Once the requirements of a job have become clear, the responsibilities and tasks of the position should be detailed in a job description. The skills and experience and type of person needed for the position should then be set out in a job specification.
Writing an accurate job description helps to ensure that the right information is given when the job is advertised, ultimately leading to a satisfactory appointment and preventing misunderstandings. Include the title of a job and its reporting line in a description. When describing major responsibilities, set out in detail what the job-holder is expected to achieve. Use verbs of action, such as “liaise” or “develop”, to describe day-to-day tasks so that you are clear about what the employee is going to do.
- When writing a job description, do not underplay difficult aspects.
- Check the salaries of similar jobs in other companies.
- Make job titles aspirational. This encourages people to grow into them.
Ask the current job-holder to contribute towards redefining the job, encouraging them to be honest about any drawbacks. Discuss the reworked description with them.
Checking a Job Description
Check that a job description contains the following elements:
• The job title;
• The reporting line of the job;
• The overall responsibilities of the job, for example, “maintaining the store’s reputation for attractive window dressing”.
• A list of the job’s chief tasks and activities, for example, “serving customers from 9 a.m to 5 p.m in the week”,
• Details of terms, including pay, and conditions of service.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
• Does the job have a title that accurately reflects its purpose?
• Has the emphasis of the job changed recently?
• Does the job call for any particular technical expertise?
• What salary should you be offering with the job?
• What are the perks – health insurance, pension, and so on?
• How much paid holiday is there? Is unpaid leave available?
• What is the most difficult part of the job?
• Does it require a lot of work outside office hours?
• Does the job involve a large amount of travel?
When deciding on the skills you are looking for in your ideal candidate, consider the specific requirements of the job. Break the job into different areas and consider them in turn.
• Key personality characteristics
• Experience, training, and technical skill
• Education and formal qualifications
• Special abilities, such as the ability to drive
• Mental and emotional attributes
Once you have drawn up a revised job description, you can begin to analyze the skills, qualifications, experience, and attributes needed in the person who will fill the job. This will be the job specification. Be as precise as possible: it is useful to specify what is desirable but also what is the essential minimum to help you assess the candidates who apply. Be realistic about what you are looking for, and keep other options open. Starting that “a knowledge of statistics is desirable” may not be possible. You may find that all candidates’ statistical skills are inadequate and whoever you employ must be sent on a course.