The Importance of a Complete Job Description


You would be astounded at the number of clients we have worked with over the years who haven't had a job description ready for the vacancy they would like us to work on.

Recruiting without a job description is like going into a cave without a torch.' 'You may think that you have a clear picture of the type of individual you are looking to recruit, but in reality you are ill-equipped for the task ahead.

So, with a slightly confusing metaphor out of the way, I thought I would take a look at the key reasons why you need job descriptions for every member of staff, and some of the reasons are less obvious than you think.

Why does my business need job descriptions?

Job descriptions, or JDs as they are known in recruitment, have a myriad of uses within a HR department.' Far from being a mere bureaucratic exercise, JDs will help you recruit, evaluate and even dismiss staff when necessary.' Although not a legal requirement, JDs are essential for:

Job Description: Recruitment

Having a clear picture on paper of the individual you are looking to recruit will help you create the job advertisement and put together the interview questions. 'The candidate will also benefit from being armed with all the information they need so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they feel that they are right for the role or not.

Job Description: Orientation

A job description should help ensure that there are not any nasty surprises when someone starts with the business.' It is also vital that the new starter digests the JD and signs it.' You should explain to them that by signing the document that they understand all of the job requirements and there obligations with the business.

Job Description: Training and Development

I always find that a JD is the perfect document for a new starter's 3 month review.' By reviewing how the new employee is performing against the job description will give you an excellent insight to the gaps in their knowledge.' This will then give you the ideal platform to look at putting together a training program to address those gaps.

Job Description: Performance Benchmarks

As with a training and development program, a JD can form a great base to evaluate and benchmark a staff member's performance.' Each duty listed in the JD can be scored and addressed at bi-annual or annual reviews and is an excellent way of tracking job progress.

The job description will also enable you to put together a list of goals and criteria which the staff will be expected to meet.' When it then comes to salary reviews or potential staff promotions you should have all the documentation you need to make an informed decision.

Job Description: Avoid the 'one size fits all' model

If you are recruiting for similar roles in the business, you could look at utilising the staff within your organisation to help you draft JDs that accurately reflect the job vacancy.

For example, we see many examples of lazily written JDs that have obviously been copied and pasted from a previous job description for a role that is similar but not an exact match.

If you take this square peg in a round hole approach to recruitment, don't be surprised when the individual you recruit turns out to be not quite for the role.

Job Description: Discipline

Not everybody's favourite task, but a great way to emotionally detach yourself from having to discipline a member of staff is to use a JD.' You can then use the job description to identify and illustrate to an employee where they are not adequately performing job functions.

Job Description: Where do I start?

It needn't be as daunting as you think.' As with any documentation, the key here is to put together a framework to work to and a clear understanding of where you can source all the relevant information.

There are a gazillion examples of JDs available on the web, but ideally you want to research those that match the type of vacancy you are looking to recruit for.' The basic sections that you will find that the majority of JDs possess are:

  • Job Title:
  • Job Description:
  • Who we are:
  • Primary Job Functions/duties:
  • Required Skills:
  • Desired Skills:
  • Desired Experience:
  • Education preferred:
  • Work Status: (Full or Part Time or Flexi)
  • Travel:
  • Reports:

When you have put together the JD, you should date and sign it.' That way you will be able to keep track of any future amendments to the job description and who made those alterations.

Job Description: Summary

A decent job description will give you a fantastic chance of recruiting and retaining the best candidates on the market.' It should form the basis of everything I have spoken about in the above and give your staff clear guidance on where their career with your business is heading.

A badly written job description is actually worse than having no job description in the first place.' So give it some serious thought and think about the calibre of people you want in your organisation, not only those that have the right experience and qualifications to do the job but also those that would be an excellent cultural fit.