Attracting start-up talent: How to write a perfect job description

Recruiting quality staff for your small business is essential, here’s how to ensure you get the right candidates to apply

When taking on staff for your start-up, there’s no legal requirement to draw up a job description, but it’s definitely good practice and will help you think more clearly about exactly what it is you want your new recruit to do.

You are, however, required to include a job title or job description in the written statement of terms, which you must give to an employee within one month of starting.

Use the job description to help define the role

Defining the job accurately will also help to ensure that you draw up a realistic job advertisement that will attract candidates with the right skills and qualities.

Sometimes the process of drawing up a job description can help you confirm your thinking about whether you need a full- or part- time person. Once you’ve listed the tasks and thought about how often they need to be performed, you can make a judgement about the amount of time it will take to fulfil the role.

Of course, once the person is in post, a job description can also help to ensure that there are no misunderstandings about what is required and how the role fits in to the business overall.

A job description should include:

  • the job title
  • who the post- holder will report to (or who will report to them)
  • the main objective of the job
  • a description of the specific tasks that will be involved on a regular basis
  • an indication of other tasks that may be necessary on an ad hoc/occasional basis
  • if appropriate, the results that the job- holder will be expected to deliver
  • where the job will be based (i.e. at your premises, home- based, flexible location).

It’s also useful to draw up an accompanying person specification. This is basically a list of the skills, qualities and experience a successful candidate would need to have.

Evaluate if your expectations are realistic

It’s important to be realistic about your expectations. Yes, of course you want to find an experienced person who will do a great job and hit the ground running. If you are too exacting in your demands, however, you may be ruling out some really good candidates who could make a valuable contribution to your business.

Think about your own experience of searching and applying for jobs.

How often have you seen a role that seemed right up your street, but have been put off from applying because you didn’t have a specific qualification or couldn’t meet just one of the criteria?

Your person spec should include both skills and personal qualities.

A list of skills might include knowledge of a particular computer package, proven telephone sales ability or customer service experience. You may also want to find someone with certain qualities,

such as the ability to work independently, to make decisions under pressure or to pay close attention to detail.

Break the role down into essential and desirable requirements

When drawing up a job description and person spec, you might find it useful to split your requirements into two parts: those that are “essential” to the role; and those that are “desirable.” If you are recruiting an office manager, for example, you might feel that competency in the full Microsoft Office package is essential, but that previous experience of working in your particular industry or sector is only desirable.

If you’re looking for a salesperson you would most likely want them to have excellent interpersonal skills and a proven track record in closing deals, but although it would be useful if they were bilingual, it wouldn’t be a deal- breaker.

It’s definitely worth devoting time to thinking carefully about what skills and qualities really are essential. Recruit for attitude, train for skills is a mantra worth bearing in mind. Someone may have never worked in your specific sector, but if they have an excellent track record in bringing projects in on time, does it really matter? How long would it really take them to familiarise themselves with the ins and outs of your industry?

Equally, a candidate for a secretarial role may not tick all the boxes in terms of knowledge of specific computer packages, but if they’re organised, efficient and capable of keeping all the balls in the air, how hard would it be to send them on a quick training course to get them up to speed?

You can also use this person spec to measure candidates against when you call them for interview.

As an early-stage company, finding the right staff to help grow your business is essential and writing a clear and concise job description is a great starting point for attracting high-quality candidates.

Taking on Staff, published by Crimson Publishing, is available to buy now.

If you need more advice or particular help, take a look at our guide evaluating HR outsourcing costs

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