Knowing how to write a job description is in many ways the most pivotal part of the hiring process. Why? Because it is the job description from which all other activities, such as advertising, interviewing, evaluating and managing the new hire, will flow.

When a creative, marketing or digital position opens up, it presents a unique opportunity to reassess the needs of your company or in-house agency and upgrade your expectations. It would be a mistake to simply dust off the same job description or employment ad that you've used in the past without comparing it to the needs and capabilities of your current team.

Yes, writing a job description can be challenging. But by having a strong understanding of the position and how it fits into your organization or department, you can create a job description that accurately represents the position and attracts the right applicants. Here are seven steps to writing an effective job description:

1. Define the goals of the position

What’s the purpose of the role? What do you need to accomplish? Think about how your goals for the position fit in with the overall objectives of the company. You need to do more than just list core qualifications and primary responsibilities. Consider various facets of the position, such as whether or not the person will interface with other positions and departments. Remember that you should not aim to adjust the position description based on what emerges during the hiring process; the job description should guide the hiring process from start to finish.

2. Understand and evaluate the current position

Your human resources manager might not have the full picture of the position or what exactly you’re looking for. As such, it's essential that you keep your HR team informed. This means providing a clear understanding of what each functional skill truly means and expressing it in language the average person can understand. You also need to make sure your HR partner is aware of how well the job has been performed in the past. What new and improved criteria should be developed for the new hire to be successful and hit the ground running?

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3. Research the market

Hiring for a rapidly evolving role or more technical position? It can be helpful to check out what other companies require today in terms of skills, experience and accomplishments for similar positions. You can find this type of information through job postings, industry associations and trade groups. Be aware, however, of the similarities and differences between your organization and the ones you’re reviewing. A CX director in a small advertising agency will likely have some different responsibilities than a CX director working within a Fortune 100 firm.

4. Highlight the job’s importance and mention career paths

Creative professionals want to know that their work will truly matter. Beyond merely listing duties, paint a picture of how those responsibilities connect to the broader success of the department or company. You also might devote a short paragraph to defining growth potential. Consider phrases such as, “This is a high-impact role that can lead to X.” 

5. Define your company

Understanding how you see your company and how others view it can be a helpful exercise when preparing to write a job description. How are you perceived in the market? Are there specific values that your company projects that you would like to see mirrored in your employees? How do you stack up against the competition? Are there compelling aspects of your corporate culture worth spotlighting? These types of questions are helpful to ask when you begin creating your targeted recruitment ads.

6. Tap your employees for insights

Your current employees can be invaluable resources during many phases of the hiring process, including when you’re creating a job description. Don’t overlook the knowledge they can share. They likely know better than anyone what the real departmental needs are. Meet with the person who currently holds the position (if that person is still in place) to get a sense of what types of activities now comprise a typical workday. You may discover that the actual day-to-day tasks of the position are quite different from standard HR verbiage. (As a benchmark of how creative, marketing and digital roles evolve, some managers even ask team members to write their own job descriptions every year or two.)

7. Write an effective job description

OK, now it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty details of writing the job description. In general, a job description should answer these four key questions:

  1. What is the job title? Go for clean and succinct over flashy. Be sure the title does not misrepresent the position.

  2. What are the most important duties and expectations of the position? Consider describing a typical work week, including key tasks both large and small.

  3. What are the performance expectations? Define measurable objectives in concrete terms.

  4. What is the team structure? What are the employee's responsibilities in relation to the other team members?

A hastily written or poorly thought out job description can lead to the wrong people applying and, ultimately, hiring mistakes. And a bad hire will require you to begin this costly and time-consuming hiring process all over again. View writing a job description as an opportunity to take inventory of what your firm or department needs and to explore new opportunities.