How to Write a Good Job Description

Many a frustrated hiring manager has asked the question as they begin the process of filling an open position: “How do I write a good job description?” Usually their struggles stem from the fact that they are focusing on the wrong thing—the perfect candidate. They are trying to write a job description that looks exactly like the person they hope to hire for the position. This process is unrealistic, seeing as perfect people are awfully hard to find, and therefore not very helpful.

So what does a good job description actually look like, or perhaps the better question is rather what does it DO? The answer is quite simple: it attracts qualified candidates to apply for the position, and it helps you select the best candidates to interview for a job. However, the focus should not be on the candidate, but rather on the JOB itself. Strictly speaking, your goal is to find someone who can simply do the job asked of them, right? So it stands to reason that the focus should be on what they will be required to DO in their new position, rather than just the desired skills, background experience, and accolades.

My suggestion for writing job descriptions is to go to anyone involved in managing the position and gather detailed information from them on what exactly needs to be accomplished to be considered successful. Armed with all of that info, you can then format it to explain precisely what the person will be required to do, most likely followed by a wish list of what you prefer the person to have in terms of education, years of experience, etc. This process will keep your job descriptions both clear and objective.

Here’s a basic example to follow:

XYZ Company is seeking an Underwriting Manager in the transportation / commercial auto department for their (office location or territory) operation. Candidates will be responsible for a sizeable staff of underwriters and assistant underwriters who focus on commercial auto and transportation accounts in a 3 state territory.  Additionally, they will be responsible for product development and product management involving commercial auto.

Requirements for the position:

  • Experience in the underwriting, marketing, and management of commercial auto / transportation risks
  • Experience in underwriting supervision and management
  • Successful track record for marketing and writing new business
  • Strong broker / agent relationships in (territory)

Desired additional qualifications:

  • Product development or product management experience
  • 4 year college degree
  • Professional insurance designations such as CPCU, CIC, etc.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office applications

This position represents a significant career opportunity. Salary will be commensurate with candidate’s experience. Relocation assistance is available to qualified candidates.

As shown in the example, you may also want to include required or desired skill sets, such as computer software proficiency or excellent written and verbal communication skills—just be sure that anything you include ties directly into specific job functions, not just keeping up appearances. Remember, it’s a job description, not a candidate description. Keep the right focus, and you’ll have a much easier time selecting qualified candidates to interview.