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The difference between a Job Description and Job Advert

RoleMapper Team
May 5, 2021

We frequently come across organisations who are trying to solve the job description conundrum. Those organisations who know, or have heard, that job descriptions have the potential to unlock talent and diversity.

However, when we ask them; “tell me about how job descriptions are created in your organisation? Who owns this process” We are often met with a laugh and a comment along the lines of “Ha, well now that’s a question!”

More often than not, the process of creating job descriptions is a bit all over the place with no one clear owner. In many organisations it is a process that crosses multiple functions - with each group wanting different outcomes from the job description.

For example, some companies have a reward function who use job descriptions for grading and benchmarking. Managers create job descriptions to help them define and build out their teams.

At the end of the process is recruitment who try to do their best at translating hundreds of different versions of job descriptions into content that will be appealing to the outside world.

Understanding definitions is the first step to making the change

So, these organisations are correct in thinking that job descriptions are important. We at RoleMapper say that they sit at the epicentre of an organisations ability to attract, recruit and retain talent. But if you attempt to embed and scale a change to your job descriptions, without systematically changing how the process works, you will be left chasing your tail.

The start of any change initiative, no matter how big or small, should always starts with a vision of the future, defining the change and a view of the current state.

We thought it would be helpful to clarify a few definitions around the whole area of job descriptions. We hope these will help you articulate and identify the change you need to make in your organisation to write great job descriptions.



The process of designing a role

Job design is the process of actually designing a role. It is the process by which organisations define and divide the tasks that need to be done to carry out the work or service that needs to be delivered.

The job design process helps determine responsibilities, accountabilities, deliverables, and decision-making within the role. It also helps define inputs, outputs and interactions of the role, the key factors that influence the role, as well as how, where and when it must be performed.

Job design brings all these elements together to configure and create roles that motivate an employee to deliver the job successfully.  It also helps attract the best candidates to the role.



The output of the job design process

A job description is a document that provides all the detail about a role. It is a critical tool that describes the purpose, responsibilities and outputs of a role. It helps us define the knowledge, skills, experience, and capabilities that a person will need to enable successful delivery.  It might also include reporting lines, where the role sits in the hierarchy, grading etc.  

To create an effective job description, it’s important to go through the ‘job design’ process. You might not know it – you might just think you are putting your ideas down on a page - but that’s what it is, you are designing a job.

A job description is a feeder into a job advert. It is where we define the content that can be translated into a job advert for the external marketplace. It also helps define the screening and assessment criteria for prospective candidates.

A job description describes what the candidate does for you; a job advert should focus on what you can do for them.



A job description tells, a job advert sells!

A job advert is another output of the job design process. It is a re-scripted shorter, copy-written sales version of the job description to sell the role and company to prospective candidates.

A job advert translates the essential elements of a job description, along with any additional unique selling points that can be used to sell the role through various advertising channels.

The objective of a job advert is to be a sales tool to attract the widest possible pool of appropriate candidates. A job advert needs to market the organisation and the position in a positive way. It must grab a potential candidate’s interest to encourage them to find out more.

Many organisations struggle to translate their job descriptions into job adverts. Failing to distinguish between a job description and a job advert can cause all sorts of challenges because the aim of each is different.

A consistent approach to job design is the key to creating great job descriptions and job adverts.


A high-level summary of a role

A job profile is an outline or a high-level overview of a role. It provides general information about the role as a starting point and is sometimes used as the first step when creating a job description.

Sometimes the terms job profile and job description are used inter-changeably, but a job profile is actually a summary document of a role whereas a job description is a translation of that role into a specific job or team. For each job profile, there may be multiple versions of job descriptions that align to variations within teams.


A group of job roles

A job family is a group of job roles involving similar types of work and/or requiring comparable training, skills, knowledge, and expertise. The concept can establish a robust framework within an organisation and is particularly useful when job titles for similar roles vary.

The concept of job families allows organisations to treat occupational groups differently from each other in terms of reward, career paths or development needs.

Job families may be linked to:

  • Functions – such as HR, Finance, or IT
  • Occupations – such as Engineers or Research Scientists
  • Business units – such as call centres or production departments

There will typically be 5-10 job profiles sitting within a job family.


The term “job architecture” encompasses the whole eco-system for jobs and provides the basic organising construct for aligning jobs in an organisation based on the type of work performed.  

A job architecture will include job levels, job titling conventions, grades, career paths, spans of control, the criteria for career movement and can be used for ensuring equitable pay.


In summary, job design is the process; job descriptions, job adverts and job profiles are the outputs; and job families and a job architecture provide the structure.  

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