Have you ever read or written a Job Specification that looks like a shopping list?

I know I have.

What I’ve often found is that the ‘less is more’ approach lands very well with potential candidates. Vast lists of qualifications you want to see on a CV don’t add much to the hiring process, they don’t help the recruiters as much as you think and may actually turn candidates off.  Keeping things simple implies that the more traditional criteria is a given, and a higher calibre of candidate is being sought.  Why not take advantage of the limited time you have to make an impression on top candidates by appealing to their dreams and desires?  Would you be more impressed by a company who can only hire people with a PRINCE2 or TOGAF certificate, or would the chance to regularly deliver presentations to a global c-suite audience sound more appealing?

The fundamental purposes of a job description are:

  • Candidate attraction:  Why would someone want to work for your company over a competitor?  Talk about the history, the culture, the benefits.  If you’re different in a good way, shout about it!
  • Role definition:  OK, so they’re interested in the firm.  What will they be doing once on-board?  Give a reference point for their responsibilities and required level of performance, citing the scope for progression in 3 – 6 – 12 months and beyond.
  • Management reference:  It is important for candidates to understand what they will be accountable for once on board.  Who will they report into?  Who will they be expected to lead?  Also, which department(s) will they fall into and work closely with?

Five mistakes to avoid when creating an effective job description:

  1. Diversity and Inclusiveness:  There have been many studies on the application of psychology when trying to attract a more diverse talent pool.  It is important to monitor the content being broadcast to prospective candidates.  For example, in a recent study by PwC, only 3% of female graduates would consider a career in technology as their first career choice. The most common explanation? Many felt they didn’t have enough information about what a career in tech could involve. Others felt that the tech sector simply wasn’t creative enough!
  2. Being unrealistic:  A job description should be an accurate representation of the track record required to perform the role, not an impossible wish list of every skill that may come in useful.  Are you really looking for 5 years of experience using a technology that was invented 6 months ago!?
  3. Too broad / too specific:  A healthy balance between casting a wide net and a narrow one will be the difference between hiring success or failure.  Of course, you shouldn’t be looking to on-board just anyone, but searching for a unicorn is equally as dangerous!
  4. Not involving all stakeholders:  The most accurate specifications are produced with the involvement of several different business areas. When defining or refining what a role entails, do so with the input of line management, direct reports and heads of department to give a well-rounded view of what’s expected.
  5. Not regularly reviewing:  Organisations are constantly evolving, particularly consulting firms that operate at the forefront of industry.  For job descriptions to reflect changing requirements they should be reviewed regularly and amended as appropriate.

It can be difficult for companies looking for rapid growth across multiple competencies to keep job adverts brief and succinct.  In an ideal world, a candidate would read through an opportunity and think ‘Oh yes, that’s me!‘ and move mountains to secure an interview.  In reality, some behind-the-scenes information from a diligent headhunter can make all the difference!