Building Job Titles and Descriptions That Effectively Fill Positions


Job titles offer a general understanding of what a job might entail. Whether it is an Administrative Assistant, Business Analyst, Java Developer or Project Manager, all job titles provide some perspective on what an individual may do for a living, but there is much more to a job than the nature of the work. Roles vary by organization and certain aspects of the role are dependent on a multitude of factors ranging from experience and education to language and driving records. Information related to a role determines which candidate is the right fit and how that candidate should be properly compensated. Inaccurate or misaligned job descriptions attract inadequate candidates and can lead to unnecessary costs, turnover and untimely fill rates. In order to attract qualified candidates and ensure competitive market rates, it is critical that the role, responsibilities and requirements of the job be both specific and comprehensive in the form of accurate job descriptions through effective taxonomy and leveling, especially when determining rates within a contingent labor program.

As previously mentioned job titles are ambiguous in nature, and to gain a full understanding of a role there are several components to reaching a holistic view which includes taxonomy, leveling and job descriptions.  Taxonomy refers to the classification of jobs within an organization’s job catalog. Effective categorization of jobs prevents repetitive titles and ensures consistency of pay rates across the board. Once taxonomy is established, then the organizations implement levels for each position to reflect not only the expertise and seniority of the desired candidate, but to distinguish the amount of responsibility and supervision for each role within a particular job category. In leveling it is recommended to have at least three levels, but depending on the needs of the client company it is plausible to have five or even six levels. The job description, a vital element of the job definition, refers to the fine details of a role that combats the ambiguity of job titles. This is especially true in the technology, pharmaceutical and engineering fields or with vague job titles (for example: Corn Subject Matter Expert).  A proper job description outlines all the specific day-to-day activities and includes information related to:

• Years of Experience
• Required Skill Sets and
• Education Level Requirements

A well-crafted job description is robust in nature and does not include “fluff” language such as “team player, attends meetings, and works in fast-paced environment.” These notions are considered to be universal requirements for all roles and hold no merit when determining rates, nor does it speak to whether or not an individual is a right fit for the job. In order to attract quality talent and ensure accurate rates, other components that should be avoided are acronyms and other jargon that may not be relative to understanding the role or that those outside of the profession or organization may not comprehend.

Poorly designed job descriptions can manifest itself in multiple areas; some measured and others not. There is solid evidence that inaccurate descriptions are the leading contributors of attrition, but often times it is hidden behind the reported reasons as to why an individual may choose to leave a position. ManpowerGroup Solutions Business Intelligence reports that 27% of total attrition in 2015 was due to “poor performance,” while 17% was due to “leaving for a new job.” When examining the details, business intelligence uncovered managers use poor performance to indicate lack of ability or mismatch in skills.

The best indication is when measuring contractors who left within the first 7 days of their respective assignments. In this instance the reason of poor performance significantly increases to 54%, where managers state that the contractor will never meet requirements. This leads to the conclusion that not only was the candidate not a good fit for the job, but the description skewed their expectations of the role. Furthermore, if an individual immediately leaves a position for a new role it is often associated with the rate not properly aligning to the tasks required, which were not clearly specified within the job description.

The accuracy of rates is significant because rates (especially pay rates) must be competitive within the contingent labor market. Organizations need rates to match job titles and job descriptions to set clear expectations for the role and to attract quality talent to open positions. In a contingent labor market, if bill rates, and ultimately pay rates, are not sufficient – then suppliers are less likely to fill those roles and will attract the wrong talent more frequently.

Attracting the wrong talent not only increases time to fill, but also inflates turnover which results in serious financial consequences. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) points to research which suggests that replacing an employee can cost upwards of 50-60% of their annual salary. For example, if an employee is making $50,000 a year, an organization can expect to pay about $25,000 to $30,000 refill the position due to recruiting and training expenses.

By providing thorough, highly specific information relevant to each role with specific job titles and robust job descriptions, organizations can save a significant amount of money in addition to attracting and retaining top talent. Organizations can find guidance in this process by working closely with their MSP providers to better determine rates for each role and achieve their talent acquisition and business objectives.