Clear Job Descriptions

If you’re an employee, the title of this piece may seem like an oxymoron.  Jobs rarely turn out as they were described in their recruitment announcements.  They often lack complete information and merely  elude to on-the-job realities.  And then there’s the catch all phrase, “… and other duties as assigned,” that necessitate your ability to effectively respond when your employer says, ‘jump”.    You ask yourself: Who writes this stuff?
If you’re an employer, you must comply with a myriad of legal and ethical requirements in your recruitment efforts, and try to express what you hope the job will turn out to be.
How’s that working out for you employers so far?
With so many qualified people competing for any opening in this economic climate, creating clear and concise job descriptions and recruitment announcements is paramount, especially if you want to attract the most qualified and appropriate applicants.
For an employer to have good and accurate job descriptions for recruitment, the process begins long before a new opening for that position becomes available.  It should start by updating the descriptions for all relevant positions.
Employers need to:

  •     Get feedback from the people who actually hold and perform those positions, and ask them for input into the work they do, the skills they use and the prerequisites needed to the job well.
  •     Consult labor market information provided by State & Federal agencies for standards, practices and statistical data about the positions.
  •     Research industry and trade groups for performance qualifications and function descriptions other employers have found successful.  The most current position-related buzzwords and industry-speak can also be found through this research.
  •     Do a search for articles in trade publications written by other industry insiders who best understand the needs and expectations of the position.
  •     Carefully define the essential functions of the position, the core aspects of the job that determine the real scope of the work expected to be done.
  •     Meet with those exiting their firm and find out how the employee’s position has changed over time, how its different from when they started, what skills they acquired on the job that the next employee might need before starting the same job.

Just because you’ve had someone on your staff doing a particular job for a number of years doesn’t mean that the position hasn’t evolved or the language used to describe the functions and actions taken on the job haven’t changed.  Yes, certain descriptive language will be comfortable and familiar, but may no longer be accurate!  An employer that uses out-of-date terminology in their recruitment could reveal themselves to be out of step with current industry trends/terminology and may not be able to attract and hire the best talent for that position.
Another area where employers can adopt a more flexible strategy is their educational requirements.  Do employers and recruiters understand that when they indicate a preference for candidates only from top schools or graduate programs, it smacks of elitism?   Of course employers are entitled to recruit top candidates, but by indicating such limitations they could be ignoring other highly qualified applicants whose only shortfall might have been a lack of funds to attend an Ivy League institution!
Another part of the same issue are employers who negate the qualifications of highly experienced and capable applicants who acquired their skills over years working on the job, and not through traditional academic paths.  A candidate with a track record of years worth of success on the job shouldn’t be penalized from consideration because they don’t have a new diploma.  Real-world experience, success and practical application should trump the prestige of big-name schools.
Yes, it’s an employers’ market right now.  The wealth of applicants and the state of the economy allow employers to be as choosey as they’d like, often undercutting the real value of a position and an employee’s contribution because the applicant market may be desperate for work.  Employers want to believe they can always find someone to do the same job for less money.
What irritates you about recruitment practices?  As an employer, are the job ads you post truly reflective of the positions you need filled?  If you’re a job seeker, are the job ads you see accurate indicators for the positions you apply for?
Share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing and reading them.
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