Eight Steps to Writing a Great Job Description

Welcome back to our series on nonprofit search. We’ve been speaking over the last few weeks about how to find the right professional for your position opening, and let’s be honest, this can be a lot of work! We’ve talked about the pros and cons of conducting a search on your own (vs hiring an executive recruiter), but since so many of us are without search budgets, it’s a good idea to learn more about best hiring practices so that the time we spend on search is efficient and effective.

Your job description is the first point of reference for most candidates. Many nonprofits make the mistake of feeling they need to be as comprehensive as possible within that description and include every possible responsibility or task. The result is a job description that feels daunting and unachievable. Giving Tree often molds a long form job description into a one-page position summary in order to quickly attract interest. A more comprehensive description can be shared further along in the process with a promising candidate.

Let me offer a few pieces of advice with regard to the creation of a position summary:

  1. Keep it simple — ensure you have a clear, well-spaced layout. Remember – this is the job-seeker’s first impression of your organization. They are choosing you as much as you are choosing them – so it must look organized, feel professional and lay out in an appealing way.
  2. In a section that discusses position information or logistics, include only key, top-line information with information like office location, full or part time work, contractor or employee status, telecommuting options, and preferred start date, etc.
  3. For campaign and finance positions, do include budget and or campaign figures so that candidates have a sense of the size of the organization and the nature of the fundraising goal.
  4. Discuss reporting structure – define the supervisory relationship. For CEO or executive director positions, make it clear that (or if) this position reports to the board of directors. Is this a contracted position? If so, be clear.
  5. Highlight responsibilities in a short bulleted list, in order of importance. Responsibilities can be expanded upon in an interview setting or in the longer form job description.
  6. Be sure to include some background information about your nonprofit. An organization overview ensures the job-seeker has a good understanding of your mission and vision. You are looking to represent the position as part of an organization as a whole, not situated within a silo.
  7. Give specific instructions on how to apply and what to include with an application. Not only does this make it easier for the job-seeker, it provides you with a way to weed out people who can’t follow instructions! Asking for a cover letter helps you to assess writing skills even before the first interview.
  8. Try to keep the number of qualifications you list between 7-8 – but no more than 10! You can also add in ‘required’ and ‘desired’ if your list is getting long.

Feel free to check out this week’s freebie for a quick look at the template we use for our position summaries. We look forward to your feedback. Check back the week of July 16 for more on the world of staffing and nonprofit search! And tune in to Facebook on July 9 when my colleague Jamie Klobuchar begins a 2-part series on what you can do over the summer to maximize your fundraising efforts. If you have questions for Jamie, you can submit them here.