and responsibilities prevents prospective job candidates from wasting time by applying for a job they may not be interested in doing day in and day out.

Related: Seven Steps to Superstar Employees

Cover the bases. A job description that outlines qualifications needs to include the required knowledge and technical skills, and competencies and attributes. When it comes to experience, it should be for both the position and the industry. A digital media company, for example, should not only determine the degree of sales experience required for a job – but also the digital media experience needed to be successful in the position.

Use industry-standard language for the job title and position. A Web developer versus a Web designer, a compliance officer versus a compliance analyst, these positions have different responsibilities and pay. They're standard job descriptions understood by the people inside the relevant industries. No matter what, be clear about the scope of experience and expertise required in order to make sure those who apply understand the job level.

Tap your top performers. Look at the stats and figure out which or your workers are truly your top performers. Get their input about what it takes to succeed in the job. What is a typical day like for them? Their insights will help you create better job descriptions to attract others like them.

Break out the time commitments. Take the information gathered from top performers and produce a breakdown of the time required to succeed in each skill and area. A sales job, for example, might require 10 hours per week making cold calls seeking new business, five hour per week servicing existing customers, five hours writing proposals, etc. Such a description of requirements will help prospective employees understand how they will spend their days if they get the job, and what is expected of them if they are to achieve.

Don't leave your hiring strategy to chance. Having a clear definition of the job is an important first step in attracting and retaining top talent and supporting organizational performance.

Related: Seven Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success

Katherine Graham-Leviss

Katherine Graham-Leviss is the founder of XB Consulting, an executive coaching and business consulting firm based in Rhode Island. She is a keynote speaker and author of The Perfect Hire: A Tactical Guide to Hiring, Developing, and Retaining Top Sales Talent, published by Entrepreneur Press.

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