Today’s topic

How to write a job description for a job you’ve never heard of

Job descriptions are more than just a list of key skills, responsibilities and salary offer; they’re a key tactic in our employer brand strategy, communicating the value of the role to our organisation, how it contributes to our Mission and our company culture.

As we all navigate hiring during the Great Resignation and think about roles that may not yet exist, we need to be agile in our thinking. This is fluid when we consider how each hire aligns to both internal business strategy and global hiring trends.

Forbes top five growing career fields include health care, tech and supply chain management. When roles and departments are new to your company and you don’t have a recruitment firm, we thought we’d help you out with tips for writing a job description for even the newest and least-tested jobs out there.

We’re going to give you examples that work for a mid-high level Individual Contributor, as it’s a growing sector and key to retain and nurture non-managerial talent.

Before you start: understand the core skills your new hire needs

Every hiring process should start with understanding why you’re hiring and the core skills that are essential. When that’s an entirely new role, take a step back and consider why the job is needed, how that aligns with strategy, and what a superstar will deliver. Ask the hiring manager and the coworkers questions such as:

  • What purpose will the role fill?
  • What needs to get done?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • What will be their ways of working?

If it is a new role, you might need to go external to ask these questions. Interview a fellow recruiter or a person currently holding the position for another company.

Once you have a basic understanding of the role, it is time to sort and prioritise. Some things will be absolutely crucial for success, others not.

Rather than make an arbitrary decision about how many year’s experience or particular qualifications may or may not help you to understand who could be a great hire, rather think about which core skills your next great hire needs.

It's these skills that need to underpin the recruitment process from Job Description and advert through to interviewing and onboarding.

The Job Title

Be specific and don’t be overly creative, as you risk confusing candidates. Allow the candidate to quickly understand if they’re looking at a job that could be a great fit or not (and you want to be included in the right search filters, right?). Make it specific and searchable: so “customer success rep”, not “customer love operative”.

If it’s a novel role, think about the key deliverables you need a superstar to deliver and the seniority of the position

Are you creating an entry level role or a more senior role with potential leadership responsibilities?

A good rule of thumb is: the more alone the person is with their expertise, the more senior you want to make that hire. If you have no idea what they should or shouldn’t be doing, make sure they know. Otherwise we have a blind leading a blind situation.

Provide the candidate with context

Gallup put it this way: “millennials require an overarching sense of organisational purpose — a connection to the “big picture” of why the company exists and what it brings to the world.”

This becomes even more important when thinking about Gen Z candidates, who are starting to enter the workforce, and are predicted to value purpose over salary at a higher rate even than Millennials.

Allow potential candidates to understand your mission, what problems this position will solve and how this position contributes to your organisation’s success.

Let candidates understand the weight of the position, the level of decision making they are responsible for, and the changes that they will affect (And hey, sharing and communicating mission, ability to drive change and responsibility also helps you to build psychological capital from day one.

We make this super simple, and have sections called “Alva in a nutshell” and “Why this role is important to us”, to signpost readers.

Note: remember to keep your language action based, which stops you from unintentionally shutting out women and people of colour from applying.

Day-to-day responsibilities

Write out, really simply, what the person will do, in simple, accessible, action-based language. If there are lengthy tech skills needed, direct people to a micro-site.
If the job is entirely new to your organisation, go back to the leader who requested the hire:

  • Locate the deliverables
  • Write them into a brief list of action points that help the reader to understand what a day would look like.
  • Manage expectations: spell out what percentage of the day will consist of what type of activity.
  • Avoid overselling (or underselling) aspects of the job, resulting in a mismatch and risking higher levels of church.

Person specification, or ‘Who you are & what you’ve done before’

Many employers still demand 3, 5, or 500 years of experience (okay maybe not 500…). Ever stopped to ask yourself why? It’s an old habit that looks to de-risk hiring and screen out candidates. But, more than that, it stops some of our most agile and learning-oriented candidates from applying. So stop using it!

So whatever you usually demand in length of experience, cut it in half!

Research shows years of experience and education are poor indicators of future success, so stop using them as gatekeepers for who may or may not apply.

This is where you should list the core skills you need (say, ambitious & goal striving, a 'prestigeless' team player, someone who loves learning and sharing that knowledge”). And if there are technical requirements, such as qualifications, list them here.

Communicating your company’s culture

At Alva, our (my) tone of voice in job descriptions is super intentional: we’re a hard working bunch, everyone in the team has a voice, we are committed to our mission and we like to be a bit silly.

Our job decisions are written with a fair bit of silliness. That means we attract people who like the idea of working with us! If you feel that your job descriptions don’t sound like the rest of your company culture and your customer brand, then pull in your marketing department who will help you to write an ad that sounds like your company.

Benefits

Millennials expect managers to act as coaches and support their continuing professional development, so let candidates know that a job with you is a career development for the long-term. Do this through communicating how you support development, if you offer coaching or training budgets.

At Alva, we have a Notion micro-site in addition to a Teamtailor managed career site, to allow people to learn about our 7 weeks annual leave, our employee-chosen hardware and wellbeing benefits.

In Sweden, companies don’t share salaries publicly; in the UK and US, a trend is increasing for salary bands to be published on the job description. So, work with your jurisdiction, but if you can talk about salary, do it.

Job descriptions as stories

Writing job descriptions is another form of storytelling. Every good storyteller wants to make sure that their audience is entertained and to understand the story.

When you’re writing job descriptions for novel roles, it’s hard to make sure you’re not wasting time. By understanding the core skills, the deliverables and how success will be measured, you can write a job description that helps you attract the best talent who are the right fit for your growing organisation.