Job Descriptions: The Heaviest Lifter in Hiring

When it comes to hiring practices, the job description is usually not top of mind for small practice entrepreneurs. In fact, it’s usually one of the last things on the HR to-do list of small dental and medical offices. Still, if small business leadership understood how much heavy lifting a good job description can do, they would likely be seen as the first thing you need to do.  

To get the most out of job descriptions:

Job descriptions certainly have hidden powers, but only if you get the process right. To get the most out of your job description, follow these four steps:

#1 – Write Two

Each new hire will require both a job description and a job ad. You will use the job ad to advertise the position, similar to what you see on job search sites like Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed. Then, there is the job description which can help applicants and new hires understand the breadth of the role. You should let the potential hire look at a copy during the interview. (By the way, it’s a great practice to give a copy to the front desk so that the candidate can read over it while they’re waiting for their interview to start, or, alternatively, you could email it to them prior to arriving.) You should also include it in their new hire materials. 

Think of it this way: The purpose of the job ad is to motivate the right person to walk through your door for an interview. You want it to speak to the desired candidate and outline why your practice is a great place to work for qualified individuals. The purpose of the job description is to allow the potential new hire to read and understand the full scope of their tasks and duties at your practice and what is expected of them day-to-day. Who knows? It may even help them to ask you good questions during the interview.

Don’t be daunted by the idea of writing two different documents because you don’t need to. Instead, write the full job description, and, then, simply pull the bits out that you think will attract the right candidate and paint a picture of your company culture to create a great job ad.

#2 – Get Descriptive

You want to let the best candidates know that your practice is a place that their special traits, skills, and experience will be valued. Don’t forget to include personal qualities or soft skills the candidate will need to have that will make your practice run better. The Difference Maker Toolkit can help you articulate the needs of your particular business. You might also consider enlisting the help of a professional.  

#3 – Make sure they are written well

Beginning with a template and then adding the particulars and needs of your company is a great way to save time and effort, but only if those job descriptions are written by professionals and reviewed by HR experts in the first place. That’s because professionals take into account the HR challenges unique to small medical and dental businesses. 

If you do have access to professionally written job templates, it’s a great way to help you get started and can save you lots of time. The trouble with downloading job templates off the internet is that they sometimes contain illegal information or are written by people who are not familiar with the best HR practices for professionals in your field. That doesn’t happen here at CEDR where our job description templates are written by professionals and reviewed by HR experts. No matter how professional the job description, though, if you don’t acknowledge that the new employee has read them, you can’t take advantage of the benefits they provide.

#4 – Get them signed and timestamped

This important, yet often forgotten, step must be performed in order to get the legal protections offered by a good job description. While it’s certainly okay to terminate employees who are not working out and cannot perform the essential duties of their job, from a legal perspective, it is much safer if you can prove that your employees clearly understood what the essential duties of their position were. The best way to do this is by having every employee read and acknowledge that they understand their job description by signing it. Just to be clear, the employee will not need to sign the job ad which is meant to attract candidates and promote your practice, but rather, the longer, more detailed job description with all tasks, duties, and expectations listed. 

After the employee signs the description, uploading it into a database with an electronic timestamp signature function can further protect your practice, helping you prove that, from the very beginning, you took some time to make sure that new employee understood the expectations and essential duties of the role before they joined your team.

Three things good job descriptions do

More so than even the interview, a well-written job description can help you make sure to get the right person in the right role and keep the wrong candidates away from your practice. Here are three things that well-written job descriptions can do that make them the heavyweight champion of the hiring process: 

#1 – Identify Rockstar Candidates 

The best way to get more and better candidates for the position is to make sure your job ad appeals to the type of candidate you want to attract. Well-qualified candidates want a job where their talents will not only come into use but be appreciated and celebrated. They want an environment where they will fit in and thrive. They want a practice that’s a good fit for them just as much as you want a candidate that’s a good fit for your practice. They want to make a difference too. More and more, studies show that candidates are very interested in knowing or learning about the difference your practice makes in the world and community.  

There are two ways to go about making sure your writing attracts top candidates.  One is by helping the right fit realize your practice is the perfect place for them— that their unique qualities and experience will be appreciated, utilized, and respected at your practice. In order to do that, you will need to get purposeful and specific to make sure that happens. You will have to assess your current team inside out and find out what soft and hard skills are needed to make your practice run more smoothly Included in CEDR’s Hiring Guide is a Difference Maker Inventory which can help you define and articulate the skills and attributes that are missing at your practice. Putting this tool to use will help you use language that makes the best candidates say, “This is my dream job! This is where I belong!” and reach out to you.

The second is by helping the top candidates see why your practice is a great place to work. That starts with being very clear and knowing what you are looking for at both the skills and company cultural level which… there’s that darn job description again! That means shining a spotlight on any benefits, perks, as well as highlighting your unique company culture to appeal to the best and brightest in your field. 

#2 – Weed Out the Wieners

The reality of searching for jobs is that it can be quite a slog for job seekers who are encouraged to fill out 10 to 15 applications a day to even have a chance. In fact, it can be so much of a soul-sucking drag that some candidates just shoot off a resume and cover letter to any job ad with the position they’re looking for without really reading the post or considering whether your business is even a good fit for them. 

Job ads can help weed out candidates who are an obviously bad fit for you. In 2009, we began to coach our members to put in barriers that would quickly show you whether an online job applicant was just clicking away or if they were paying attention. Until we adopted this practice, we did not see companies leveraging this approach to their advantage. About a year into spreading the technique, one of our members stood up in a conference and shared his personal experience. He called his Monster Jobs rep to complain about the performance of his ad. The rep berated him, saying that he needed to remove his requirement to answer the questions in order to make it easier for more people to apply. To that, the doctor replied, “I don’t want more candidates. I want better ones!” He left his ad up and, though it took a little longer, within two weeks he had two fantastic detailed oriented candidates. Even though he only needed one, he hired both. 

The technique we describe is now common practice and built into job sites!  To keep unengaged candidates out of the applicant pool, include a step or two that helps you determine if the candidate is paying attention. A fairly common way to do this is by requiring a particular subject line in the email or requiring them to answer one of three questions in their cover letter. While it’s true we’re all human and even sharp people make mistakes, a job seeker who feels your practice is a great fit for them and is excited about the listing will probably take the time to actually read the entire post and answer a question or two.

#3 – Provide underperformance insurance 

While writing your job description is an important part of creating your job ads, from an HR perspective, the most important function of job descriptions is providing small practices with dud-insurance– to make sure you don’t have to keep an underperforming employee. A well-written job description can support your decision to terminate an employee who interviewed well but does not perform the required duties of that position once they are actually in the role. 

Take some time and write it well!

Because the need for a new hire creates a vacuum that tends to gobble up all the time and energy of a small practice, it’s really easy to understand why so many owners and managers want to rush drafting a job description. Because, more than any other step in the hiring process, a good job description is most likely to get the right person into the right role, it might be wise to move it to the top of your HR to-do list if you want to attract the rockstars, ward off the duds, and make sure that your new hire delivers.  

Aug 25, 2021

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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