Create Practical Job Descriptions and Job Specifications

Business owners must recognize that what they do before they interview candidates for a position determines to a great extent how successful they will be at hiring winners. The first step is to perform a job analysis, the process by which a firm determines the duties and nature of the jobs to be filled and the skills and experience required of the people who are to fill them. With- out a proper job analysis, a hiring decision is, at best, a coin toss.

The first step in conducting a job analysis is to develop a job description, a written statement of the duties, responsibilities, reporting relationships, working conditions, and methods and techniques as well as materials and equipment used in a job. A results-oriented job description explains what a job entails and the duties the person filling it is expected to perform. A detailed job description includes a job title, job summary, primary responsibilities and duties, nature of supervision, the job’s relationship to others in the company, working conditions, the job’s location, definitions of job-specific terms, and a description of the company and its culture.

Preparing job descriptions is a task that most small business owners overlook; however, this may be one of the most important parts of the hiring process because it creates a blueprint for the job. Without this blueprint, a manager tends to hire the person with experience whom they like the best.

Useful sources of information for writing job descriptions include the manager’s knowledge of the job, the workers currently holding the job, and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, available at most libraries. Internet searches also are a valuable tool for finding templates for writing job descriptions. There, entrepreneurs can find templates and descriptions they can easily modify to fit their companies’ needs. The second objective of a job analysis is to create a job specification, a written statement of the qualifications and characteristics needed for a job stated in such terms as education, skills, and experience.

A job specification shows the small business manager what kind of person to recruit and establishes the standards an applicant must meet to be hired. In essence, it is a written “success profile” of the ideal employee. Does the person have to be a good listener, empathetic, well organized, decisive, and a “self-starter”? Should he or she have experience in Java programming? One of the best ways to develop this success profile is to study the top performers currently working for the company and to identify the characteristics that make them successful.