Why Your Jobs Specs Aren’t Attracting The Life Science Managers You Want
December 19, 2016
With life science companies facing a skills shortage cliff, the job descriptions you write have never been so important. Attracting skilled applicants with an excellent job spec is an art, and many life science companies aren’t creating the type of job descriptions that get results.
There are some essential elements to a job description that you absolutely must cover, while the most attractive job descriptions include information about culture and allow the candidate to envisage themselves in the role.
The fundamentals of a job description
1. A precise and recognisable job title. This must accurately reflect the nature of the job and the job’s rank within the company. Don’t be vague or too creative with your job title; it should be easily keyword-searchable, and it must be a job title that can be compared to other similar roles within the industry.
2. A short description of the role. This is a summary, one to three sentences only. Include type of employment (part time, full time etc) here as well.
3. A description of duties. This is where the reader starts to get a real sense of the role. Be sure to include a comprehensive overview of the key tasks and responsibilities the person will be doing on a daily basis, and accord each one a percentage of time spent. Include 5-10 examples, use action words and avoid the passive tense. Remember, the job description forms the basis of an employment contract, and is an important document to get right as it will often be referred to in any disciplinary or grievance hearings.
4. A short list of required skills and competencies. Here’s where you detail the mandatory skills and traits the person will display in order to succeed in the role. Bullet-points are customary for this section, and skills and competencies should be separated under sub-headings. However, be mindful of listing too many essential skills as you may deter high-quality candidates who may not have every single skill mentioned, particularly female applicants who have a proven tendency not to apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified. Give real thought whether each and every skill truly is essential. For instance, would you hire an otherwise stellar candidate if they were missing one or two? If so, consider moving some skills to the highly desirable section, or include a note along the lines of ‘If you have 70% or more of these demonstrated skills and competencies, please apply’.
5. A list of highly desirable skills and competencies. Unsurprisingly, this is where you include the skills and traits that would be considered favourable to their chances of success. Again, don’t list too many of these, as doing so simply deters otherwise strong candidates.
6. Information on the department, supervisor, and reporting structure. This section shows the applicant where the position fits into the structure of the organisation, and provides a short précis of the department and people involved (team numbers etc.) Some companies elect to include an organisational chart here.
7. An overview of the company. This is where you can really impress your candidate with past successes, your mission statement, your offices around the world, and long-term goals. Workplace culture is also an extremely important factor for applicants deciding between companies, so play to your strengths here.
8. The details. If open to discussing salaries in the job spec, include a salary range here that has been checked against industry benchmarks. In a skills poor market, it can be very attractive to include benefits. Also detail any travel opportunities involved in the role, including for how long and how often they might be required to travel.
Some style tips to encourage the right applicant
a. Use the word ‘You’. In a skills-short market, your job description should appeal to the reader and make them envisage themselves in the role. Use language that helps them do so, for example: ‘You will be responsible for running a research team’ or, ‘You will have a strong background in pharmaceutical sales’.
b. Use short sentences. It’s simply good practice, particularly in a job description where every detail matters.
c. Be transparent. There’s little point pretending the job is something that it is not, or that the hierarchy is flexible and dynamic when it is rigid and formal. If the job requires a significant amount of data entry, say so. If the culture is competitive, say so. The way to find the perfect candidate is through transparency.
d. Show some personality (optional). Many life science companies with a more formal culture will stick to a no-frills job description, and that is completely acceptable. Bear in mind, however, that with Millennials now the dominant demographic in the workforce, applicants often show a new emphasis on culture, collaboration, and belonging in the workplace. As such, it can be good to include some touches that show the human side of the workplace, even if that’s a simple ‘We’re a fun, hardworking team’. It’s also a good idea to include any charitable projects, sports teams, or corporate responsibility measures the company is involved in.
e. Ask for a referral (optional): Never forget that the reader of your job spec is part of a much wider network, so even if the job doesn’t appeal to them, it might to someone they know. As such, it can be good practice to include a referral request at the bottom, along the lines of ‘If this role doesn’t sound quite right for you but may be the dream job for someone in your network, we’d appreciate it if you passed it on.
If you’d like some help with your job specification or are struggling to attract top-quality candidates, a specialist recruiter can help. Here at Talentmark, we have 40 years of experience in life science recruitment, and we’re here to offer you immediate solutions.