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Entrepreneurs who are looking to hire people to join their startup may be unsure of how to write a job description that is clear and will attract employees. In this post, Jeff Hyman shares important tips on how to write a good job spec. 

Jeff Hyman is the Founder of 5 companies, has raised $55 million from venture capital investors, and recruited over 3,000 people. He is a mentor of the Chicago Founder Institute

This article is an excerpt from Jeff Hyman's latest e-book "The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Startup Rockstars", which shares what he has learned in the process of starting 5 companies and hiring people. It has been republished below with permission. 

There are four key things that must be included in a job spec. It need not be long or sexy. In fact, in my experience, the shorter the better. Here they are: 

1. Daily Job Scope 

What is this person going to be doing every day? Literally, what is the work that needs to be done each day? This is very important, especially in a startup, where we are thinking over the next 12 months, next 6 months, and the next 2 weeks. When you really drill down into it – whether it’s a software developer or a head of business development -- those daily behaviors or activities can be very different, depending on the situation, so you have to nail those. Make a list of what they’ll be doing with their time. 

2. Success in the Job

What does success look like? How am I going to know 6 or 12 months down the road that I made a great hire and if this was a great fit? What metrics can we look at, what products will they have developed, what deals will they have signed? Push yourself to quantify this as much as possible. It won’t be perfectly accurate, but don’t use that as an excuse not to commit it to paper.

3. Competencies

This is two-fold: 

  • culture fit above all else 
  • what competencies does a person need to have to set them up for success such as we have defined in #2? What innate characteristics were they born with that will help ensure success in this role? 

4. Title

Create a job title that is compelling. It can help sell the role, and that is a great thing in startup because you can be somewhat creative about the title. Most people come up with the title first and go from there. I complete this step last, to accurately reflect the charter of the role.

Titles are a marketing tool for attracting the right candidates. There are startup entrepreneurs that say “I’m title conscious and I don’t want to disrupt the hierarchy” I get that. Other folks say “Titles are cheap. I can give them away.” I’m in the latter camp. Everyone wants to be a ‘Chief whatever officer,’ and I get both sides of the argument. For early stage companies, they tend to fall into the latter, especially in a difficult recruiting environment where hiring A-Players is hard. I say: use everything in your arsenal. If it comes down to a title, give them the title. I try not to hire people that are title-conscious, but sometimes it is just important to someone and so you need to be flexible. Another possibility: tell them to come in and earn the title within 6 months when they accomplish x, y, and z. And of course stick to your word. 

Show them the money. 

Now that you have this spec, you need to figure out the target compensation for the role. The reality is that every startup only has so much money. You need to define it upfront, or you’ll waste a ton of time in the recruiting process. Talking to certain candidates can be a huge waste of time if their current comp is too high or too low… we’ll circle back to that in a bit. You have to figure out upfront how much you can afford to pay, and be realistic. The reason this is important to do at this point is that we are looking for Rockstars. I define a Rockstar as the top 10% of all available candidates at the compensation that you are able to offer. Every startup has limits. Start by knowing yours for the particular position.

To read more of Jeff’s advice and insights, you can download his e-book “The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Startup Rockstars” here

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