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How Hiring Works

Writing the job description

A job description is a definition, or "snapshot," of the job. Before you can write a good job description you have to be very familiar with the duties required for that job. If you haven't had anyone in the position before then do a job analysis by talking with other businesses, friends, or associates who have had similar types of positions within their businesses or work departments. Or, better yet, interview or observe someone who holds the type of position you are hiring for. They can offer the best overview of what that type of work entails. Get as many details about their duties as you can. That will help you identify the skills necessary to do the job well. Here are some examples of questions you should be able to answer about the position.

  • What are the specific duties?
  • What are the specific skills needed to complete the job?
  • What formal training or educational background is needed?
  • What interpersonal skills are needed?
  • What tools are used? (To find equipment skills needed.)
  • How is the position supervised? (What is the reporting structure?)

The description should at least include the essential functions of the job, reporting relationships or organizational placement, supervisory duties, and qualifications necessary to perform the work.

Job functions
Use your notes from the previous conversations and interviews to make a complete list of the job functions. Include as much detail as you can about how those duties should be carried out, as well as what is done a daily basis, weekly basis, etc. For example, if you know one of the duties is to maintain a list of customers that includes their past purchase information, contact information, and complaints they've registered, then you probably want to elaborate a little more and explain how often this must be updated, the software program that is used, and any other pertinent information. This will be of help during the hiring process, as well as after you have an employee in place because it provides an initial guide for how the employee should structure their time.

Job skills required
Each of the functions you've listed will probably require a specific skill to go along with it. For instance, if one of the job functions is to sell your services then the employee should have some solid sales skills. If the job requires a lot of customer contact then they must have skills in dealing with disgruntled clients (you know they're out there), and probably good negotiation skills.

Identify all of the skills the job will need and prioritize those. Remember, there are some things that can be taught if you've otherwise found the perfect candidate. Don't discount an applicant for not having one of the lesser important skills, particularly if that skill is one that can be learned fairly easily.

The job description is useful for more things than just hiring. You'll use it in:

  • training new employees and setting the expectations for their performance
  • annual performance evaluations
  • determining the position's pay scale and other compensation
  • differentiating the position as either exempt or non-exempt

There are probably many other organizational values to having good job descriptions. Make sure yours are detailed and kept up-to-date. Another thing to keep in mind is how much experience you think the person should have in order to be able to do the job well. Will you be available to provide a lot of supervision, or will they need to be able to hit the ground running.? You may find a person who has the right skillset, but may not have the track record to go with it. That track record is sometimes just as important.