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Writing a Job Description - Six Tips to Help


Writing a job description is never a fun ... job, but there are some ways to make it a little bit easier. Job descriptions are a way to give prospective employees the scoop on what their position and job duties will be if they are hired. It is important to make the job description as clear as possible without seeming overwhelming. It is a matter of deciding what to include in the job description that will allow you to fully encompass the range of the position.

Here are some tips for writing a job description that can help you create a comprehensive overview of the position you are hiring for.

Ask the person leaving the position to make a list of their tasks.
The person who would be most familiar with the job that you are hiring for would be the person who is leaving the position. Ask the individual to write down a laundry list, including big and small tasks, that he or she had to perform during their employment. If there are weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks that needed to be done, have him or her write those down too. This will act as a preliminary job description that you can modify and alter to suit what you feel is pertinent to the position.

Interview the individual leaving the position.
If you still have some time before the individual who has worked the position leaves permanently, then take some time to do an exit interview. There may be some eye opening responses from your soon-to-be former employee that may help in interviewing prospective employees. Ask what skills the individual has learned on the job. Ask what tasks could be delegated to someone else. Ask what changes could be made to streamline the position and its duties. If the individual is leaving on good terms, then they may be more than happy to give you the nitty gritty about the position.

Review the former employee's list of duties.
This will work as a launching pad for writing a job description for the position. Are there some tasks and skills that are absolutely necessary for the position? What tasks and skills can be learned on the job if a prospective employee has some, but not all, of your skill requirements? What tasks can and should be eliminated to help streamline the duties of the position? When interviewing a prospective employee, you may come across someone who is sharp and a quick learner, but lacks some skills - so you need to decide if you are willing to train a diamond in the rough on certain skills and which skills are pertinent from the onset of employment.

Review job descriptions for similar positions or industries.
A lot of employers and companies write a brief job description on their position listings or on online help wanted advertisements. Go to a similar company or employer and skim through similar positions. How did they set up their job descriptions? Is there something they touched upon that you had forgotten? How did you feel about reading their job description: was it too long, too short? Was it enticing to prospective employees or overwhelming?

Write out your own job description.
Armed with what you know you can begin to write your own job description. For most position, it is best to write a job description using bullets with concise phrases, but on the other hand, you should do what you feel is right in relation to your industry and the position. Short descriptions make the job duties easier to read and you will be able to go into further details about each task during the interview or training process. Too many bullets, paragraphs, or long sentences may seem overwhelming to a prospective employee who has come for their first interview and if that is a concern, then you can have a summarized job description and a longer more detailed job description available.

Format the job description into sections.
Separating your job description into sections may be the way to go when figuring out how to format all the information. You may want to have a section for computer skills, required education and/or certificates, etc... Many job descriptions also included 'Required Qualifications' where you can include the absolute most pertinent skills needed; and 'Preferred Qualifications' where you can include skills that would be great if the prospective employer had them, but would not be a deal breaker.

Remember to save your job description even after hiring a new employee. If the employee leaves in the future you will already have an outline of his or her position and it will be much easier to modify if you want to include updated requirements or delete outdated job duties.

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