Employers  / How To Write a Job Description

How To Write a Job Description

Don’t be a Cowboy, write a decent Job Ad. At JobAlert.ie we've seen first-hand some very well written Job Ads, but also some very badly written ones too. As part of our service we review and give advice to advertisers before their jobs go live! Thankfully in the majority of cases we’re not talking about legal non-compliance, but mostly a lack of relevant information that impacts whether or not an employer fills the vacancy quickly. Albeit, we have saved a few court cases, that’s for sure!

Depending on the experience of the recruiter, it can be hit and miss when it comes to what employers put in Job Ads, hoping to attract the perfect candidate. We’ve had Ads uploaded with just one line; “Receptionist required for busy office in Dublin” and then the employer will be surprised why they cannot fill that job!

So, think it through, writing a decent job ad outlining exactly what is “wanted” will ensure you get a much better return. Based on what we’ve seen over the last year, we’ve put together a few tips for all organisations big and small. Having reviewed the questions above you should consider the following headings when completing the job description / specification.

Reviewing the Vacancy

When a vacancy becomes available in your business, before you rush in it’s useful to consider if you can fill the vacancy internally or if you need to fill the vacancy at all. Look at the resources available to you, could you divide the role up into tasks that current staff can do? Could this role be slimmed down to a part-time opportunity with some flexibility for someone to work from home?

Have you looked at why the previous employee has left the role, were they unhappy? An exit interview can help to determine if you need to make changes now, to ensure that a new employee does not face the same issues. If the person is leaving for a better salary, maybe it’s time to review the salary you have on offer against recent salary surveys. You could also look at trends at the moment - is there high demand for people who have the skills involved for this role? If so you may need to be more competitive with salary and benefits to attract top talent.

Can you promote someone internally if this is a higher grade vacancy? Maybe you can then backfill the lower level post. Promoting within the organisation shows existing employees that you are committed to providing career progression which in turns encourages employees to stay longer and work harder.

If there is still a vacancy to fill, it is then time to draft up a job description / job specification. Again, talk to the person who is leaving, maybe they can help you to devise the perfect list of requirements or the direct manager of the department who was managing the person doing the role.

Questions to Consider

What education or training qualifications will the ideal candidate need to have? What level of work experience is relevant to the role? Are there candidates in other industries and roles that will have transferable skills that could work well in this role? What level of communication skills do they require? What type of personality / disposition is required to satisfy the requirements of the job – will the person have much interaction with people internally or with customers? What personal attributes must they have? Do they need to work full time from the office? What hours and days will they need to work? Determine what are the essential requirements and the desirable requirements? Are you willing to train in someone who might meet just some of the essential criteria?

Please note it is vital that your employee profiles / job specifications do not contain any requirements that ignore or contravene relevant employment legislation.

Job Title

Ensure the job title accurately describes the Job. If you have the authority to review or change a title ensure it is simple, engaging and accurately describes the job. Please avoid quirky job titles that contain words such as ‘rockstar’, ‘guru’ and ‘ninja’, believe me, we’ve seen them all and they just confuse people and will not help when candidates do a word search to find their perfect job.

Company Information

Positively introduce your organisation, it’s important to sell your company and the position on offer to prospective employees. You should include; who you are, what you do and your exact location.

Try to add something nice that shows the culture, vision and working environment of your organisation, this will set you apart from other recruiters. You can do this by including keywords and phrases like; customer focused, hardworking, we value creativity, innovation and teamwork, we enjoy hard work and social nights out to de-stress or maybe you have occasional ‘Pizza Fridays’. You could also list any awards, major achievements or anything that you think makes you an interesting employer.

More recently larger organisations are using videos and testimonials from current employees to promote their organisations. You don’t need a big budget, you can make a simple video, even if you are a small company who’s recruiting. You just need a smart phone and a fun, creative team to talk about a day in the life of working in your business.

If you focus on the benefits that you have to offer and highlight why your company is an excellent place to work, you will attract really great quality and skilled applicants.

Why are you Hiring?

Is it for expansion or new business? It it seasonal? Is it for maternity leave cover? If there is a specific reason, think about putting it in.

Role Description

In a short paragraph, briefly, describe the position being offered using positive language, but be realistic and avoid using abbreviations or jargon. Use bullet points to list the most important responsibilities, this will make it easier for candidates to scan.

Skills & Requirements

It is important that you divide “must haves” as in necessary requirements for the job and “good to have’s” as in desirable requirements. Again, use bullet points to list; relevant qualifications, competencies, skills and work experience required.

What qualities does the ideal candidate have? Rather than just listing traits like “good communicator” maybe say “in this role you will need to be able to write accurate reports and work under pressure” or “in this role you will need to be able to communicate effectively with customers over the phone and answer their queries in relation to ……” Only list points that are relevant to the position, and don’t overdo it!

Please keep in mind current legislation. For example, you must comply with all applicable laws, including the Disability Act 2005 and the Equality Act 2004 including all 9 grounds: gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and members of the traveller community.

Location

Where will the person be based? If travel is a requirement please outline the details.

Shifts / Days of Work

Let people know when they will be required to work, days, hours, start time, end time of shifts and if flexibility is required? Is there an opportunity to work overtime, is it compulsory? Will they be required to work weekends and holidays?

Salary & Benefits

What benefits do you offer to employees? What do you offer employees in terms of personal and professional development, including any mentoring or on-going training? Ensure you list everything that may attract candidates, particularly if there’s a company car, van, mobile phone or laptop. As mentioned previously, you may want to carry out some research to ensure that the salary and benefits you offer are competitive, so that you can attract top talent for this role.

How to Apply

Tell candidates how to apply for this position. Specify if you want a cover letter. Some organisations also outline what the process will involve and the timelines for example, closing date, interview dates, start dates etc.

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