Are your job descriptions up to date and does it matter?

Some time ago, you put a lot of time and effort into developing your job descriptions. Now you’ve added them to your company’s documentation and that’s it, right? Well, maybe. Have you thought about the reasons why you have JDs, apart from the fact that they are deemed a necessary compliance ‘must have’ ?

A good job description forms the basis of:

  • A healthy, productive employment relationship
  • Clear definition of duties and responsibilities for the benefit of both parties
  • Clear expectations of performance (which can include measurement of performance)
  • A bridge to facilitate constructive communication between employee and manager
  • An opportunity to crystallize a description of the ideal individual to fulfil the requirements of the role
  • A critical vehicle for successful recruitment.
  • Essential in evaluating the role for remuneration and benchmarking purposes

If your job descriptions are more generic than specific, you could well be affecting your chance of success in recruiting the right people for your organisation.

With an up-to-date relevant job description you will be better prepared to discuss the position with potential employees, internal applicants, upper management or recruitment companies.

New entrants to the role will be well informed, have a clear set of expectations and have a base from which you and they can measure performance.

Most important of all, you and your company are absolutely clear about the role and its current relevance and value to the company.

Having done your homework to bring the JD up-to-date and clarified who it is that is now needed to competently fulfil the role, the next step is to benchmark the role in terms of remuneration in the current market place. Salaries and benefits are constantly on the move, so what worked last time you hired, last year or even last month may bear little relevance to what’s on offer right now.

Now what?

You don't need to be told that even in tough economies, the war for talent doesn't end. So getting this step right is critical.

Is the ideal candidate out there and what is it going to cost to get them?

The ideal candidate is only out there if you have done your homework! You have now updated your requirements in terms of:

  • A clear set of the duties and responsibilities
  • A clear idea of who you are looking for, their skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications

So how do you attract and then retain the ideal candidate? That’s a big question and many books have been written in response! Here however, we can cover the basics.

Your first question to tackle is:

What is the role worth on the market and how can you compete? And the answer may well be that the cost of hiring someone with everything you want is either prohibitive or impractical, in that generally the perfect person simply doesn’t exist. Now what?


Take another look at that JD and candidate profile. What can you do without? Can you find other ways of managing some of those duties and responsibilities to make it easier to find a good candidate? Are you able to put some training or mentoring in place to bring the individual up to speed?

Set out the requirements according to:

  1. must have
  2. would be nice to have
  3. can do without, can train or can cover in other ways

The laws of attraction

If your up-to-date Job Description is clear, unequivocal, practical and reasonable, if it is matched with a realistic candidate profile, you are well on your way to hunting down the right candidate.

Next, you’ve checked out the market place and have a fair idea what you need to offer by way of salary package and benefits. Give yourself a range and be prepared to be flexible, very flexible. To miss out on a candidate who brings added value to the long term prosperity of the organization for the sake of a few dollars in up-front cost is certainly a false economy.

So you’re stuck with an immovable salary ceiling? Get creative. What else could be attractive to your target candidate? Training, educational support, a car allowance? Defined long term career opportunities? Maybe just some flexibility around a preplanned holiday or family responsibilities?

Be very clear about what your company has to offer. Bearing in mind that your best candidate is one who is currently happily employed elsewhere, what have you got to offer that will make choosing you over the current employer an attractive proposition?

In summary:

Up-to- date job descriptions yield tremendous benefits in terms of:

  • Ensuring that they reflect your company’s current and future needs
  • