• Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
A manager at a major software company is wasting money and making more work for herself. She is making her vendors less effective and more frustrated. Her bosses will notice the lower performance, but they won’t know it’s because she is fishing for minnows with whale bait.This manager, we’ll call her Tina, has been promoted. She needs to backfill a position in her department that supports the position she just left. Instead of taking the time and thinking it through, she gave the recruiters her old position description and said, “Find me one of these”.


  • The recruiters are frustrated – they source their best candidates that match the position description, prepare them, and send them to the interview, but they don’t get hired.
  • The candidates are frustrated – they are well qualified for the position in the description, but the hiring manager is describing a much lower position in the interview.
  • The manager is frustrated – she needs to fill the position so she can stop doing that work, but all the candidates the recruiters are sending over are overqualified.

The problem is the position description doesn’t match what’s needed in the position. It doesn’t even describe an “ideal” candidate. It describes a higher-level, but related, position. The hiring manager didn’t take the time to create a good position description.

A Good Position Description

So what makes a good position description? It needs to be accurate and it needs to be complete. It needs to be possible (don’t ask for a PhD for an entry-level clerk position) and it needs to be probable (you probably won’t find a programmer fluent in multiple programming languages, with excellent cold-calling sales skills, and 5+ years experience in fashion design). You write a position description so it can be easily understood by both the recruiters and the candidates.

  • Accurate – first and foremost, the position description needs to be accurate. If you need someone who can program in Visual BASIC and C++, don’t ask for experience in cloud computing. If you need someone to prepare handouts for the annual sales meeting, don’t ask for “superior design skills in multiple media”. Don’t write the position description for basic mechanical aptitude when you need someone to program robotic assembly machines.
  • Complete – make sure the description includes all the tasks you need the person to be able to do. Don’t plan on surprising them with an additional task after they take the job. And when you list the skills and aptitudes needed, be sure to distinguish between what’s necessary to do the job, what would be helpful, and what would be an “added bonus”.
  • Possible – The skills required in the position description (and the salary offered) should be reasonable. Don’t write a position description for an HR assistant and list a requirement of previous experience managing an HR department. If you do require a specific and highly unusual skill, make sure the salary matches that scarcity.
  • Probable – recognize that the “ideal” candidate may not be out there, may not want to work for your company, or may want more money than you can offer. The more specific you can be about the requirements of the positions and the extras that would be nice, the easier it will be to find appropriate candidates and the sooner you can get back to doing your job instead of that of the position you are trying to fill. The easier you make it for the recruiters and the candidates to understand what the position really entails, the faster you will be able to fill it and the more satisfied you, the recruiters, and the candidates will be with the process and the outcome.

Bottom Line

Write your position descriptions so they are easily understood by the recruiters and by the candidates. Take the time to write accurate position descriptions and you will reduce the time required and the frustration levels of all involved. The sooner you find a good candidate, rather than the “perfect” one, the sooner your team will be back up to speed and producing at the level your boss expects of you.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Leave a Reply