Top 10 hiring mistakes – #3 – position description failures

Attracting talent and recruitment

At the time when you want to put your role to market, your aim is to attract the best candidates, right? Getting something simple like the wording of the position description could be the difference by being handed several great candidates, or showered in dross.

In my 15 years of recruitment I have seen every type of position description – from the 5 brief lines one to the 10 page thesis. I’ve seen ones that are three quarters  of fluff about the company, and only a tiny description of the role, and ones that mention nothing about the company culture and environment. I have also seen ones that list ever technical skill needed but leave out essential behaviors and culture requirements; and vice versa.

The point of the position description that seems to be lost to many is that this is a tool to attract,  not bore. Too many position descriptions fail at the attraction of top candidates and seem to be more confusing than informative, meaning that candidates will either apply out of pure curiosity, or ignore. Position descriptions, and subsequent advertisements, that attract dozens, or even hundreds of candidates, may seem in first light to be successful, but the dross you will have to go through to find that needle in the haystack will nullify any gains perceived. The time and cost associated with rifling through a pile of resumes that miss the mark will be telling and for any business it is a cost that can be ill-afforded.

Yet time and time again, it is the way the position description is designed and worded that consistently lets businesses down. Wording that is too ambiguous or broad, that doesn’t describe core tasks or technologies used will only succeed in attracting the wrong sort of candidate. Ones that fail to paint a clear picture of the company and what it stands for might as well be blank, as will the ones that don’t give a potential candidate a clear idea what impact the role will have.  Finally, a poorly designed position description will give candidates no real idea what to expect in the role.The likelihood of them being interested falls, and on top of that, if they were to go through the process on the basis of a poor PD, the chances of them getting a surprise when they get the job and start (remember, surprises are not the best thing to a new employee) will be high.

Put simply, position descriptions that fail to attract the right candidates are, of course, failures.

Then there is the fact that a lot of businesses use the same job description, word for word, for the same role every time that role is needed. By doing this, you might as well be disregarding the changes in the role over the months / years, any new technologies, practices, policies or procedures that would impact on the role today as opposed to last year and basically be using a document that is out of date. Any business knows, using a document or procedure or similar that is out of date is poor business practice. It also speaks loudly on the vitality of the business.

However, the one thing that a lot of businesses overlook when it comes to position descriptions is this: your PD is your entry to the wider candidate and business market to advertise your role. It is a branding tool. Businesses that do not understand that (and there are plenty) will blunder into the market with a document that will not showcase their business in any good light – and their brand will take a hit. So much so that as an attraction tool for the best talent in the market, it will sink like a stone.

So what makes a good position description? In very simple terms they are:

  • The ones that have thought about what they are looking for in the best candidate for the role.
  • They have measurables that are defined in such a way as to cover all possible eventualities
  • And then keep it to a maximum of 2-3 pages.
  • How? By using a Metrics To Achievement table – the  role, the actions accompanying it, the end result and finally how this will be measured.
  • Keeping it current!

This goes a long way in pointing the position description towards attracting who you want to apply for your role, and removing the chances of being inundated with unsuitable applicants. When time and money are the biggest killers to any hiring process, this is a definite improvement.


Scott Brown

Scott Brown

Principal at Scott Brown Recruitment

Hi, I'm Scott. I am a recruitment expert and small business hiring consultant with over 14 years industry experience. I started my business in 2009 as a pure recruiter, but have morphed it into a consultancy on internal hiring. I love small business and I love what I do, as it really sits well with my passion for the people side of any business. On top of that I am a blogger / writer and speaker on hiring within small businesses.

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