4 Steps to Writing an Accurate Job Description

John Ha
Tags: talent management

Have you ever gone to a car dealership looking to purchase a specific vehicle but then drove away in something else? Maybe you originally wanted it black but the salesman talked you into red because they sold the last black one yesterday. Or, maybe you wanted the sport package and instead bought the touring package because the navigation system was too cool to pass up. Maybe you arrived looking to buy an SUV but drove off in an extended cab truck.

The point? We think we know what we want, but when the variables start to change, we find that some of our specifications were really just preferences.

This happens all too often in recruiting because managers generally do a poor job of developing accurate job descriptions. What seems so simple ends up being the root of inefficiency because, unlike buying a car, we rarely take care of recruiting ourselves from start to finish. We usually rely on recruiters or another member of our staff to identify and screen for qualified candidates. As a result, we create a gap between identifying what we need and what we want. We often end up hiring someone who doesn’t exactly fit the job description but was close enough. The process was inefficient and quite possibly resulted in overlooking stronger candidates early in the process.

So, how do you develop an accurate job description? Let’s start with a simple guiding principle: Our Behaviors drive our Ability to successfully apply our Skills and Knowledge to produce results. I call this the BASK criteria. One of my partners, Kent Williams, developed this concept as a variation of KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) since behaviors really are the main drivers of success.

1. Behaviors

Behaviors describe the way in which someone functions or operates. There are two types of behaviors that need to be addressed. First, there are fundamental behaviors that must be consistent with your corporate culture. These behaviors apply to all jobs and could be around integrity, teamwork, community involvement, entrepreneurial spirit, risk-taking, etc. If someone doesn’t fit your culture, it’s best to stop there as these fundamental behaviors are very difficult to change. The second type of behaviors is specific to the position and must be addressed after you define the desired abilities. Job-specific behaviors may include aggressiveness, response to pressure, attention to detail, decision-making and personal interaction.

Personality and behavior assessment tools can be helpful in not only assessing individuals but helping develop profiles so you can establish a baseline.

2. Abilities

Abilities are the results you seek. They are the functions or responsibilities of the position and should be focused on outcomes. Examples include:


3. Skills

The word “skills” has many definitions and is sometimes used interchangeable with abilities. For the purpose of job descriptions, limit skills to physical and psychomotor activities. Skills can be learned both through experience and training. Examples include:


4. Knowledeg

Knowledge is basically information and can also be experience or training based. It’s the understanding of the how, what and why. Examples include:

It’s to hard to find good people and it’s only going to get harder. That’s why it’s critical that you understand what you need and what you want so you don’t overlook a qualified candidate. It all starts with a well-developed job description.