During the hiring podcast, Mark alluded to the task of re-writing a job description. This is where I find myself during my first week on my new job - having to write/re-write a job description.

I have taken the initial step to solicit feedback from the team as to the rask and responsibilities of tea member, but I am wondering if anyone has any direct feedback on exactly what the components of a really GREAT job description are?

While I want to be accurate in terms of establishing the duties and responsibilities of a team member, I also want to write a killer job description that fills my inbox to overflow with the resumes of really qualified candidates (don't we all?) I realize this is but a pie-in-the-sky dream, but hey, a fella can dream, can't he?

Anyway - what's in your best job descriptions?

Thanks in advance!


bflynn's picture

What sounds like a simple question really gets complex. The job description is a source document for a lot of other business processes - reviews, bonus structure, stretch goals, promotions, job qualification, etc on the work side and interviews, question selection, candidate evaluation, etc on the recruiting side. To give a general answer, it should contain the necessary detail that the downstream processes will require without containing so much detail that it needs to be frequently rewritten.

Is this an internal job description or one for recruiting?
An internal description contains the responsibilities that the job will be judged against, but not necessarily the skills required.

If recruiting, what is the recruiting path?
If you're sending this out to a recruiter, including an internal HR dept, be a little less specific in your requirements. Recruiters generally don't know your technology that well; your job description is to as much to guide them as it is to gather candidates. For example, there is virtually no difference between PL/SQL in Oracle 7.3.4 and Oracle 10g, which is 4+ versions difference. But, go from Visual Basic 6 to VB .Net, which is just one version, and its an entirely different world.
If this is going to the general public, you'll want to be more specific - you have a more experienced audience, who can judge for themselves

Technical or managerial job?
For recruiting, you need to identify the skill sets and how you're going to select for those skill sets. That's easier with a tech job, but gets very difficult with a "soft" skills job. How can you judge whether someone has people skills?

As far as the inbox full of great candidates - I wouldn't want to disappoint you, but you're not going to have your pick of 5 perfect candidates unless your company has prepared for that. Google, Apple and Disney get to pick from a dozen perfect candidates AND pay them less. The rest of us get to hope we get one.

I hope this helps stimulate some thought - please give me a shout if something isn't clear.


Sean McGinnis's picture


Thanks for the response.

I am familiar with the lack of qualified candidates, but in a different role, as I have recently transitioned from sales management into operations management for my company.

I lead a team of 20 or so search engine optimization consultants that do on-site optimizing for 200 or so web sites per month (we design, build and host web sites and on-line advertising programs for attorneys and law firms). So technical requirements are minimal. Even experience is less important than DESIRE to learn the business. We have the capacity and desire to build a team of great SEM consultants.

That said, I am focused now on defining the job tasks first and the softer skill set second.

As Mark suggested during the cast, I have asked for team feedback on the tasks performed and have drilled down into the specifics at hand. I have a rough draft about to be corculated for additional feedback from the team.

Naturally, this will be a living document, evolving on a quarterly or so basis.

I was just wondering whether there were some best practices I might overlook unknowingly......

Naturally, once I have one job description captured, I have to move onto the next - a team lead position I need to hire for! Agh! It never ends!

Thanks again, Brian, for the ideas.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Brian's post is EXCEPTIONAL. I immediately thought of the internal and external differentials. I wouldn't try to do both... in fact, I wouldn't worry too much about the internal one if there's HR to do it. If there's no HR, there's surely no one tying the JD into every other system, so the external piece is what you want.

(The caveat is that you'll write a review including this, but if it's a new role, it WILL CHANGE, and re-writing it makes using the review as a factor in creating NOW an unnecessary step.)

There's nothing special in MY book about JD's. Responsibilities, examples of projects and work, success measures.

What's important is selling the job, which JD's rarely do.


misstenacity's picture

Does anyone have any really excellently written job descriptions they could post as examples?

I do not have HR, yet there are no JDs for anything in the entire company, and I think I need to start with at least my team and myself (especially since we are and have been hiring!).

I'm working with a little help from "How to Pick the Right People" book, which talks a bit about nailing the job parameters by behaviors and skill sets.

Further, I will have some latitude in crafting these JDs - both what the current employees are doing, as well as what the job *should* entail, and that includes my own JD. Eek.

jhack's picture

Hi Miss Tenacity!

