Find the best candidates sooner by creating a winning job brief

By Alison Hill

Last week we looked at how to write a job description that attracts the right candidates. Now we turn our attention to the next step in the recruitment process: creating a really good job brief for a recruiter.

As a new hiring manager, in all likelihood nobody has ever told you how to brief a recruitment consultant. You call your organisation’s usual recruiter. “We need a new accounts receivable person fast. They should be experienced and good and also fit in with our team. How soon can you send me people to interview?”

This isn’t going to bring you a stream of talented accounts people who are perfect for your team and who will go on to be valued employees of your organisation for years to come. Finding the perfect person for the role depends on having a detailed conversation with your consultant and using your well-crafted job description as the basis for answering their questions. “A thorough job brief should take anywhere from half an hour to an hour”, says Melissa Lombardo, Senior Consultant at Challenge Consulting. “Giving your time shows the recruiter that you are committed to the recruitment process and will work with them to find the right person”.

Lombardo likes to meet with the client at their office to take a brief. Meeting with the consultant at your premises lets them see and feel the environment and workplace culture.  “This helps find a candidate who will be aligned with the culture and it also helps sell the job to the candidate”, she says. She also likes to meet with the incumbent. “If they’re good at what they do, who better to explain the role and give you on-the-ground information?

Your job description forms the basis for your brief to the recruitment consultant. Remember that your job description includes:

  • A job title
  • The purpose of the role
  • Duties and responsibilities of the position
  • Skills and competencies needed
  • Reporting lines and critical working relationships
  • Salary and other working conditions

It is more likely that the consultant can find you the perfect employee if you give them as much information as possible about the role and about your organisation. If you have created a good job description, you will already have the information to hand – or at least have considered it in detail.

Why does a good job brief matter?

“We need great information from clients to sell the role to the best candidates. Candidates will be interviewing the company to see if this is the right move for their career, as much as they are being interviewed to see if they are the right person for the team.”

Jonathan Foxley, Recruitment Manager, Challenge Consulting


Having a good brief shows us that the client is committed to filling the role and using us to help them do so. When a consultant has a detailed brief, they feel fully engaged by the client and will go the extra mile to find someone for them. A poor brief means a less enthusiastic consultant, and the role inevitably ends up further down the priority list for a busy consultant with a dozen roles to fill.”

Step-by-step guide to giving a clear job brief

  1. Make sure your internal procedures are in order

Make sure that all the internal sign-offs have been obtained, including HR, finance, management and anybody else who has to give approval before you move from job description to brief. It is frustrating for both the recruiter and the candidates to begin the process and then have to put it on hold or, worse, cancel it.

  1. Let the recruiter know what you have done already to fill the role

If you have already advertised the position and not found a suitable candidate, or briefed another recruiter, let the consultant know. This helps them to adjust the search to attract the right people.

  1. Give enough detail

Include every skill and qualification the candidate must have, and differentiate non-negotiable from nice-to-have skills. Answer all the consultant’s questions thoroughly.  Lombardo advises that you be ready to answer probing questions about the role. “What do you really mean by ‘flexible’? Do you require someone who can work out of normal hours, or do you mean you need a person who can take on a huge variety of duties?  If you ask for ‘advanced Excel skills’, be prepared to describe what you mean in detail. The consultant’s definition of ‘advanced’ may be different to yours”.

  1. Be ready to answer questions

Know what the ideal candidate is like, their background and experience and their likely career progression in your organisation. Know why a candidate would join your organisation in preference to the one they work for now. If there’s something you can’t answer, ask your line manager. It could turn out to be the reason the person is not a good fit.

  1. Confirm a timeline for the hire and for interviews

A clear timeline makes it easier for the recruiter to sell the role to the candidate and also makes you appear decisive and ready to hire. Knowing how urgent filling the role is and how quickly you are able to complete the hiring process is hugely helpful to the consultant. Being clear about timelines at the briefing stage will help you achieve a more collaborative working relationship with your recruiter.

  1. Describe what the person should achieve in the first few months of the job

Briefing the recruiter about your expectations within given timeframes can help them to select candidates who can deliver in line with your team’s goals – perhaps finding candidates who have done so before.

  1. Describe what makes your team and your organisation special

To attract the best candidates the recruiter needs to understand what differentiates your organisation and your team. If you have an excellent training program or more leave days than normal, tell your recruiter. They should know everything that sets you apart and makes yours a great place to work.


What makes a good job brief?

“A good brief allows me to better understand what’s truly required for the role. I can find suitable candidates sooner – a candidate who has relevant experience and/or transferable skills. It also allows me to sell and explain the role in detail to candidates, which will engage them from the start.”

Melissa Lombardo, Senior Consultant, Challenge Consulting