Transparency isn’t just for candidates, especially when it comes to job descriptions.
Just as any candidate should create a well-organized, clear resume and cover letter, whoever writes up a job description has a duty to craft one that explicitly spells out the duties and qualifications required. If you want to find the right person for the job, make sure the posting helps you do that by luring in the kind of person you want. Consider this: the job description needs to be accurate, detailed, and specific in such a way that it will appeal and make sense to the candidate, those involved in the hiring, and anyone working with the future employee.
Avoid vagueness. While some candidates will apply for positions they know they don’t truly fit, if the write-up of the position comes across as unclear, you may find you’ve made more work for yourself by attracting candidates you don’t truly want. Put in keywords so that someone searching will find your specific posting — most job searches are now done online. On the other hand, a vague or confusing description may also chase away candidates you want to bring in — if it doesn’t look like a good fit, a job seeker will quickly move on to the next possibility.
To that end, make sure you don’t get too specific. Too narrow a description can also scare away good potential candidates who think they don’t have the background (does the person have to have 5-7 years of experience for this position?) to do it. If you want to bring in the ideal candidate, the job description needs to look like something they would a) want to do, and b) feel they have the qualifications to do. And some flexibility can bring in candidates who may not have the exact set of skills you want but have transferrable ones that will work as well. They can perhaps cross-train, working in different departments…and flexibility with a job description can help a candidate to think creatively in terms of how she approaches the position.
Finally, remember that these descriptions don’t apply solely to candidates; they apply once the person becomes an employee as well. A poorly written job description can lead to employee burnout if he suddenly has duties he never knew about and now has to add to his plate/learn how to do. It can also lead to the “that’s not my job” syndrome, something any manager wants to avoid. With regard to managers, a clear job description works as a talking point when discussing job performance, either positive or negative.
Bear in mind as well that an unclear job description can lead to accusations of discrimination if a candidate isn’t hired for some reason unspecified in the description (or, if after hiring, the person is let go because he doesn’t have skills that weren’t specified earlier). A company can avoid these sorts of pitfalls by having someone who truly understands and knows the position writing the job description.
A poorly written job description gets you the wrong candidates, missed opportunities with great candidates, and potential overall confusion. Take time to have the right person craft a description for the ideal employee — both for the job seeker and for the company hiring. Words have power; use them to make a great match for everyone involved.