There is a nifty job description description in the podcast on "how to write an annual review" (not sure which of the three parts, though...).

Have you tried that format? It's simple and based on what you and your team already know and do.


misstenacity's picture

Thanks, John!

Its possible I have been, um, avoiding that podcast because I'm about 6 months behind on my annual reviews. :oops:

But I will listen to it straightaway...

(when did I start talking like a Brit?!)

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Job Descriptions are overrated. But if you must, the cast has a good place to start. Add the HR admin and pay/benefit stuff, and you've got a good start. Nothing wrong with asking your team for a review of it, either.


dkuperman's picture

This is a great thread! I work for a small company and our HR department is quite informal... as a marketing director, I often see myself involved in helping our HR create job descriptions. What I later found is that they were using those same job descriptions to recruit. The results were horrible... we were posting job ads on that had nothing interesting, simply a bullet list of responsibilities.

What I then started doing is creating the following, which helped me tremendously in my recruiting efforts:

1. Create a "job profile", for internal use only. This document outlines what is the position, why is it important for the company and for the department. Also talks about goals for someone in that position, how to measure achievement, etc. Very dry, but to the point.

2. Create a "candidate profile": here I write down based on the 'job profile' what the ideal candidate for that position looks like, with stuff like 'education background', work experience, etc.

3. Create a "job ad": this is the combination of the two first docs, but with the marketing twist. The job ad is supposed to get people interested in your company and the position. The minutia and endless list of responsibilities can be discussed during the interview.

It's a lot of work, but we have seen that this helps HR and the hiring manager when trying to get on the same page. We do a lot of group interviews, where several managers interview people one after the other and having all managers review both the job profile and candidate profile documents ensures they know what the job is about and the type of person we're trying to recruit.

For a recent position, I went a bit over the board by also creating a "a day in the life of..." document, where I outlined in a table format what a typical week of that person will look like. Not all positions will require this, but I got a lot of good feedback especially from the people I was interviewing. The key for me was to make sure expectations about the job were clearly set from the start.


kklogic's picture

They can be helpful in defining boundaries between functional areas if there's some overlap.

I'm in the process of revising mine. I found that the process is getting me re-energized about my job and also re-focused on the responsibilities it outlines (and conversely it's focusing on me finding ways to drop the tasks that don't relate back).

bflynn's picture

An old thread, but on the chance that it is still useful - I found the methods of the book "Job Analysis at the Speed of Reality" to be useful. I have worked in the method and it was successful.

It is an older book by business standards, but the methodology for writing job descriptions (assuming you must have them) is good.


corinag's picture

I love the idea of 'a day in the life of'.

I will use it in the creation of a job description, and the recruitment add for a new marketing position.

I can't believe how timely MT (and the MT forums) always are

AManagerTool's picture

I think bad job descriptions lead to the inevitable, "Now let me tell you what this job is REALLY about" portion of EVERY interview I have ever been on. I think that every manager wants to add to each line of the description the phrase "do whatever needs to be done at the time"

There is also a nasty tendency of directs to tell bosses that "It's not in my job description". I even had it happen to me [u][b]once[/b][/u].

I think, like Mark, that job descriptions are overrated. We need them here because we have a job ladder and huge HR ...blah blah blah. Writing good ones is an art form but not for reasons of utility. They take art to get them through HR, legal and compensation. It took us, I'm not kidding you here, THREE years to get our job ladder approved. By the time they get done with them they are so sterile, generic and unintelligible that they are all but useless except as the framework for hiring (read that as screening).

In a perfect world, or a small company where I could call the shots, I'd use the simplest JD template I could find (the MT one is a great example) and at the end of it I'd add the phrase, "do whatever needs to be done at the time"

Good Luck MissT

bioltechm's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]I think bad job descriptions lead to the inevitable, "Now let me tell you what this job is REALLY about" portion of EVERY interview I have ever been on. I think that every manager wants to add to each line of the description the phrase "do whatever needs to be done at the time"

So, that phrase doesn't get added to most job descriptions? :wink:

I work at an academic institution and most staff JDs have the line 'other duties as required' in them. It's one of the reasons my job has become the unique complex beast that it is :lol: