Position brief versus job description and why you need both

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When preparing to hire for a new position, careful planning is necessary to ensure that you are not only attracting a candidate with the right skills and traits, but you are also meeting the expected outcomes of the role for the business.

To ensure you are meeting the objectives of the business you need to write a position brief. To ensure you secure the perfect candidate you need a job description. These are not mutually exclusive documents. The position brief precedes and then informs the job description.

What’s the difference?

A Position Brief outlines why the role is important to the business, the reason it will exist, the issues it will resolve, and the type of candidate you want to attract. Essentially, it’s an internal document for the purpose of helping decision makers to make informed decisions.

In large organisations managers are often required to present a business case or position brief, to management to get approval before they can create a new position. While the process can be complex at the corporate level the concept is easily applied and is just as important for any size business.

The Position Description is used as an external document. It can be provided to a recruitment agency who will run the application process for you, it is used to create the advertisement for the role, and it is given to the successful applicant with their employment agreement.

It is understandable that many businesses won’t routinely prepare a position brief. In some cases, even preparing a comprehensive job description can be challenging. Following are some key reasons why you should make both documents a priority when you’re recruiting.

Why prepare both?

  1. The benefit of a position brief to your business.

Typically, a new role is established because it will help the business solve an issue that cannot be fixed by the existing team. The position brief will allow you to clearly set out all the reasons why creating a new role will resolve the issue. It will address things such as the value of the new role, the cost to have the additional role, and the risk to the business of not creating the role.

Regardless of whether you need to pitch the new position to your manager or are the owner of the business, going through the process of writing a position brief is fundamental to making an informed decision.  It presents the rationale for approving the investment to hire.

  1. The benefits of the job description for everyone

Aside from it being a legal requirement there are many benefits to having a clearly articulated job description. Taking time to carefully plan ensures you fully understand what the role you’re creating will consist of. If you work with recruitment agencies it enables you to articulate exactly what you need so there are no ambiguities, and for applicants it means they have a clear understanding of what the role entails and whether their experience and skills align with your expectations.

Not having a carefully considered job can make the hiring process frustrating for the employer and it can lead to huge costs for the business if you employ someone who simply isn’t the right fit.

However, it also helps you to prepare a relevant induction programme, and with managing the performance of your new employee. In brief, the job description enables you to attract and keep great staff.

What does each document include?

  1. What to include in your position brief?

There are a few inclusions in a position brief that are duplicated in the job description, hence why writing the position brief first is recommended. You can download a position brief template here, but the fundamental considerations are as follows:

  1. What is the issue that needs to be resolved?
  2. How will the new position resolve the issue?
  3. What is the benefit (operationally, financially), to the business?
  4. What is the risk to the business if a new position is not created?
  5. What will the remuneration be?
  6. What are the main functions of the role?
  7. What does success look like?
  8. What personality traits are you looking for?
  9. What qualifications and experience are required?
  10. What does an induction programme look like?
  1. What to include in your job description?

A job description needs to be clear, accurate and easy to understand. The key features in the document cover the skills, attributes and qualifications required to fulfil the position, along with the role description. Some of this information will come directly from the position brief. You can download a job description template here, but the key things to include are:

  1. Job title
  2. Who the position reports to?
  3. The department the position is assigned to
  4. The purpose of the position
  5. The responsibilities of the role
  6. Minimum skills and capabilities required
  7. Qualifications
  8. Personal specifications
  9. Organisational relationships
  10. Values

Incorporating the position brief and the job description as part of your recruitment process will result in the appointment of the best candidate for the role. The business will feel assured about the rationale behind the appointment and the expected outcomes. The recruitment agency will be able to communicate the needs of the business. The candidates will have a clear understanding of the job and be confident that their skills and abilities match the positions requirements before applying for the role.


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