10 Ways To Better Job Descriptions

This post is written by Ashley Johnston – Marketing Director at HRTMS, the industry leader of job description management software. Their solutions include a full line of job description management products including MarketPay Jobs, the exclusive job description solution for PayScale MarketPay customers. Click here to learn more.

Are your job descriptions the super-sources they should be or are they simply relics whose value has been reduced to a static, latent document? A clear understanding of the job is required to do just about everything that we do in HR. From recruiting the right people and evaluating their performance, to benchmarking jobs and developing an equitable salary structure–all these tasks require reliable job information. If your job descriptions could use some love and attention, then follow the steps below to better job descriptions.

Change The Way You Define A Job Description
Look up the definition of “job description” and you will be given something to the effect of “a formal account of an employee’s responsibilities.” However, this definition is much too narrow for the job descriptions of today. To align itself more closely with other HR programs, the job description must include more than just a job summary, essential functions and qualifications; it has to define all aspects of a job and include other pertinent information such as compensation data, compliance classifications and documentation, performance data and more.

Job Descriptions Are Not One Size Fits All
Think of a job description as your perfect sandwich. What is considered perfect for one person may not be ideal for you. So, unless you find someone else’s idea of perfection sufficient, don’t rely on generic job descriptions. Although there is nothing wrong with pulling from multiple sources to help pull together a job description, your job descriptions must reflect the needs, goals and culture of your organization. If you fail to do so, you might find yourself with employees who have difficulty fitting in with your culture and contributing to the success of your organization.

Treat Job Descriptions As Evolving, Living Records
For far too long, we’ve relied heavily on Word and Shared Drives to help us manage our job descriptions. But this antiquated approach leads to static documents that become outdated, incomplete and duplicative. A job description is a vital record whose accuracy and value lies in their evolution. With technology like a Job Description Management (JDM) system, you don’t have to sift through Word documents to find the latest version of the job. JDM systems save both current and legacy versions of each job and compile all job information into one space.

Describe The Job, Not The Person
As social creatures, we often relay information via emotion; however, when writing a job description, leave emotion out of it. Resist the urge to include individual, personalized traits when writing a job description. So, instead of using a phrase like “upbeat personality,” write something more along the lines of “excellent customer service skills.” This way, you’re focusing on the requirements of the job, not necessarily how the person accomplishes the job. There are no forbidden words when it comes to job description best practices, but it’s important that the language in your job descriptions is not prejudicial to a qualified individual.

How You Say It Matters
Be clear and concise when writing your job description. Stay away from flowery, overwritten, and vague verbiage; it invites confusion and often does not describe what the employee actually does. Try to avoid using adverbs or adjectives that are subject to differing interpretations such as “frequently”, “some”, and “occasional”. Don’t exaggerate or glamorize the job; remain reasonable and truthful. Hyperboles like “on call 24/7”, for example, should not be used in a job description.

Content Is Crucial
Because writer’s block is so common when writing a job description, many people turn to generic job descriptions on the internet. Again, generic job descriptions have their place; they are a great starting point or can help fill in missing blanks. But, do no limit yourself to only including information you find through a Google search (…or Bing). Even if your current job descriptions are lacking, they’re still littered with valuable information. Another great source of content is to query staff members who know the job, like managers and subject matter experts. A great perk of many Job Description Management Systems (JDMs) is their extensive content libraries. Some systems like HRTMS’s line of JDM products come with libraries that include job posting data, sample jobs, O*Net jobs, and crowd-sourced content.

But Collaboration Is Key
There are those who understand how to properly write and manage job descriptions, and then there are those who understand the nuances and details of a job; rarely are they the same person. Allowing for open and traceable collaboration between HR, managers, and subject matter experts can lead to job descriptions that support the corporate strategy while detailing performance goals, regulatory compliance, and compensation plans. Implement a flexible process that allows your job description to be viewed and adapted by multiple stakeholders. This helps encourage constructive dialog that will lead to more dynamic job descriptions.

Stay Organized
Organization promotes maintenance, which in turn promotes an evolving job description repository. If the job description management process is difficult or disruptive, managers and even HR will limit their interaction with these critical data-sources. Make sure that your job description repository remains focused; and your process for writing, editing, and collaborating is sound and easy to follow.

Technology Is Your Friend
JDM systems allow you to take full advantage of your job descriptions while helping to reduce the arduous task of managing them. Technology enables accessibility, consistency, security, reducing the administrative burden and allowing for easy integration with other systems. Automating the process can elevate job descriptions as an integral part of your entire Talent Management landscape.

Keep Your Eye On The Prize
Overhauling your job description library is not going to happen overnight. There are no quick fixes in HR management especially when it comes to job descriptions. However, if an organization wants to ensure effective recruitment, performance, compensation, communication, and compliance strategies, then there is no substitute for a sound job description repository. While the process can be time consuming, the benefits more than justify the investment.

You can access the full eBook that inspired this post here.

Banner photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash