How to write a job description that gets results

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The job description is the first experience many candidates will have with your company, so it’s important to write one that wins over the best of the best. As an important summary of the role your employees will do, job descriptions are used for recruiting staff as well as ongoing performance management and promotions.

Related: 9 small business tax deductions to claim in 2019

What to include in a job description

We’ve all read them but do you know how to write a job description? Here are the basics.

  1. An accurate job title.
  2. The type of employment you are offering.
  3. A description of your company.
  4. Summary of the role.
  5. The duties and key responsibilities of the job.
  6. The selection criteria.

Let’s look at each element of an effective job description one by one.

1. An accurate job title

If you’re employing someone under an industry award, it’s important to use the correct job title for their level.

In many industries, titles like manager, assistant and technician have a specific meaning, responsibility level and pay rate.

If you’re not sure what title you should use, you can find the awards at Fair Work Australia or discover where the role fits in the industry at Job Outlook.

2. The type of employment you are offering

How to Write a Job Description Two Women Interviewing
Photo: Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

The type of employment will determine the conditions of work, including:

  • Pay
  • Hours
  • Allowances
  • What leave you must provide

Usually this is expressed as full-time, part-time or casual. You should also state whether the role is ongoing, fixed term or contract.

If the role is less than full-time (40 hours per week), include how many hours are required. Part-time roles are generally written as a decimal, so 1.0 is full-time, 0.8 is four days a week and so on.

If you’re open to flexible working options, like remote work, job sharing and school hours, remember to include these details in your job description as well.
If the role is a junior level, include details of traineeships or apprenticeships available. Remember, unpaid work experience and internships for employees that aren’t part of a vocational program are illegal in Australia.

3. A description of your company

This section doesn’t need to be extensive but should give an idea of the size of your company, where it fits in the industry, any areas you specialise in and some reasons they should choose to work there. Keep this professional and refer to your company profile if you’re not sure.

4. A summary of the role

In a few sentences, sum up what the role will involve.

This is the most challenging part of learning how to write a job description.

 

It should be a broad statement that describes how the role fits into the organisation, without including details.

For example:

“The Audit and Compliance Assistant supports the Medical Centre Compliance Team to ensure compliance with legislative and policy requirements. This involves assisting with the administrative aspects of audit, compliance and quality assurance activities.”

5. The duties and key responsibilities of the job

When listing the duties, think about what someone will do in that role when they get it. It shouldn’t be an exhaustive list, but it could have daily, monthly, quarterly and annual duties that they are expected to do.

If you’re struggling with writing these, it can help to look up similar jobs on sites like Seek, MyCareer and Indeed to see how they word them.

Pro Tip: Think about what you WANT someone in this role to do. That might be different to what the current person in the role does.

6. The selection criteria

How to Write a Job Description Man in Suit Outside

The selection criteria forms the basis for your interview questions, so they should be measurable and demonstrable. The selection criteria will usually include the skills needed to successfully undertake the role, as well as the qualifications and experience required if any.

Last but not least, make sure you include these essentials in your job description:

Pay rate

This can be hourly for casual roles or annual rates for contract roles. Include the lower – upper pay range for the role.

Location

Where do you want them to work? Are there other requirements like regular travel, or options to work from home?

Reporting line

Be sure to list the title of the person they’ll report to, should they get the job.

You should also include any extra performance expectations like typing speed, client calls per month and so on.

A few things you shouldn’t include in your job description

Just like the list of things that should be in every job description, it’s important to leave out some things, like:

Subjective information

Avoid words that give your opinion on the job — low-skilled, complex work, tricky to do, deal with annoying customers.

Negative phrasing about the job

Focus on what they should be doing in the role, not what they shouldn’t do. Avoid words like must not, cannot, should not.

Abbreviations and technical language

Make sure you explain any terms that might be unfamiliar to people who don’t know your internal programs or lingo.

Assumed skills for a role of that level

You don’t need to tell them they need to show respect for management or have good English skills for a customer service role.

Details of every single task

Stick to the key duties and responsibilities and then include a more generic catchall such as “other duties as directed or required.”

Discriminatory statements

Use gender-neutral language and avoid words like young, mature or religion/culture-based terms.

One more thing: don’t use the nonsensical clichés found in job ads like ‘expected to hit the ground running’ and ‘must be a self-starter.’ Same goes for terms like dynamic, guru, ninja and whizz.

That’s how to write a job description

How to Write a Job Description Women Shaking Hands

Once you’ve got all the information you need for your job description, use a template and follow the process above to ensure you’re attracting the best candidates for your role.

Job descriptions aren’t just used in the application process — they’ll be referred to as part of performance management, salary grading and annual reviews. So they need to be an accurate reflection of the role, level and responsibilities.

Editor’s note: Don’t have a website yet? A mobile-friendly WordPress website will help you look legit to prospective employees.