Statistically speaking, the chances of someone leaving a new position within the first few months are very high. Naturally, this is a worrying thought because a bad hire is expensive, time-consuming and disruptive for the team. While there is a wide array of factors involved in this problem, it is relatively rare that the new employee just makes a rash, spur of the moment decision to leave. The research on this is readily available, and one significant reoccurring factor is simply that the job is not what the candidate expected. Identifying that this is a recurring problem means we can start to reduce the likelihood of early leavers by refining the recruitment process.
A good, clear, well-described job offer is the starting point for a good hire.
What makes a good job description?
A good tip, as we say in the title of this blog, is to start by pretending you know nothing. Not about the job in the widest context because that is usually common knowledge; this is more about specifics. Assume you know very little about the day-to-day workings of the role so that you can relearn it. Research how the rest of your industry describes it and look at your competitors’ ads. By researching other job descriptions, you can build up a picture of the job from outside your own experience. This will also confirm the practical, contractual matters, such as appropriate salary and benefits. Once you have this, stay in ‘know nothing’ mode and move on to the description of the job.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the best place to start is by setting a guiding principle that you will always ensure your description is accurate and based on the reality of the role. There is a very important difference between these two things, particularly when it comes to the reality of what the job will entail. Expectations of what the role will be are initially created from the job description. While you may well be able to tweak those expectations during the recruitment process, it is better if the candidate knows where they stand from the beginning.
Any fixed demands in terms of skills, education, specialist experience – such as specific market knowledge, and so on, should be very clear and prominent in the description. Similarly, be clear about where something is ‘desirable’ rather than a fixed demand of the role, where not having it will result in immediate rejection. If your desirables could become training opportunities so much the better. Some applicants and particularly less motivated and passive candidates could see the list of preferred skills or similar as a reason not to apply. This way, rather than being something a candidate sees as a barrier, they will see a ‘desirable’ as an opportunity for career development.
Be transparent about the attractive duties as well as the more mundane aspects of the role. When you are writing the profile for a job, there is a fine balance between promoting your employer brand and the advantages of the role and setting up the wrong expectations. Naturally, you will want to tell the prospective employee how great your company is and how much they will love working for you. You should absolutely do that but never stray into using hyperbole or too many superlatives in the job description. People understand that all jobs have good bits and less good bits. Emphasise the most attractive aspects but make sure you are clear about the reality of the day to day as well. We also suggest you avoid over-complex descriptions. It is much better to go with ‘maintaining stock levels’ than ‘ensuring active placement of customer-facing assets’, for example.
Honesty and appropriate promotion
In the end, a good job description is a mix of honesty and appropriately promoting the opportunity you are presenting. The problem of a bad hire can be significantly reduced if your recruitment partner, the candidate, and your internal team are all very clear on what the job role is and what that means in practical terms. Once that bit is right, a fantastic employer brand and a good recruitment partner will do the rest.
Call us to talk about how we can help with great job descriptions that will attract the best talent.