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Human Resources Q&A: Before the job posting! (Part 3 of a 3-part series)

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Part 1 of this series suggests that, before posting a job opportunity, you should first, have a clear understanding of the work that needs to get done. To do this, you'll need to start by creating a framework of responsibility and then create a workforce plan to give direction to role priorities, determine the demand and supply of talent needed, consider the timing of talent acquisition and finally, set a recruitment strategy that supports and enables the organizations’ intended direction. Part 2 introduces the legal environment – essentially those parameters that give guidance to employment and workplace matters and how they might influence job related decisions.

This final installment speaks to the essence of a job, and the steps you can take to create a job description that will help you effectively identify the ideal candidate.

What is a job?

Quite simply, a job is a set of related responsibilities, tasks and behaviours performed to achieve a defined purpose. And, a job may require multiple people (i.e. positions) to serve the organizations stakeholders. So for instance, you may have a Telephone Counsellor job, however, you may have 5 Telephone Counsellor positions available.

Develop a job description

With reference to your framework of responsibilities (see Part 1) and your organization's legal requirements (see Part 2), consider the structure that your job needs for an individual to successfully meet its purpose:

  • What is the design of your organization? Is it multi-layered? Is it flat? Is it virtual?
  • Will the incumbent work as an individual contributor or will he/she have interdependencies with others who will perform the same job? Or with others who will perform complimentary roles?
  • What are the business processes that the incumbent will need to be aware of, or perform?
  • What behaviours will you expect the incumbent to demonstrate?
  • Are there any particular or unique characteristics (or factors) for successful performance of the job? For instance, is professional certification required?
  • Is there a need for traditional work arrangements (i.e. M-F in office) or is there opportunity for non-traditional work arrangements (i.e. virtual/home office options).

With the purpose of the role at the fore, these considerations will influence the ultimate design of the job. And of course, the structure of each job within your organization may in fact differ, as each job will have direct correlation to its expected outcomes.

If you are creating a job from a clean slate, or even if you’re simply updating one, the National Occupational Classification (NOC) list may be an ideal place to start! This Canadian government database offers thousands of standardized job descriptions that will give you good food for thought as you create jobs specific to your organization. Otherwise conducting a job analysis is an industry practice in the job design process. Once completed, it provides a strong foundation in support of your organization's development including: recruitment and selection, performance management, training and development and compensation management. A job analysis is a systematic approach to determine the skills, duties and knowledge required to perform the desired outcomes. Here are five steps to complete your job analysis:

1. Determine the job for analysis. Ideally, the job will be one that can be readily benchmarked with external comparators.

2. Determine the methods for analysis. While there are a variety of methods at your disposal (i.e. interviews, observation, surveys) your organization will need to consider the impact of these methods, such as cost, time and reliability.

3. Review relevant data. What do you already have on record that might inform your analysis? Ask yourself: Why does the job exist? Where is the job performed and why does it need to be performed from this location? What is the sequence of behaviours needed to successfully perform this job? Can this sequence be modified to achieve greater efficiencies?

4. Define and document new requirements. What are the new duties? Is there a need for different educational or professional credentials? Have the working conditions changed? How have the standards of performance shifted?

5. Implement. Ensure that you share the job description with those who will be affected by it; that you’ve received input from those that matter and that you have considered how the new job will be integrated to your performance and/or reward systems.

Once you’ve made your way through this process, you will have identified the content needed to develop a clear job description that captures:

  • A job title
  • The job’s purpose
  • The reporting relationships
  • The responsibilities and expected outcomes
  • The factors (specifications) that will influence job performance

Build the candidate profile

With a job description at the ready, you will now be in a position to determine your candidate selection criteria. Fill in the responses to the following:

  • To successfully perform the job, the candidate needs:
    • What level of education or other formal/professional credentials?
    • What specific competencies and/or skills, technical or otherwise?
    • What specific experience, and how will they demonstrate it?
    • What behavioral attributes?
    • What personality attributes?

Your answers will soon present you with a long list of candidate criteria, which you will then need to prioritize – identifying those criteria that are high (can’t do the job without it), medium (can be trained/learn it along the way), to those which are low (nice to have, but can manage without it), ultimately leaving you with a candidate profile. And of course, you will then have the content to write a compelling job posting – the marketing piece to attract a robust pool of the right applicants.

Be prepared to accept a less-than-perfect candidate. For example, your organization may set 80% as the minimum candidate citeria threshhold.  In any event, it is wise to be clear of your candidate selection criteria in advance of launching your job posting to ensure you are well prepared with an applicant evaluation methodology.

To recap, preparation is most certainly the key!

  1. Start by getting clear on the work that needs to get done.
  2. Create your workforce plan so that you are fully aware of the skills you need and where you’ll find the skills.
  3. Educate yourself of the legal requirements.
  4. Develop the job description.
  5. Build the ideal candidate profile.

How are you preparing for your next job posting?

To submit a question for a future column please leave a comment below or contact No identifying information will appear in this column. For paid professional advice about an urgent or complex situation, contact Veronica directly.

V. Utton & Associates offers boutique-style human resource management services to small and mid-sized organizations with particular expertise in the non-profit sector. For a fresh "VU" on people practices contact us at

Disclaimer: Advice and recommendations are based on limited information provided and should be used as a guideline only. Neither the author nor make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability for accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information provided in whole or in part within this article.

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