Almost everybody underestimates the importance of a job description. Most people, from what I can gather, tend to think of it like filling out a template. “We need a __________ with _________years experience who can __________. The ideal candidate will have __________…..” You get the picture. That is not a job description, it’s a candidate description. Job descriptions are fundamental building blocks of your company, the organization and how the tasks and duties are going to be completed so that the company is successful and makes money. Did you want to make money? Great! So spend the time you need to write out what the employee will be responsible for doing for you.
A job description is the perfect foundation for a successful hire, including these:
An Opportunity to Reflect: It gives you a real opportunity to think about what your organization needs, not just in terms of tasks but in terms of what kinds of people really contribute to making work productive and fun. Because, as I’ve said before, if you get the wrong kind of person, the skills won’t matter; and if you get the right kind of person, a lot of skills can come later. Doing first things first is highly effective, and one of my favorite sayings courtesy of Stephen Covey.
Better Hiring ROI: If you write a clear, thorough and representational job description, you’re going to get the right kinds of candidates. Maybe less candidates but in recruiting quantity is a waste of time. Quality is what you want. You’re going to spend less time and money recruiting and onboarding employees. You’re going to spend a lot less time disciplining and managing the person you hire. You’re going to save money on unemployment insurance. And you’re going to get a much better ROI from your hire because you’re more likely to hire the person who will help your organization grow.
Assessment and Accountability: Because you want to be very, very clear in both your own mind and with candidates your expectations, a good job description outlines all responsibilities and duties in detail. Additionally, you can develop assessment activities that allow you to determine if the candidates possess the knowledge, skills and abilities to be successful. A detailed description also creates a better level of accountability so if something goes wrong and you do have to part ways with the employee, you’ll have documented very clear parameters around what the job was, so it won’t turn into a nightmare of who said or did what.
Protection Against Discrimination: Job descriptions can actually reveal discriminatory attitudes you might not have even realized exist in your organization. When you write it, you have to make sure that, while it specifies whether the person will need to lift 50 pounds or set up heavy displays at trade shows, you’re not discriminating against anyone on the basis of gender, age, race, disability or other protected area. So you notice if you inadvertently pop out with “We’re a bunch of young, energetic geeks” or “We’re looking for a guy who can lift a horse.” Unless you’re dying for a visit from the EEOC or DOL, you can take this moment to check your own assumptions.
Part of the problem is in our fast paced, pivot, lean, just in time economy, companies tend not to even start looking for candidates until they’re already in trouble and then they just want to get the most qualified person they can, at the price they’re willing to pay…yesterday. So if you have a break, it’s a good idea to just think about how you would write or rewrite the job descriptions of people who already work there or people you might want to hire down the road. And put some real thought into it. And if you like, we can help.