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We've all seen job descriptions. During the process of getting hired, but before they actually hire you, you'll read a list of the general tasks and responsibilities associated with the role for which you are being considered. Typically, you'll see a list of competencies and qualifications needed, and some discussion of the goals to be accomplished for the position. Not to mention any relevant machines or tools to be used, and typically, information about compensation. At most firms, they are very common. At larger firms, human resources personnel expend their ton of energy, completing lengthy job analysis, so they can write a detailed and complete description of the role.
When used correctly, job descriptions do offer benefits. These include increasing role clarity. The ability to attract the right candidates. Serving as a quality reference regarding job performance. And providing a reference point for compensation decisions. I'll concede that job descriptions are logical, and sometimes useful. But, they have many limitations and thus, many detractors. The limitations include creating an unproductive resistance to work not defined in the job description.
Creating fake boundaries around jobs that are very difficult to define, thus restricting flexibility and initiative. Further, even if accurate job descriptions become obsolete quickly as technology and other job factors change. In the face of these limitations, you still see companies go to excessive levels of detail, resulting in lengthy bloated narratives, that add some clarity, but also provide future ammunition for upset employees. In many ways, the job description is the number one reason we hear people say, hey, that's not my job.
I encourage you to stop trying to perfectly define every job. Stop trying to avoid future arguments and lawsuits. Remember, few people read these descriptions after being hired. They are always incomplete, updating and maintaining them is costly, and, to be frank, they don't help anyone actually do their jobs. So here's your goal. Create and use job descriptions as a great way to recruit people, and as a useful reference point. But to make them work, be sure to do these two things.
First, air on shorter instead of longer. Cover the basics in terms of duties, responsibilities, and goals. But less really is more. The needs of the role will change. The person's interests will change. So be brief and stop pretending like you know how to predict the future. Second, explicitly mention the fact that the job description is just a tentative outline, and that the job will evolve as needed. That's realistic. In the end job descriptions are useful, but, you have to create them so that they motivate people to think about possibilities, not imaginary boundaries.
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