Job descriptions: detailed or general?

A reader asks RecruitAdvisory ….

Job description: detailed or general?

This question comes from a number of readers. One highlighted the differences between a job description (or JD) and a job advertisement, another that JDs are out of date almost as soon as they’re written, and yet another suggested we go to the best employee for a JD.

Given that employees are in their jobs for an average of one and a half to two years (CEOs are in place for just 26 months, from one stat I saw recently), sharp employers are writing JDs with the achievements to be attained by this notional end of tenure and with a view to succession planning. Indeed, companies like Coca-Cola, HP and Kimberly Clark now have many roles as contracts with just such fixed-terms. They are also including more cross-functional skills and experience because that’s what it means to work in a team. The style of this JD needs to be detailed because, whether the role be contract, fixed term, or permanent, it is being used to frame the performance review. Using it as thus helped simplify immensely my job of assessing the performance of my team when a line manager.

It’s because of the understanding that organizations are teams that the person specification is important too along with the JD, not just for hiring but also for analysing a job (JD + PS) within the context of workforce planning.

By contrast, the JD designed for recruiting needs to be short and punchy. When a recruitment agent, I looked at employers’ websites to see which ones had merely copy & pasted a witheringly long JD onto their careers site, one because it would fail to sell the job to potential applicants, two because the hiring line manager would all-too often have a different and more up-to-date view of what and who she was looking for in her head, and three because if I could get the permission of the hiring line manager to speak to the best employee I had both a person specification to find similar profiles and someone I could headhunt in the future.

There is great technology available now that profiles the best employees and then finds similar people out in the market, and the management reporting shows that employers using it hire better people who stay for longer. I wish I’d had it when I was a hiring line manager and then a recruitment agent!


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