Write an Effective Job Description

Be exact, not generic, and you'll be able to find better people faster. Here's how.

“First rate people hire first rate people, second rate people hire third rate people.” Leo Rosten.

You can forget about the typical corporate “job description” written with the jargon of big business. Unless you are specific and write it in everyday English, it will be useless to you.

Ever read one of these corporate masterpieces? They ramble on about communication skills, leadership abilities, and the knowledge of budgets and organization theory. They contain wordy sentences about “interacting” and understanding the human resource contribution to the goals of the organization. Not bad, if you are writing a management text to impress those you went to high school with. But not good, if you are trying to describe what you want an employee to do and be responsible for.

Nevertheless, if you write it in simple language and tailor it to your business, a job description can be the answer to finding and hiring the right person. Start with a list of the tasks you want the employee to perform. The list will serve you as a hiring guide by establishing the qualifications necessary to fill the job. The job description should detail your employee’s job responsibilities. And it can function as an employee contract of understanding and as a performance review document.

Here are five points to follow as you create a job description worth every minute you spend preparing it.

* Start your job description with a list of tasks.

How do you know if you need another employee? A job description can tell you if the need is real or you are feeling overburdened for the moment with too much to do. Begin by listing the recurring tasks you would have the person do. If you can’t fill the list, don’t hire anyone. If you can, your list is the job description. It is the specific responsibilities you are going to pay someone to perform. Not generalities, as in a corporate job description, but tasks such as; balancing your checking account, posting invoices to the ledger, answering customer complaints, opening the mail, or conducting a monthly physical inventory.

* Properly written, the description will specify the personal qualifications of the job.

I know the owner of a small hi-tech firm who could not keep an office receptionist – each one quit in frustration. Why? He was hiring the wrong person. The position was 90 percent accounting. He solved his problem with a bookkeeper. Use your list of tasks to pinpoint the personal qualifications, the talents and skills you are looking for.

* Use the job description to detail your employee’s responsibilities.

With a job description you will avoid surprises and misunderstandings if you specifically state what you want accomplished. You won’t hear such comments as: “I didn’t know I was supposed to…” or ” You didn’t tell me…”

* It can underscore the relationship between you and your employee.

A real benefit of the job description is that it becomes a contract of responsibility and expectations. Both you and your employee will have a firm understanding of your relationship as it removes the guesswork and vagueness of uncertainty and generalizations.

* Use it to review your employee’s performance.

Because job responsibilities change as your business grows, so should your job description. It needs to be a working document – flexible to meet your business needs. I suggest you periodically meet with your employee(s) and review it. Discuss what works, as well as the difficult or impractical areas that need to be revised. It is your opportunity to review your employee’s performance with meaning and not just a conversation couched in guarded language.

While I may delight in throwing a barb or two at the “hazy management language” of big business, a job description is one of the many sophisticated corporate management tools that you can revise and adapt to your small business. In future columns I will write about others you will find helpful to your business or career.

(C) Copyright 2001 Dr. Paul E. Adams Syndicated by ParadigmTSA

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