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A Short Checklist for Job Descriptions

by Nov 4, 2013, 5:45 am ET

Search engines scan job descriptions to identify keywords associated with a particular search. Including relevant keywords or phrases ensures that your job description will appear on the appropriate searches, and enable candidates to narrow jobs by specific criteria in the filters on the left-hand side of the search results page.

A good job description encourages candidates to self-select by making the role attractive enough that qualified candidates apply and the unqualified ones don’t. Include the following components:

  • Company name. If applicable, list the names of both the subsidiary or division and the parent company. Your brand matters.
  • Location(s) of the open role. Include the city and state. If a role can be filled for a number of locations, all locations can be included in a single listing. Also indicate whether telecommuting or relocation is an option.
  • Overview of the position. Explain core responsibilities and provide insight on organizational structure.
  • Candidate requirements. Include relevant years of work, education, or direct line management expectations.
  • Job type. Indicate if the job is full-time, part-time, contract, temporary, or an internship.
  • Compensation. Include range or structure if possible.
  • Employment restrictions. Indicate restrictions such as special qualifications (e.g. Security Clearance) or visa requirements.
  • Directions on how to apply. Include an explicit button or link to apply. Make sure that the link is active and that the candidate is directed to the correct landing page. Specify what materials the candidate should submit, such as a resume, cover letter, and work samples.

These additional details can increase the interest of potential candidates:

  • Company perks. Include perks like free lunches, awards, or anything else that makes it a special place to work.
  • Company information. Include background information on the company, such as its history or location of corporate headquarters.
  • Videos. Videos can convey company culture far better than text. If your company has made this investment, by all means include a link to your video page!

In a perfect world, candidates would find only positions they want and are qualified for, and only qualified candidates would apply to your open jobs. In the meantime, it’s up to both candidates and employers to learn how to best use the technology that connects them, and sometimes that means doing the extra work so the technology can help you find each other.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Leonard. Very sensible. However, I wouldn’t be one to trust a corporate video- I’m not fond of commercials.

    Cheers,
    keith

  • http://www.viletinternational.com Jacque Vilet

    Hi I think that the traditional job descriptions — either long or short —- need to be changed.

    The focus today is on what candidates can DO for the company. Results are worth more than degrees/years of experience. Remember the old saying “You can 1 year of experience for 10 years”?

    So keep description of job to one paragraph and put emphasis on what a person has to DO and how performance will be measured on each.

    Companies are doing this now. Recruiters appreciate this. If given an old-style JD to recruit from they eventually go to the hiring manager and ask what the person needs to be able to do.

    This new type of JD can be used for hiring, performance reviews (since you have already built in performance measures), career development (what exactly needs to be improved), etc.

    BTW I am a compensation person by training so I am deviating from what most compensation people would say. But we live in the real world and we need to do what helps companies — not compensation people.

    The new type of JD is called Performance Profiles and Lou Adler is a big fan of them.

    Remember: “It’s what you do with what you have, not what you have that counts.”

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Jacque. I wish to partly agree and partly disagree with what you’ve said.
    If you’re looking for a job, and haven’t done all the things that are listed, then an “aspirational resume” listing what you CAN do and not what you HAVE done) might work,. On the other hand, a when a hiring manager is approached by a recruiter (co corporate, contract, contingency, retained) they don’t want to see any aspirational (or skills-based) resumes- they want someone who has all the things, clearly listed. As a recruiter- if someone lists a technical/professional summary, I’m VERY impressed: something like you ask for these 4 things: I’ve done the first for 7 years and am an 8/10, I’ve done the second for 12 years and am a 9/10, and so on….

    Thanks,
    Keith

  • http://www.viletinternational.com Jacque Vilet

    Keith —- hiring managers get the short end of the stick when they tell the recruiter they want to see someone with 4 programming languages, 6 years of experience and a BS in Computer Science. So what? What does the hiring manager really want this person to DO? If a recruiter knows that he/she can do an acceptable interview. If not — then just scan the resumes for what the hiring manager said and push them to him/her.

    Here’s an excellent example given by Lou Adler:

    Recruiter was talking to a CEO about a VP Marketing position.

    “I asked him to tell me a little about the job. The CEO said something similar to the following:

    I need a BSEE from a top university. In fact, the person should have an MSEE, too. In addition, the person should have at least 5-10 years in the industry plus an MBA from a top school like Stanford, Cal, or Harvard, but not from UCLA (ouch, this hurt, since I got mine there in the John Wooden days).

    Then I calmly suggested that what he was describing was the description of a person, not the description of a job. This drew a momentary pause and with the temporary opening I asked, what’s the most important thing the person you’re hiring for this position needs to do in order for you and the Board to unanimously agree you’ve hired a great person? He hesitated at first, and repeated the list of requirements, but I pushed him again with the same question, suggesting he put the person description in the parking lot and first define on-the-job success.

    The president hesitated again, and after a few minutes said something like, “well now that’s a really good question.” And then said:

    The person in this role needs to put together a dynamic three-year product road map addressing all product opportunities we have in significant detail. As part of this the person must understand our industry trends, especially what Cisco is doing, and put us in a position to stop playing catch-up. We have about 80 engineers and we want to tap into their expertise, so this product map needs to address what we can develop most efficiently without a heavy investment in new people and new technologies unless absolutely necessary. A rough plan needs to be presented to the Board within 4-6 months.

    He then described a few more typical VP Marketing performance objectives to add to the list.

    I then asked, if I could find someone who could do this extremely well if they’ve done something reasonably similar in the past, would you at least talk to the person, even though they didn’t have all of the skills and background just described? The President looked at me as if I just landed from another planet, and calmly said, Of course, that’s what I just said.

    The moral of this tale: focus on what people need to do, not what they need to have.”

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Jacque. My questions about the example would be:
    “Why did you need further clarification from the CEO?
    What’s so hard about looking for someone with the given requirements?
    Do they seem unrealistic?”

    I am strongly in favor of “solutions recruiting”- providing solutions to the work that needs to be done (whether FT, PT, consultant, automated, eliminated, outsourced, etc.). However, that usually isn’t the case- it’s usually a “widget” sale, and the “widget” is usually walking, talking, and asks for money. The HM may not know what the needs to accomplish, or s/he may be unable to articulate it…Sometimes the simplest solution (a “laundry list” JD) is the best solution, and the only one you need.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  • http://www.viletinternational.com Jacque Vilet

    Keith it should be clear if you read it. The CEO first said he wanted someone with X degrees and X experience which tells the recruiter nothing about the job and what the person has to do.

    If you want to go by the HM’s first remark then bury him with 1,000 resumes of people with what he says he wants: X degrees and X experience. You have to help the HM articulate what he wants and what he needs this person to be able to do.

    Years of experience and degrees don’t tell you anything.

    Guys — it’s been real!

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Jacque. What I do for clarification is ask the HM for the resume of someone s/he has hired/wanted to hire for the position, to act as a guide. If s/he does or doesn’t give me a resume, I then go and source 3-5 resumes (who haven’t yet been contacted and may be uninterested or unavailable) to serve as benchmarks. I then present the HM with those, and go by his/her comments to guide my search. This way, I get a good idea of who to look for, but I still don’t need to ask “What will they do?”. Fundamentally, if it helps a recruiter to ask “What will they do?”, then do so; I just don’t need to.

    Cheers,

    Keith