Using Job Descriptions to Attract Top Talent

A sentiment we often hear from employers about to fill a role is, "We don't have a detailed job description, but the one we have should be good enough." The failure to develop a job description often results from a rush to start the search but is based on mistaken thinking.

Myth 1 – The job will evolve as the business changes, so a current job description will become inadequate. It's not worth spending more time on it now.

The Reality – Without a comprehensive job description that clearly details what the job involves and defines the employer's expectations, the hiring manager and the potential hire may be on completely different pages. Misunderstandings can easily lead to a bad hire. If the job evolves over time, the manager can revise the job description appropriately, perhaps as part of performance reviews or future planning.

Myth 2 – The hiring manager is the only one who can write the description, and it's not a good use of the manager's time. Or perhaps no one is really sure how to write it, and there's no time to learn.

The Reality – Writing a detailed job description is an important part of making a good hire. The process makes the hiring manager think about the priorities of the role, how it's already evolved and how it might evolve in the future. Developing the description into a detailed position profile prepares the manager to filter out unsuitable candidates. An accurate profile also provides a document upon which to base performance reviews. If the responsibilities and expectations aren't written down, how fair can an employer be in assessing how well an employee is doing?

Myth 3 – The hiring manager can describe the details of the job to candidates in the interviews, so we don't need the details in writing.

The Reality – In addition to helping hiring managers increase their understanding of a job, a well-written position profile acts as a powerful marketing tool by effectively positioning the role and the organization in the minds of good candidates. In trying to attract the best candidates − that is, candidates with other choices − the profile can clarify and sell attractive features of the position and the setting. A well-written profile's tone, balance and details of responsibilities can signal reasonableness, positive attitudes toward employees, encouragement of professional development, clear direction and good management. In short, the profile can suggest a quality organization that has its act together.