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How to Write a Blue-Ribbon Job Description

Thanksgiving Day dinner may look different than in years past. The faces you saw around the table last night are probably going to be the same faces present tonight. Grandma is ‘safer-at-home’ on the other side of the country so you are tasked with preparing the feast. Turkey or tofurky? To stuff or not-to-stuff? Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes? Pumpkin pie or pecan pie? What family recipes will be featured on your Thanksgiving menu? And do you have the recipes to make them?

If you will remember from last months' blog post, we talked about the importance of a well-written and easy to navigate employee handbook. The same holds true for job descriptions. We’re going to share with you a blue-ribbon recipe for writing great job descriptions, one you can be thankful for any time of the year.

Title

This is where it begins. It grabs the candidates’ or employees’ attention. And even though it has been said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, titles do matter. For example, you’re flipping through a cookbook and come to a recipe titled Soup. You don’t give it a second glance and continue on to the next page, because that title didn’t pique your interest or indicate what recipe you would be making. If your company posted a job with the title Manager, a potential candidate may skip on by because it was too generic to make them want to learn more. Job titles should be relevant and identifiable to the position.


Serving Size

Much like a recipe’s notation of serving size, the job summary states what the job will entail, or ‘yield’ as chefs call it. It’s an overview of the company and a place to highlight the expectations for the position. As with the title, you want the job summary to stand out, entice the reader, and be clearly written. The whipped cream on the pie, if you will.


Measurements

Before you start cooking, you need to know if you have enough of that one ingredient left in the bottle that the recipe calls for, or you may have to look for another recipe. Listing a salary range and reporting structure serves as the measurements for each position. Candidates like to know if companies are offering competitive pay for comparable positions in their field. Employees want to see pay transparency.

Chefs note: for the purpose of this recipe, substitute an exact measurement (salary or hourly rate) with a more open, ‘season-to-taste’ one (range). And if you’re cooking in Colorado, starting January 1, 2021, you are required to have a measurement (pay range) on each job description.


Ingredients

This is your shopping list for the recipe. The key ingredients you will need in order to make a successful dish. Incumbent employees, interested employees, and candidates can read this list of key responsibilities and understand what is and/or will be expected of them in the position. When writing a recipe, the key ingredients are generally listed in the order of importance and preparation time. When writing a job description, list key responsibilities in a similar order.


Instructions

Certain skills beyond the basics are required for more advanced recipes. For example, you must know how to operate a blow-torch for Creme Brulee or have the fire department on speed-dial. Specific job skills and abilities are needed for each job. Identifying these skills and abilities on the job description can greatly reduce the risk of hiring or promoting someone into a position that they can't handle.


Directions For Serving

Some recipes include directions for serving, such as serve-at-room-temparture, or they give you a list of garnishments to add. On a job description, there is typically a section for education and experience that helps an individual determine if they are qualified for the position. Employers should include their requirements, as well as their preferences in this section, i.e. must have a bachelor's degree in cooking, or experience in the baking industry preferred.


Time and Temperature

You can't cook or bake a recipe without knowing how long and at what temperature. Well, you can, but the outcome might end in pizza delivery. Noting the physical requirements, the hours associated with the job, and the working environment on a job description can save on burnt or overcooked employees.


Nutritional Content

Even though we'd rather not know the number of calories or sugar content of grandma's pumpkin pie, it's still healthy information to have. The important, healthy information to have on any job description, is the EEO and at-will statement. The company is confirming with the candidate and employee that they are an equal opportunity and at-will employer.


Signature Dish

While your employee didn't write the job description, you still want them to autograph it. It just means they understand the position and what is expected of them.


We may not be the Butterball Turkey Hotline, but we can certainly help answer your job description questions. We're putting on a Job Description Workshop on November 18 at 10:00 MT. Sign up and bring a job description that we can help write or edit.

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