3 Ways To Make That Job Description Shine

Dear HRart Worker,
Job descriptions are one of the most powerful tools in the Human Resource (HR) department. Unfortunately, most HR departments use job descriptions incorrectly which, as a result, makes the job description more or less useless. This has led to the loss of potential candidates and new hires. 
We’ve all seen a poorly executed job description. This can be disappointing considering the positive impact job descriptions have on involved stakeholders. There are multiple organizations that have already discussed the benefits of job descriptions and the impact that it can have on an organization. To understand the impact of job descriptions, I would recommend reading these articles:
In summary, here are two broad benefits of effective job descriptions:
  1. Applicants receive first impression of company
  2. Company establishes position expectations 
In both of these articles, a common theme of communication is present. If, and only if, the job description is effective, there will be clearer communication between both parties. The HR department will know what is being asked of the applicant and will be able to use the job description as a reference point. On the other side, the applicant will understand what is expected of them and a relationship of trust is able to form. When the company is direct about what they are looking for, the applicant will have a solid understanding of the expectations. 
There is a fine line between an efficient and inefficient job description that many companies teeter on. Here are some common mistakes that changes the impact of the job description: 

1. Organization

As simple as it may sound, having an organized job description will attract more applicants. It will be inviting for applicants to read more about the company and the expectations of the position. When a job description is easy to read, there will be clear expectations communicated to applicants. The longer it takes to interpret the job description, the less of a chance the applicant will apply. There are insightful tools online that can assist when creating a job description.
Tips when organizing a job description:
  • Have distinct headings – Breaking up a large body of text promotes readability. No one is going to want to read a job description that is one paragraph. Headings and bullet points will allow the individuals to read what they find like first. This also ensures that information is intentionally placed. Having subject lines will allow for any unnecessary information to be removed. 
  • Transferring job descriptions to job boards – A large portion of applicants come from job boards. It was found that about 50% of applicants come from job boards. While the job description needs to be organized in an efficient manner, that must be exercised within every platform the company uses. If it is not executed accurately, the job description will be reflected back into the company’s inability to pay attention to details.  


2. Don’t Use Abbreviations

A job description should have clear communication about what is being asked of the new hire. This can be said when using abbreviations and acronyms. If not careful, abbreviations will discourage applicants instead of informing them about the position. There is the possibility that abbreviations can gate-keep necessary information that applicants are expected to know. The job description is limiting access to information without understanding the demographics. More times than not, this example of gate-keeping can be found within entry-level positions. When an applicant is entering a new field, the knowledge surrounding the position can be limited. The language of the job description should mirror the level of the position. 
In the human resource field specifically, there are many abbreviations to keep in mind when creating a job description. Here are the types and examples of abbreviations that I run into the most:
  • Company name acronyms – Only individuals who are stakeholders in the company will understand the meaning of these acronyms:
    Appalachian State University (ASU)
    Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH)
    The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • Field-specific abbreviations – Abbreviations commonly found in the human resources field:
    Application Tracking System (ATS)
    Affirmative Action Plan (AAP)
    Human Resources Information System (HRIS)
    Job Descriptions (JD)

3. Gender-Neutral Wording

Job descriptions should stay away from all gender-specific pronouns. Including gender-specific pronouns creates bias against the interviewing applicants. For the applicant, they feel excluded from the application process even before they apply. Gender-neutral phrasing will encourage the applicant to apply. Phrases to ensure a gender-neutral job description:
  • Applicant
         “The applicant will provide end-to-end clerical and administrative support to the HR Department”
  • The job title 
         “The Human Resource Coordinator will provide end-to-end clerical and administrative support to the HR Department”
  • They 
         “They will provide end-to-end clerical and administrative support to the HR Department”
  • You
         “You will provide end-to-end clerical and administrative support to the HR Department”
The goal is to effectively communicate what the company is looking for in an applicant, and a job description can either help or hurt a company. For the company, the execution of job descriptions reflects the company image. If the mistakes above are made, communication can be skewed. If a job description is unorganized, it reflects on the company’s attention to detail. If specific pronouns are used, an obvious bias in the company is presented. Job descriptions have the power to showcase companies or reflect poorly upon them. 
These points are not to discourage professionals when writing their job descriptions. Instead, these tips are a good resource to have in the back of your mind. Job descriptions can be a resource if we allow them to be. 


Grace (she/her/hers) 

p.s. This blog post was adapted from the Letters From the HRart fortnightly newsletter. I invite you to subscribe

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