8 Ways to Write Better Job Descriptions

Working Together Hiring the right people

What really motivates a candidate to want to work for your organization?
What can you do to attract the right type of talent?
How do you convey that your company is an exciting place to work?
How do you show that your organization is different?

These are all questions that every employer asks. However, despite the fact that many are asking these questions, they still fail to properly address the problem. They fail to have the right approach.

Time and time again we see companies submit a job description to us that says the following.

“This is what we do. This is the type of person that we need. This is your compensation”

While we understand that you are a growing organization with needs and demands, and want to attract talent fast, this is an utterly flawed approach to attracting the right type of talent.

Yes, you convey the type of person that YOU need, but what it is missing is why you are a great organization to work for. You are simply stating demands, rather than meeting the candidate halfway. It is a one-sided approach.

Will you attract talent using this type of method? Yea sure. Realistically any JD will get resumes into the pipeline. But will you attract the right type of talent? Probably not. Or it will take you much longer to find it.

So how do you craft a job description that actually attracts the right type of people? Let me explain…

From our experience, candidates are motivated more by the mission and vision of the company, the roles and responsibilities that they will have, and what problem they are solving by coming on board to work with your organization. They are also motivated by how this position will help their career development in the future. These are the things that motivate a potential employee, much more so than the compensation that you will be offering that candidate.

Are some people still more attracted to a role purely by the compensation? Yea sure, everyone has different motivating factors. But will that person last long and be an involved member of your team? Probably not. The second they get a better job offer with a more attractive salary they will jump ship. Personally, I’d rather hire someone motivated by the why of my organization, rather than what I am offering them monetarily.
(this notion also brings up a great point by Simon Sinek, in one of my all time favorite TED Talks “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” – If I had to sum it up in one sentence… “people don’t buy what you sell, they buy why you sell it.”)

I recently saw presentation by Eric Savage, Founder of Unitus Capital. He discussed how the three primary motivating factors of an employee (all more so than money) are as follows: 1) Autonomy: Being able to act independently and have creative freedom to make decisions. 2) Learning: How much will I be able to learn in this role and how will it help me to grow in the future? 3) Impact: Working on something that is bigger than yourself. An ability to have an impact on the world via the work that you are doing.

I personally believe that all three of these should be stressed to candidates, and employers should give deep thought to if they are providing their employees with these three factors. If not, don’t be surprised when the culture of your organization goes down the tubes or you are having a hard time attracting the right type of people.

Ok that was a bit of a rant, now back to the Job Description

In the following sections I will outline a template for how to create a Job Description that will attract the right type of people to your organization. Personally, we always like to look at things from a “Problem” statement standpoint, and we structure the JD accordingly.

(*Please keep in mind that the following questions are intended to act as more of a guide than a rigid template. Feel free to use some and scrap others)

1) Mission and Vision:

What problem is your organization working on? Why do you do what you do? How are you solving this problem? What is the mission of your organization? How do you envision your organization 10 years from now? (Think: What will inspire a candidate to work with us?)

2) Traction:

How well have you done at solving this problem? How many customers do you have? How many countries do you have a presence in? Have you raised any money? Any big name investors? (This provides credibility to your organization, it shows that you have a vision and you have executed on it, and other people have noticed (if you have raised money). It demonstrates that you know what you’re doing).

3) Organizational Problem:

What problem are you experiencing in your organization? How is the candidate going to solve this problem for your organization? What have you done in the past to work on this problem, and why didn’t it work? Or is this a new problem and you need to bring people on accordingly? (This shows the candidate why their role is important within your organization, and how they can provide value).

4) Roles and Responsibilities:

What will this person be responsible for? How will these responsibilities solve the problems that you are experiencing? How much responsibility and autonomy will this person have to work on this problem? (Shows them what their day to day will be like and what is expected of them).

5) Opportunity for Growth/Learning:

How will these roles and opportunities provide an opportunity for growth, both within the organization, and in their future career goals? Is the problem that they are working on something that is applicable to other organizations as well? What skills will they learn and how will this help them in the future? (Shows them how much they can learn and why it’s good for their career).

6) Team Size and Team Dynamics:

Many times a JD will say how many people an organization has, but it won’t say how many people you will be working with. Sometimes you can have an organization with 100+ people, but you are working on a solo project. Other times the organization might only be 25 people, but you will be on a team of 3-5 people all working on cracking the same problem. Stating not only how large your organization is, but also how many people they will be working with, are important to creating an accurate picture of their day to day responsibilities and team dynamics.

7) Culture:

What is the culture of your organization like? What are your values?: No, this doesn’t mean “We have a fooseball table in the office!” or “We are a team of foodies and travelers!”, or “Our office has bean bag chairs and standing desks!”. Culture represents office dynamics. It represents communication styles. It represents how conflicts are handled and how people are rewarded for their efforts (or how underperformance is handled). It represents working hours, time off, autonomy, and responsibility. I have seen (and been a part of) plenty of companies with a lavish office and ping pong tables with absolutely miserable culture. Just because you spent money on nice things doesn’t mean you have a good culture. Communication, values, and work styles do.

8) What is this position worth?:

Rather than saying “This is what we will pay you”, you should instead phrase it as, “By solving this problem you are a) saving us a ton of money, which enables us to give you $x, or b) driving business forward and unlocking potential which is worth $y to us.” The key is that by phrasing it in this manner, you show what the position is worth to the organization, rather than throwing out an arbitrary number for salary. It provides the candidate with context so that they understand why they are receiving the salary they are (rather than just “this is the salary I should get at this stage in my career”).

If you notice the trend, most of this is aimed at forming a pitch to the candidate, rather than telling them what you need. It still covers all the essentials of “who we are”, “what we do”, “what we need”, “what you’ll get” and “what type of people should apply”.

Closing Thoughts

Now I will say that this is meant to be more of a thought exercise more so than a rigid JD. These are questions that you should ask yourself, and if you are able to answer these questions and implement them into a JD, you will have something that is meant to inspire the candidate who reads it. The more thought you put into this, the more it will reflect in its resonance with candidates.

The people who read a JD like this and apply will already “get it”. What you wrote will resonate with them. They will be passionate about the problems you are solving and will want to contribute. Rather than hiring an employee, you will be gaining a team member; someone who is loyal to your organization and wants to see it grow. You will attract the right people, and hire only those who truly fit the bill.

Follow this recipe and I guarantee you will not only attract better talent, but you’ll also retain them longer too.

We hope you enjoyed this post and we hope that you found it useful. Have anything to add? Please let us know in the comments section. This is a work in progress for us as well, and we believe that meditating on these types of questions are essential to building one kickass organization.

Love happiness and smiles,

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