A job description outlines the duties and responsibilities of a given position, and the qualifications an individual must have in order to successfully perform the job. Well-crafted job descriptions can help employers set clear expectations for employees and align individual goals with the overall goals of the company. However, all too often job descriptions lack essential information, are used inconsistently, or are rarely updated. The following are eight common job description mistakes and how to avoid them.
- Failing to have a job description for each position. It is a best practice to have a job description for each position within your company. Employers should provide new hires with a copy of their job description at the time of hire. Employees should also receive an updated job description if their duties or job titles change.
- Using a job description solely when hiring. While the need for a written job description is most evident during the recruitment process (where a detailed description of what that candidate will be expected to do and what skills that candidate must possess is critical), it is important to remember that the job description transcends the hiring process. Job descriptions can be used throughout the employment lifecycle, including but not limited to:
- Assessing employees’ performance
- Developing compensation plans and making compensation decisions
- Classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt
- Identifying training and development needs
- Drafting job descriptions with only employee input. While existing employees can provide input on duties and responsibilities, managers and/or human resources personnel should also be involved in drafting job descriptions. Employees with varying perspectives should collaborate to analyze the position and determine the skills, abilities, qualifications, and competencies required to successfully perform the job.
- Treating desired skills as required skills. It may be the case that the employer "desires" that candidates possess a certain qualification (for example, a master’s degree), but it is not a "must have" for the job. If that is the case, it is a best practice to clearly describe the minimally required skills, and characterize the preferred skills as just that—"preferred" but not "required."
- Excluding essential functions. Essential functions are the job duties that must be performed by the employee. Generally, essential functions include regular day-to-day tasks as well as duties that occur at irregular intervals but that are of a recurring and essential nature. Detailing the essential functions of a job can help employers make determinations regarding reasonable accommodations should the need arise. Generally, employers are required to make a reasonable accommodation so that an otherwise qualified individual with a disability can successfully perform the essential job duties.
- Failing to include other important information. In addition to the essential job functions, a job description should include:
- Summary – An overview of the job purpose, objective, and primary responsibilities.
- Duties and Responsibilities – Essential functions, tasks, duties required to perform the job, and the non-essential functions that are desirable but not required.
- Qualifications – Education, skills, certificates, licenses, abilities, and experience required.
- Competencies – Critical abilities, keys for success in a specific position and/or employee strengths that will be evaluated while performing the job.
- Supervisory Responsibilities (if applicable) – Scope of authority, number of direct and/or indirect reports, and areas of supervision.
- Physical Requirements (if applicable) – Whether the job requires lifting, bending, sitting, or standing, for example.
- Working Conditions – The environment and conditions where the job is performed, such as a warehouse, indoor office, or outdoors.
- Developing inconsistent job descriptions. Job descriptions should be consistent and uniform in their format for all positions throughout the company. Unfortunately, many employers fail to establish and maintain a common structure. This lack of uniformity can cause confusion (for managers and employees) and may result in inconsistency when making employment decisions.
- Failing to retain previous versions of job descriptions. Another common mistake is destroying or otherwise failing to retain prior versions of a job description. It is always a best practice for employers to maintain previous versions of job descriptions, especially for purposes of defending employment decisions that were made based on the duties, skills, and qualifications of the position at that time.
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Michael Pires is the VP, HR Solutions at ADP Small Business Services Division. He is responsible for leading the strategy and implementation around the continued growth of the HR411 business and expansion of the entire HR product portfolio. Michael can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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