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Why Writing Job Descriptions is a Team Effort

By on 11/24/2011

Although many people use the terms “job advertisement” and “job description” interchangeably, a job description is only a component of the job advertisement. Yet it’s arguably the most important component. The job description is where you lay out the duties, tasks and responsibilities for the position. Getting the details right is necessary to ensure you attract the best candidates.

Writing a job description isn’t a solo effort.

It requires talking to everyone directly affected by the job, from the current employee (if you have one) up to the company president or CEO. Think of the job as a ripple in the water: The strongest impact comes from the center – the job in question – and spreads outward more gently. Frame your conversations this way, spending more time with the current employee and direct supervisor, and less time with those farther out, like department heads or the company president.

Think of the job as a ripple in the water: The strongest impact comes from the center – the job in question – and spreads outward more gently

When meeting with others in the company, it’s a good idea to have a list of questions. You’ll want to find out from the current employee the tasks and goals he or she tackles on a daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly basis. Ask the employee to prioritize his or her duties from most to least essential. Ask direct supervisors these same questions, checking on any additional tasks the replacement hire would be undertaking, or if priorities should be weighted differently. Indirect supervisors and department heads can provide insight on current or future tasks, goals and priorities, too.

Any other employees you meet with –department heads who would have some control over the new hire or the company president, for example – should only be expected to provide basic information, not in-depth answers. The purpose of these meetings isn’t to create a new list of duties, but to single out the most important functions of the job to include in the advertisement.

After you’ve talked with everyone, use the provided information to write out a full job description, including every task and goal mentioned. Once you’ve written a long, detailed job description, it’s time to edit. Boil down the information to the most essential and common functions of the job, double-checking that you’re including the direct supervisor’s top priorities. Try to include less important daily tasks, too, to give applicants a good snapshot of a typical day. Provide as many details as possible, but aim for no more than 100 words. Present the edited version to direct supervisors and higher-ups to make sure it’s accurate before posting. ​

Hiring and Performance