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The SMART Job Description- A Crucial First Step in your Recruitment Growth Hacking Strategy 

Be honest: if you currently have employees on staff, have you provided them with a job description? If you have, as the position evolved, how often has that job description been updated?

As an HR Consultant, I work with start-ups and small business clients to help them identify their staffing needs. Do you know what I hear most often as I sit down with a client in my initial meeting? Lack of clarity about what their manpower needs truly are. Often times, they’ve had situations where they’ve brought someone on board, and it hasn’t worked out for one reason or another. Needless to say, this makes them skeptical about the hiring process. At the same time, they know they need help in order to grow their business, and keep up with the demand for their product and/or service.

When I ask about their past hiring practice, they often tell me they’ve hired someone they already knew; a family member, a friend, or a friend of a friend. That, of course, only makes having to terminate their employment due to poor performance, awkward and painful. An experience no one wants to go through! When I ask if they have job descriptions for their employees, they don’t. Even this post, detailing How To Create A Funnel For Your Hiring Process aka ‘Growth Hacking for Recruiting’, omits that crucial first step- creating and/or updating the job description.

A job description not only details the essential duties you are expecting an individual to perform, it also includes the necessary skills, abilities, training, and education needed by a potential employee. This is your basis for ensuring you are classifying employees correctly according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It also assists you in creating a job posting to attract qualified candidates, and subsequently, to structure interview questions. You will re-visit the job description again when evaluating performance, and when it’s time to re-hire for that role.

If you are a Soloprenuer who has been wearing multiple hats and you need to off-load tasks to someone else so you can focus on deliverables for your clients, that next person you hire makes up 50% of your workforce. Hiring is one of the most important and challenging aspects of building a business. You owe it to yourself to ensure you are making the best hiring decision possible!

I can’t tell you how often I run across situations where a small business owner has hired an employee because they “needed SOMEONE to focus on sales” (sound familiar?), yet they didn’t really take the time to assess if the person they hired had the skills and abilities for the job. This leads to poor performance and the owner’s disappointment when the results they had hoped for are non-existent. Remember, you get what you ask for!

Let’s face it, there are no guarantees, even if you have a recruitment plan. Why not increase your chances of making the best hiring decision possible by having a SMART job description?

A SMART job description is:

Specific — know what tasks you need to have accomplished, why these tasks are important to your business so you can articulate this in the interview process, and how you’d prefer for these tasks to be performed. This is important, because we now know through Dan Pink’s research, that what motivates performance is: autonomy, purpose, and mastery. It’s not monetary incentives like bonuses. Get some clarity, be specific about the work that needs to be done, and you’re halfway there!

Measurable– Remember the business owner who needed someone to “increase sales”? My question is: by how much? Say you need someone to increase sales by 50%, now you can provide a more clear understanding of your expectations. Plus, as you go through the interview process, you can assess how much autonomy that person may need (and if you’re comfortable with that), if they see how their role ties to the overall purpose, and if they have the skill-set or aptitude to be able to master the job. This will allow you to determine if they’ll be able to deliver on your metric.

Attainable– If you are asking for an increase in sales by 50%, what does that mean for your business? Is that one new client per month or is it fifty? How many leads will it take? What will the conversion rate per lead need to be? Will you be providing some existing warm and/or solid leads? How about sales training? Or will your new hire have to figure all of this out on their own? This is truly where you can create a learning environment where mastery is possible! No one wants to fail, and new hires feel they can get the job done when they are provided clear goals, and the tools and resources to be able to get there.

Realistic- I met with a client recently, who wanted to hire someone that could handle their accounting and marketing. In my world, I call this “purple unicorn syndrome”. How many accountants would you trust with your marketing strategy (or vice versa, how many marketing folks do you think could handle accounting tasks without pulling their hair out)? As a start-up or small business, I understand the need to run lean. In that case, outsourcing one of those functions (say accounting) to an expert, and hiring someone to handle marketing, perhaps as a part-time employee, may be a better option. It all depends on which function you need to maintain tighter controls over.

Timely- There is a difference in saying that you need someone to increase sales by 50% vs. saying you need someone to increase sales by 50% in the next year, and you are willing to give them the autonomy to achieve this by leveraging their sales mastery with their sense of purpose.

If you’re not clear about what specific tasks you are looking to have accomplished, how these are tied to the overall business growth strategy, and when results are expected, making a bad hiring decision becomes inevitable.

However, if you create SMART Job Descriptions, you are more likely to make a good hiring decision that will allow you to grow your business, not just in staffing numbers, but in sales & revenue! As a bonus, this is now a living document that you can refer to throughout the year to update as the role evolves, measure performance outcomes, and expected deliverables for your employees.

About the Author: Dina Potter is the founder of HR4SmBIZ, a boutique HR Consultancy firm helping minority start-ups and small business clients in the DC Metro area. Click here for a FREE 15 minute consultation.