Use a Job Description, Especially a Results-Oriented One, to Hire and Manage Employees


A Job description, while low on the sexy-management-tool scale, provides the most reliable base for hiring and managing employees. With a job description as the foundation the process is thorough, fair and legal.

Job candidates and employees come in a variety of dimensions, so orienting on them is haphazard. A concrete, job-specific reference is required. The job description provides such a base for writing help wanted ads, stating job qualifications, interviewing job applicants, orienting new employees, planning job training, and appraising job performance.

Some job descriptions are more helpful than others. The common-garden-snake-variety job description is really not harmless; for the most part it describes the job as a seemingly endless list of tasks where the focus of attention is candidate or employee behaviors—which is O.K. as far as it goes.

However, the crucial measurement of candidates or employees is not whether they can “do” the job, that is, perform the tasks, but instead whether they are able to accomplish the results that the organization needs by overcoming obstacles or taking advantage of opportunities. Job descriptions that merely list tasks miss the clarifying results that give meaning to the tasks.

For example, instead of describing the job responsibility of a credit analyst as “analyzes reports,” adding the expected result that sets the goal—and explains why the task is important—is far more beneficial, in this way:

DETERMINES CREDIT WORTHINESS
by
analyzing reports.

A three-line structure with the expected result in boldface caps most aptly emphasizes and clarifies the result graphically. Of course, requirements could also be stated on one line with the result in boldface or italics to focus attention on it.

With a proper job description in place, job-specific requirements are readily available to be used for evaluating job candidates and employees, as follows:

HELP WANTED ADS are designed not only to attract job candidates, but also to screen unqualified people. Recruiting and interviewing is more efficient when solid job requirements—easily taken from the job description—are written into the advertisement. It’s O.K. to hype the company and its benefits as well but not to the near exclusion of screening requirements. Leading off with the contribution the job makes to the organization (the job’s key result), creates a more uplifting and attractive help wanted advertisement.

JOB QUALIFICATIONS should not be described in an addendum to the job description. The job description itself states requirements exactly as they are needed on the job. Converting a job responsibility, such as “Interviews loan applicants” to “Must have good communication skills” is a step backward in clarity—and legally dangerous. Specifications not normally included in the job description can be easily added for clarification.

JOB INTERVIEW QUESTIONS grounded on concrete job responsibilities avoid conversations intended to “get to know” a candidate. Examining job knowledge, skills, and abilities is the heart of the matter, but a more dynamic dimension is added to the conversation when expected results from the job description are used to test a candidate’s problem-solving abilities to overcome obstacles and her alertness to take advantage of opportunities.

JOB ORIENTATION is more economical and orderly when job steps stated in the job description are used to structure the experience. Actual job requirements lead directly and sensibly to standard operating manuals for action details. Results statements enliven the passing on of policy and procedure by providing an umbrella explanation of why job duties are important.

JOB TRAINING based squarely on job responsibilities builds job knowledge, job skills, and job abilities, and avoids frivolous programs that attempt to develop personal qualities and attitudes. A job description establishes a direct link and rationale for planning and delivering training programs. Results statements in the job description automatically become training objectives.

PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL forms separate from the job description frequently focus on traits and behaviors—leading to appraisal conversations that are too personal for either the supervisor or the employee. Confrontations can be minimized by using objective job description language (job requirements were either accomplished or not) to structure the appraisal conference. Goal setting planning and appraisal formats are also better structured when grounded in actual job responsibilities. When results are included in the job description, supervisors are spared the ridiculous situation of having to give an employee a good rating for “doing” job tasks even though he did not accomplish required results.

A well- and powerfully written job description provides an efficient, consistent and legal anchor for all employment actions; separate forms (usually trait or competency-based) are unnecessary, confusing, and potentially dangerous. Employment actions built directly on a job description will be job specific—just what judges and employees want.

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