When you scan online job boards, inevitably you see a job description with a qualifications section that look something like this:

Company X is looking for a new (insert job title here) with the following qualifications:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills,
  • Ability to work efficiently in a fast-paced environment,
  • A Strong bias towards action with meticulous attention to detail,
  • Well developed interpersonal skills, and
  • An ability to work cooperatively in a team environment.

And then the posting closes with a list of requirements: 3-5 years of experience working in customer service, college degree preferred. While these qualifications and requirements sound good, they are also so generic that they tell you nothing about the job or the potential candidate. Any job seeker worth her salt believes that she has the “ability to work efficiently in a fast-paced environment.” And even if true, these qualifications do not guarantee that a job applicant will be a rock star candidate for your unique business and its goals.

The reason those qualifications don’t work is that they are attributes, not job behaviors. They are inherent characteristics of any good employee in any industry. But you are not looking for any good employee. You want rock stars—employees with the right combination of skills, passion and values for your business. To entice rock star candidates to apply to work for you, you need start with a behavioral job description. Once you nailed the job description, then you can create a killer job posting (more on that in the next chapter).

What is a Behavioral Job Description?

A behavioral job description focuses on the behaviors, not the attributes, of the rock star candidates. Behaviors are practiced, habitual actions. By focusing on describing behaviors in your job description, potential candidates can see themselves in the position and recognize the behaviors as actions they take regularly. Whereas a job posting is more a marketing piece, the job description tends to be comprehensive and details the core job skills and values sought.

The first step in developing a behavioral job description is benchmarking your ideal candidate. We discussed the benchmarking process in our previous blog post. From benchmarking, you know the values and skills that your “A” players must have for your business. With this in mind, your goal is to draft a job description that describes the actions of a successful employee in that role.

Here’s an example of how we’ve done this at our firm. At InPrime Legal, it is critical that our attorneys have a business first, growth mindset.

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck defines a growth mindset as someone who believes that intelligence and ability can develop and improve over time. Individuals with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist despite obstacles and learn from criticism. People with a growth mindset achieve more, because they invest more energy in learning new things. On the other hand, individuals with a fixed mindset see intelligence and ability as static characteristics that cannot be changed. They want to “look smart” at all times, so they avoid challenges, give up easily, and put in less effort when it comes to learning new things or meeting new challenges.

For our attorneys, the business first, growth mindset means that they consider our client’s business objectives first. So our attorneys are constantly learning and seeking to master new business theories and concepts in addition to providing sound legal advice. With this in mind, we created the following job description for our business attorney position:

As a Business Attorney, you will help our InPrime 2.0 members maximize business opportunities and avoid expensive and catastrophic legal threats by offering creative legal strategies and approaching each member’s business with a business first mindset. You will also dedicate yourself to continually learning about various business topics (e.g., by reading books such as Good to GreatStart with WhyGetting Naked, and The Ideal Team Player) to help you better understand, consult and advise our members.

Unlike the job announcement at the beginning of this post, we describe the behaviors of rock star candidates in this business attorney job description. We specifically mention our desire for business-minded attorneys and reference several books that a rock star candidate should recognize. The perfect candidate for the business attorney position would be excited by this description because she has a love for business strategy and the law. This description lets her know that InPrime Legal is the place for business-minded attorneys to collaborate and grow.

On the other hand, attorneys with a fixed mindset would likely recognize few, if any, of the business books listed and likely not feel any excitement about working for InPrime Legal. Even if they are interested in business, they won’t be willing to put in the work necessary to grow their business skills. And, that is what we want – to attract the rock stars and filter out the typical.

Here is a link to the full job description. And yes, feel free to share this description with any business-focused, growth-minded lawyers looking for a career change to a value-driven, innovative business law firm! In the next chapter, we will discuss how to turn this description into a killer job posting, that attracts your top talent.

Want to create a behavioral job description for your business? Download InPrime Legal’s complimentary, sample job description for Business Attorney’s here. And if you need help finding rock star candidates for your business and avoiding any legal “fun-busters” in the process, call InPrime Legal at 770-282-8967 for a no-obligation consultation.