How to write an effective job description for contract-to-hire


Writing a job description for contract-to-hire position is uniquely challenging.  This is because the writer (typically the hiring manager) has to straddle the worlds between (1) requirements of a permanent job and (2) requirements of a contract job.  Each one is uniquely different as described below:

  • Job description of a permanent position has to be comprehensive to make sure only the right candidates are attracted, because once the hiring is made, the company is stuck with the candidate for a long time. The job description will have the following characteristics:
    • Standard elements such as Introduction of the company, Overview of the job, Essential and nice-to-have skills and qualifications for the job.
    • Language that conveys the company’s culture to make sure the applicants have the right make-up for the position.
    • Requirements for the job that will be “padded up” because companies want to have a safety factor to make sure candidate will have the right stuff from day one, with less room for error.

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  • Job description of a contract position will be less wordy and will be result-oriented. Its characteristics include:
    • A short-term hiring scope, as the company just wants to get the job done with less consideration for company cultural fit.
    • A focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished and what precise skills are required for it, rather than a description of the position itself.
    • Job duration and compensation typically stated up front.

The key advantage of contract-to-hire position is a company’s ability to evaluate the candidate holistically– in terms of skill set as well as cultural fit – during contract term so that it can make an informed hiring decision.  Therefore, there is less need to be exact in job specifications upfront. This has the following implications:

  • A contract-to-hire job description will generally be more compact than permanent position, with less emphasis on company intro and cultural fit.
  • Unlike contract jobs, posts for permanent positions might reveal less focus on the exact tasks to be accomplished.
  • Ideally, the duration of the job is mentioned up front with a contract-to-hire post (but compensation is likely not specified).

Thus, a well-written job description for contract-to-hire position will have the following components:

  • Desired Results: What is the bottom-line goal and objective this person will be aiming to achieve?
  • Key details (as many as possible):
    • Job title
    • Location
    • Full or part time
    • Duration
    • Start date
  • Brief company Intro
  • Position Overview
    • List of responsibilities
  • Skills and Experience required
    • Essential
    • Like-to-haves
  • Educational qualifications

Hiring managers will welcome writing job descriptions for contract-to-hire positions because they are going to be much more compact and to the point.

At the bottom line the key differentiation with a contract-to-hire position will be the focus on the results of the role and project. Unless you’re also a proven expert in this area—which is likely not the case or you wouldn’t be seeking their expertise to begin with—try to be open-minded about the process that reaches these results.

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