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What makes a good job description? How do you define an open role’s purpose?

The first question you should answer in a hiring rubric is “What’s the role’s current purpose?” This is an important question, as the company may prioritize different responsibilities and traits from the same role at different points in time.

Learn how to write a good job description to attract the right candidate.

What’s the Role’s Purpose?

Being specific about a job encourages candidates with relevant skills and experience to pursue the role. Learning how to write a good job description also reminds you to look for those specific attributes, instead of accepting candidates who are skilled generally but not in the ways you currently need.

Continuing our example, in a period of rapid growth, you may need a manufacturing manager who can quickly increase output and efficiency. However, when interviewing candidates, you focus on their general management experience, rather than the specific skills you need. Thus, you end up hiring a manager who’s fantastic at giving feedback and improving quality but who can’t deliver the rapid output and efficiency improvements you need.

(Shortform note: Some business experts call a role’s purpose its context, and they agree it’s important when hiring. While Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street says to define the purpose of every role in your company, these experts focus on its importance for leadership roles specifically. They say being suited to a role’s specific challenges is the main indicator of leadership success, challenging the pervasive view that leaders should be generally skilled instead of specialized. They add another benefit to defining purpose, too: It can help you identify company trends and adjust your training plans to create greater improvement. For instance, if you realize many of your employees are good at improving quality, but not output, you can create training programs to help them improve output.)

When defining the role’s purpose, the authors say to keep your description short and use simple language instead of jargon. This ensures that both you and your candidates can easily understand the role’s purpose. The authors also indicate that your description should include the general approach an employee would take to fulfill the role’s purpose and a broad timeline for doing so.

For example, if the role’s purpose is increasing output, your description may be, “The manufacturing manager will increase output by 50% over four years by hiring additional teams and training existing teams.” This would encourage candidates who have experience with rapid growth and training employees to pursue the role, and it reminds you to specifically look for candidates with this prior experience.

(Shortform note: Some business experts suggest that you should use simple language because it helps candidates understand a role quickly as well as easily. This is important because people only spend about a minute considering each job description. If your jargon stops them from quickly understanding the role’s responsibilities, they’ll move on to a different position. This could arguably explain why you should include a general approach and timeline: When you give these details upfront, people don’t need to spend time wondering about how they’d fulfill a role or how long they’d have to do so. They can understand the overall scope of the job immediately, making them more likely to apply.)

How to Write a Good Job Description: Define a Role’s Purpose

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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