In an earlier post, we discussed the value of good hires and the cost of bad hires. We listed a few of the typical hiring-related problems that startups face. Lastly, we noted the 5-step process that CoreVoice recommends for early-stage hiring teams. Let’s dive into the first step.
Step 1: A better role description
A few weeks back, a friend asked for a reference for a content writer. When asked for a role description (i.e., a JD), he said, “I just need a writer-type person for socials.” Let’s be clear: a skilled candidate will see the absence of a JD as a red flag. At the very least, my friend could have gotten ChatGPT to write one. But, to be honest, that doesn’t cut it either.
Filling blocks in a template from a job site doesn’t work either. Neither does copy-paste from another company’s JD. A skilled candidate can look at these templates and figure out they have been mindlessly written.
Why is a good role description essential?
A highly skilled worker has options. They might be looking at tens of JDs, maybe hundreds. A well-written role description stands out and leaves a favourable impression. The candidate is motivated to try harder during the evaluation process and is less likely to ghost the company at any stage, especially after an offer is rolled out.
Think of the JD as a first impression. The candidate will make an unconscious judgement of your company based on that JD. So, a well-written JD is crucial.
How much time should I spend on this?
Startup life is brutal. Leaders and managers rarely have the time to write thoughtful JDs. Early in my startup career, I used to groan at the thought of writing a JD.
But, one has to remember that a good JD saves a lot of time during the recruitment process. It ensures that candidates understand the job they are applying for and allows them to be invested in the role.
“But I don’t have the time for this” is a lazy excuse. Leaders and managers need to find the time. As a first step, they need to define the role clearly.
Here are a few questions to ask during the JD writing process (non-exhaustive list):
- Is this a project or a full-time job?
- What will this person achieve? What will be their goals and targets?
- How much am I willing to pay for these outcomes?
- What skills should the person have to succeed? How will I evaluate these skills during my hiring process?
- What will they need from the organisation to succeed? Will they need a budget or a team? Have I accounted for these?
- How will this candidate grow internally?
As a startup veteran, I now spend 2-4 hours making a good JD for junior roles and 6-8 hours for senior positions.
What makes a good JD?
Like clothes don’t maketh a man, neither do flowery language, or pretty pictures make a JD great. To make JDs great, they need a generous serving of thought and clarity. Start by adding a Mission Statement and specifying the Outcomes for the role.
The mission statement
A mission statement allows the candidate to imagine where they fit into the scheme of things. Over time, we’ve perfected this at CoreVoice, and now, every job carries a crisp mission statement.
Here’s the CoreVoice mission statement for a writer: “The companies we work with are relatively new. They are finding the right words to express themselves. As a writer, you will help them with this. You will write on their behalf so they can speak about themselves and their product to the market on various media”.
A good JD should also have clear outcomes. For example, a JD for a salesperson might say, “You will be opening new territories” or, “you have to improve our sales costs by 2x”. A senior role may have multiple outcomes: “You will have to build a team of 6-8 people, raise sales to 25Cr, and open at least two new channels”.
Consider that the phrasing differed significantly from the traditional “roles responsibilities.” Instead of saying, “you will be responsible for sales, new channels, and team-building,” we specified the expected outcomes.
In startups, outcomes change quickly, so founders may be reluctant to prescribe these. Yet, it’s not impossible to be clear about the candidates’ first few quarters: “Bring a process-driven approach to sales within one quarter and grow sales to 25Cr/mo within the first two quarters”.
The idea of stating outcomes is to offer clarity to the candidate. They will appreciate that the company knows what it wants and isn’t relying on the candidate to “fix the plane while it’s falling.”
A moment of reflection here: Startups often need to hire hustlers - generalists who will find problems and solve them by themselves. Should we create strict role descriptions for them? Consider that a startup is bound to fail if every person in the company is a generalist hustler. Any setup needs more skilled specialists than exceptional generalists.
Additionally, a JD is not a contract written in law. If you attract candidates keen on a broader set of responsibilities - design the offer accordingly. The final offer need not be a reproduction of the JD.
Before we move on: A great JD opens with a remarkable mission statement and a clear outcome that can hook a good candidate.
The Entire JD
At CoreVoice, we offer information in the following headings for every JD
- The mission for the role
- What will your week look like?
- How to Apply
We also fill in a detailed “roles and responsibilities” list for specific roles.
Most importantly, each section must be well-thought-out and crisply written. Avoid long unrealistic lists. Don’t over-specify.
Step 2: Getting the JD out there
Sourcing candidates for a role is hard work. Startups who think that people will just come flocking to open roles are deluded. But of course, most startups already know that it takes effort.
The first step is to make the JD available on LinkedIn and boost it. Startups should also consider making the JD available on multiple job boards. Community forums are also a great way to spread the word. Examples: we have previously shared designer JDs to design school alum groups; and writer JDs to writing groups.
The most substantial source of high-quality candidates is direct referrals. It is worth reviewing your contact list and asking, “who do I know who will know the perfect candidate?” For example, your amazing AI programmer friends might know other good ones.
Lastly, another great tip on candidate sourcing is: always be sourcing - even when you don’t have open roles. Meet people, make lists, and keep them handy when you need someone to join you in your mission.
In the next article, we lay out a simple hiring process.