Managing people

Detailed job descriptions: the key to attracting great candidates

Writing a good job description can benefit your business in many ways.

Apart from outlining the key purpose, relationships and responsibilities of each role, and providing clarity around who does what within the business, the best job descriptions are effective recruitment, performance, training and development tools.

Additionally, they can prove effective safeguards for grievances and disputes and reduce non-compliance with employment-related legislation.

The importance of crafting highly effective job descriptions

  • A detailed template position description for all roles is required

  • Those responsible for writing descriptions should know the required outcomes

  • Job holders should be consulted when developing and reviewing positions

  • All employees, supervisors and managers should sign relevant job descriptions

  • A return on investment (ROI) should be the target when developing job descriptions

  • All job descriptions should be kept up to date

Yes, developing and reviewing job descriptions can be considered an onerous task. However, consider the efficiencies essential to productivity and profitability that you lose if you don’t have detailed and consistent job descriptions across the organisation.

You won’t have a sound basis for recruitment and selection, which ensures you get the right person for the job based on their mix of skills, qualifications, experience, and demonstrated behaviours and attitudes.

Without thorough job descriptions, you can’t consider and be clear about important aspects of all positions within the business, including reporting relationships, key task requirements, and expectations relating to behaviour and attitude.

You’ll be lacking a sound basis for effective performance review and training and development.

You won’t be able to provide clarity for staff and supervisors around who does what within the business, which reduces confusion and also provides you with the opportunity for greater efficiency and, ultimately, profit.

You also won’t have the opportunity to reduce the risk of non-compliance with employment-related legislation, including Work Health and Safety. Nor will you have established a good safeguard for your business in the event of grievances, disputes, claims of unfair dismissal, etc.

Job description best practices

Your position descriptions should include:

  • a brief position summary, outlining the role’s essential purpose

  • details of those the employee will interact with internally and externally and the nature of those interactions

  • essential and desirable skills, experience and qualifications

  • key functions and responsibilities and accountabilities with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that clearly indicate how you’ll determine, measure and know the employee is performing as required

  • key behaviours expected

  • expectations relating to specific policies and procedures compliance

  • unique position requirements and conditions of employment

  • provision for signatures of the position holder and supervisor

To get the right person for the position and the organisation, clearly brief those responsible for writing position descriptions on what you want to achieve. Equip them appropriately and train them for the task.

Include a quality-check step in the process to ensure reasonable consistency across the business.

It’s a good idea when you are both developing and reviewing a position description to do this in consultation with the position holder. This ensures all elements are covered. It also gives your staff a level of ownership of the process.

Best practice includes having employees, supervisors and managers sign relevant descriptions and keep copies on file, and keeping them up to date, so they retain their value. An annual review process, generally tied into an annual performance review, is recommended.

You’ll achieve a healthy ROI if you use position descriptions as not only part of your recruitment process, but also in performance management and training and development activities.

How job descriptions benefit businesses

Take the time to get job descriptions right, and you’ll gain these important efficiencies across the business:

  • better people planning for the organisation’s current and future needs and gaps

  • better ability to achieve organisational goals

  • better chance of getting the right person for the job and the right fit for the organisation

  • sound basis and yardstick for effective performance review, and training and development

  • good safeguard for your business in the event of grievances, disputes, claims of unfair dismissal, etc.

  • a clearer understanding of important aspects of all positions within the business, including reporting relationships, key task requirements, and expectations relating to behaviour and attitude

  • clarity for employees and supervisors around who does what within the business, therein reducing confusion and also providing an opportunity for greater efficiency and profit

  • opportunity to reduce the risk of non-compliance with employment-related legislation, including Work Health and Safety.

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