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Interviewing the interviewer: the first step to a compelling job description

“Sales Representative: looking for outgoing, highly motivated professionals to join our winning [business name] sales team. We are the leading [generic one-liner about business here].”

In other words, you are looking for a sales rep that… sells stuff. Great. 

Job descriptions can be hugely valuable documents – giving candidates a window into the role, allowing them to visualize themselves in the position, determine if they will be a good fit, if they will thrive. A good job description will not only attract the right talent but show that right talent how exciting their future could be joining the organization.

So, why do so many job descriptions fall so embarrassingly short of their potential?  

Simple – job descriptions are hard to write. Even worse, it usually falls to the hiring manager or subject matter expert to write the job description. How many hiring managers have been trained to write these descriptions?

One job description please…

If you are dealing with one of those hiring managers that owes you a job description but suddenly has a meeting or disappears every time you ask for it, there is a good chance that hiring manager doesn’t know how to do it. Rather than spending the time chasing them and begging for the description, just to receive another ineffective job description, consider a different path. 

Spending some time asking the right questions will get the hiring manager to think more thoroughly about what they really need, while giving you the material for a strong, compelling job description.

Here are a few questions to ask the hiring manager to flesh out the job description, both the job summary and the responsibilities: 

The job summary

Effective job summaries boil an entire job down to a paragraph or two. It must be compelling, insightful, accurate, and palatable. Too long or arduous and you chase candidates away. Too short and generic and it loses any value.  

To help draft a compelling job summary, get the hiring manager (or subject matter experts) to start talking about the role. Take them out of the mindset of a paragraph, and into a conversation. Once you have the information, you can use it to craft a great job description.

Here are some questions to facilitate a job summary conversation:

1. Describe what the employee will be doing daily/weekly/monthly?

  • List the most frequent tasks

  • List the most challenging tasks

  • List the most impactful tasks

2. Why would anyone want this job?

  • Why do you (team) love your job?

  • What do you (team) like most about the job / team / organization?

  • What kind of person would you recommend applying for this job, and why?

3. What makes someone successful at the job?

  • Describe the best people at the job – why are they the best?

  • Describe someone who was not successful at the job – why weren’t they successful?

The list of responsibilities

Much like the job summary, the list of responsibilities is usually not fantastic. Often, they are far too long and overwhelming, too generic without value, or too short, so it is unclear what is important for the role. The key to creating a great responsibility list is priority and specifics. Describe only the most important responsibilities with enough detail that the candidates can picture themselves doing the job (or not doing it if it isn’t a good fit).

Here are some questions to identify responsibilities:

1. What are the top priorities of this job?

  • If the employee could only accomplish one thing – what would it be? Two, three?

  • I/my team/the org will fail if the employee does not accomplish what?

2. What is the employee doing that no one else can do?

  • What tasks are the sole responsibility of this employee?

  • What knowledge/skills does the employee need that you/team do NOT currently have?

  • What weaknesses in the team do you want the employee to complement?

  • What strengths in the team will complement the employee (i.e. the employee doesn’t need them as a strength because the team already has it covered)?

3. How are you evaluating the employee?

  • What milestones must they hit in 30/60/90 days (or whatever the ‘probation’ period is)?

  • How will their bonus/pay increase be assigned – what must they accomplish?

  • How is the team evaluated – what goals must the team make to be successful?

  • Identify a time where someone in a similar role was praised/promoted/rewarded – what did they do?

Once the hiring manager or subject matter expert gets going, facilitating responses could be as simple as asking: “why?”, “How?”, “Tell me more”. Pretty soon, you will have more than enough information to create a compelling, valuable job description.

Pull it all together

With a compelling job description, combined with organization culture, benefits, and requirements , you will attract and engage with the right talent and have the framework to effectively qualify those candidates to find those that will truly thrive. 

Career.Place takes it one step further with our anonymous candidate qualification process. Hiring teams ask questions to evaluate candidates against the responsibilities of the job and candidates respond anonymously. No resumes, profiles, or even names with all that pesky information that could be used to distract teams from finding the perfect fit.


Curious to learn more? See how uses anonymity to keep focus on what really matters while promoting diversity, compliance, and more efficient processes at or contact us at

#jobdescription #jobsummary

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