One of the biggest and most common mistakes most companies make when hiring is that they don’t seriously think about the type of person they are looking for and what they specifically need them to achieve before jumping into the recruitment process with neglected job descriptions.

Most job descriptions are a visible indicator of just how much thought has gone into who they want and what they want them to achieve.

If your job descriptions have:

  • a list of skills and qualifications for e.g. Apache, MySQL, BSc Computer Science 2:1
  • a list of tasks the candidates will be “responsible for”
  • a list of personal qualities they should have such as “excellent team and communication skills”
  • is written in the third person

Throw them away.

Yes its “best practice”. BUT it’s boring and bland.

From an employment law perspective they tick a box because they have a list of criteria to measure people against that will avoid discrimination claims. How negative is that?

Imagine you are a talented, aspirational professional applying for your job. Would you be attracted to a company with job descriptions that have had the very life sucked out of them?

Let me tell you a story that I shared with 30 business owners at an event at Grant Thornton in Cambridge about a small Internet Service Provider that I worked with in early 2000 that was having trouble recruiting.

When I met the owners, a husband and wife with 2 small children, they were struggling to cope with customer demand for their dial-up and ADSL services.  She was stretched beyond her limits juggling the accounts, administration, and recruitment. He had his hands full managing the engineering and technical functions. They were spending hundreds of thousands of pounds using recruitment agencies who were sending them the wrong candidates and telling them they needed to up their salaries to get the skills they needed.

They asked me to help them put a recruitment strategy together to ensure they recruited the right people. People who shared their values and commitment to becoming the UK’s No 1 Internet Service Provider. They had 19 open positions and “best practice” job descriptions that were bland and did not sell their brand.

The first conversation I had with the owners was to ask them three questions about each of the 19 jobs they needed to fill:

  • What is the job that needs doing?
  • How should the candidate be motivated in that job in order to perform at their best?
  • What do you and your existing employees see, feel, hear, do, want, and think is important in your work?

The process took quite a long time.  However once they knew exactly what they wanted we could start pulling together some job descriptions that really reflected what it was like to work at this innovative and caring ISP.

Here’s how the job descriptions looked afterwards:

  • they were written in the first person
  • they started with some background about the company, who the owners were and why they needed somebody like the person reading the job description
  • they clearly stated what the candidate needed to do for the company with measures of success
  • they included a description of how the ideal candidate would be motivated to achieve those performance objectives
  • the section on skills and experience was kept to a minimum as they were potential blockers to finding candidates
  • they included a few lines on who the candidate would be reporting to and working with and how they would be rewarded with full details of salary and benefits.

The “best practice” job descriptions had been replaced with performance motivating job profiles and the husband-and-wife couple never looked back. Four years later they sold their company for £13 million and 10 years later the team of people they hired are still in touch with one another and talk about the good old days.

My advice to anyone hiring is to never hire anyone who is not motivated to do the job no matter how talented they are. And if your best practice job descriptions are not clearly identifying exactly how someone needs to be motivated and what is expected of them in the role, the likelihood of you finding and keeping top talent reduces from 90% to 50%.

If you would like to find out more about the psychology behind writing performance motivating job profiles, contact us for a no obligation discussion on how to increase your recruitment accuracy!