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Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


Are job descriptions too boring to bother with?

86% of HR managers say no


job description video

A recent survey of HR managers by the Hay Group discovered that over half thought that poor quality job descriptions were driving staff turnover.

This came as no surprise to me.

What does surprise me is how many organisations I come across who don’t use job descriptions at all.

Job descriptions are often viewed as an insignificant part of the recruitment process, way down on the list of priorities behind assessment exercises, interview schedule and time-to-hire. They’re seen as a hassle to produce, resulting in a boring piece of paper that offers little in the way of value. Do you really need one?

I think the question should be, can you afford not to have one?

The truth is the job description could make or break the success of your recruitment activity. And impact on the performance of your new hire. 

Having good quality job descriptions saves a whole lot of time, energy and money both now and down the line. They could save you a whole load of legal hassle too.

Here’s why.

In the Hay survey, “59% of HR managers said they had wasted time with irrelevant candidates who had the wrong skills” and “68% of HR managers said poor job descriptions were contributing to weak candidate pools.

Why would this be?

Because not having a good quality job description can lead to a lack of clarity about what you’re looking for in a candidate. 

Those involved in the recruitment process, whether internally or externally, need to know, precisely, what skills, knowledge and behaviours are required for the role.

Without setting this out clearly in a job description, recruitment agencies may make assumptions about what the role entails. They may interpret the job title differently from you. All of which means they might make the wrong decision about which CVs to send you.

If you’re advertising direct, potential candidates may be put off the role by a vague or inaccurate portrayal offered in an advert. Or they might get the wrong impression about the job and (wrongly) think it’s not for them or that they couldn’t do it.

All of which means you’re inevitably going to be wasting time with candidates who aren’t right for the role.

You’re going to have to sift through a load of inappropriate CVs. You may have to incorporate additional sifting tools into the process to sort the wheat from the chaff.

And you may end up interviewing people who aren’t really right for the job but may be the best of a bad lot.

But it’s not only during the recruitment process that poor quality or non-existent job descriptions have an impact. The survey found that “51 per cent of HR managers believed that poor job descriptions could mislead employee expectations and ultimately drive them to leave.

If your new employee’s understanding of the role and of the organisation have been distorted by a poor job description, or by someone operating without one, then they might have a bit of a surprise when faced with the reality of the job.

If the job isn’t what they thought it would be, there’s a very real possibility that they will leave. 

What if you’ve ended up hiring an employee with an incomplete skill set? It may mean you have an employee who is not happy and is underperforming in the role. But how do you, without a good job description, tell them what your expectations are? How do you manage their performance if you don’t have written criteria against which to assess them?

What if, in the very worst case scenario, you’re taken to tribunal? The first thing a court is likely to ask is what should this person be doing? Without written criteria i.e. a job description, it’s more likely to uphold an unfair dismissal claim.

Who knew so many issues arose from not having a good quality job description in place?

You did, didn’t you? Like 86% of HR managers, you know that good job descriptions lead to better quality candidates.

But what constitutes a good quality job description? Here are my tips:

  1. Use clear concise language. Avoid HR buzzwords and remember that people many interpret job titles differently so be precise.
  2. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience (those involved in the process like recruitment agencies and of course, your potential candidate). What impression is the job description going to give them of the role in question? Is it really clear what you’re looking for?
  3. Try to bring the job alive – it can be difficult to convey the realities of a role but that is what you need to be aiming for.
  4. Don’t take too long about it – be succinct. Having too many criteria, for instance, can be off-putting.
  5. Make sure it’s up-to-date – has the job or organisation changed since the last time you recruited to this role (for more on this see why job descriptions are like Mary Berry’s technical challenge)?

Job descriptions are not (or certainly shouldn’t be) boring useless bits of paper. They’re actually pivotal for any organisation, protecting you legally and making sure you get the best performers performing successfully.

I’d be interested to hear your experience of job descriptions? Do you have a good ‘formula’ for one you’d like to share?

One Comment

  1. realtekh says:

    nice……….thank you for your sharing

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