Looking for new talent within your organization? 

All managers want to find someone special, whether it’s an interim consultant that can tackle an immediate challenge, or an employee who’ll stick around for the long haul. Qualified candidates will need to have the skills for the job, a personality that gels with the team, and learning agility to handle the unexpected. 

Unfortunately, these corporate rockstars are sometimes hard to come by. 

One of the most critical—and often overlooked—elements to finding great talent is clearly defining the work to be done on paper. It sounds obvious, but writing an effective talent profile is deceptively challenging. And yet, it’s so much easier to market the role and attract qualified talent when the job description is crystal clear. 

Here are five tips for writing a successful job description.

1 Generate a list of responsibilities 

Create a long list of the responsibilities the job requires. If it’s a new role, then colleagues that will interface with the hire most often should help write the list by weighing in with their expectations and needs. If it’s an existing role, a colleague who has previously been in the position should review the list, as well as break down the tasks and determine how much time each should take. Keep in mind that roles change over time, so just because a job description already exists on file doesn’t mean it will match the day-to-day reality of the work. 

2 Prioritize the work 

The finalized list of job responsibilities should now be broken down and prioritized. Identifying the top five or so will help zero in on the skills and experiences most critical to the candidate. Each of these five priority responsibilities should be assigned a percentage of the overall available working time. For example, if the role is director of HR, the job description breakout might look like this: 

  • Priority 1 (25%): Leads HR team of 13 people -hiring, training, managing daily workflow, etc. 
  • Priority 2 (20%): Works with senior leadership to create recruiting and staffing strategy 
  • Priority 3 (15%): Oversees the administration of HR programs, such as compensation, benefits, talent management, morale, etc. 
  • Priority 4 (15%): Conducts research and analysis, including review of data from HRIS and other sources 
  • Priority 5 (10%): Monitors organizational compliance with federal, state and local employment laws 

The top five responsibilities take up 85% of total job time. This means all lesser responsibilities get 15% of the focus. If the long list of responsibilities is difficult to winnow down, chances are the new employee will be overwhelmed. 

3 Identify skills and competencies 

Because each responsibility requires a level of expertise and experience, the required skills and competencies will comprise a long laundry list, which will need to be prioritized by importance.  

However, it’s important to also think about the skills needed for the future. In today’s world, roles change quickly, and learning agility is key. Candidates should possess a love for learning, with skills that can evolve over time. These job requirements might fall into the following categories: 

  • Skills: A proficiency earned through training or experience (e.g., using Excel) 
  • Competencies: A broad collection of skills and knowledge (e.g., managing a team)
  • Adjacent skills: An aptitude for helping organizations increase flexibility and innovation (e.g., a financial strategist with data analytics expertise 

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4 Define success metrics 

We all know it’s important for people and organizations to measure work success. Depending on the work you’re hiring for, you might have success metrics around quality of work, revenue and profits, time to completion, skills acquisition, or employee growth. There are dozens of options. Knowing the success metrics in advance helps leaders and prospective workers know what constitutes a good fit. 

5 Go light on the requirements 

For many people, the most exceptional credentials are prestigious degrees and Fortune 500 jobs. But what about experience at a startup? Or military training? Traditional status symbols must make room for qualifications in other areas that offer the important skills identified earlier. This not only leads to better-qualified candidates, but it also helps reduce bias in the candidate pool. The best candidates often come from unexpected places. 

It’s unlikely that any candidate will have every skill, competency, and experience listed on the profile. Going line-by-line comparing resumes to the job description is far less productive than searching for people who have experience in several of the top-priority job needs, plus interesting adjacent skills and experiences. This may result in a candidate with expertise beyond the original criteria. 

Ready to hire exceptional talent?

For more than half a century, Korn Ferry has helped businesses find the talent they need to grow. Find out more about how we can help execute your talent acquisition strategy. 

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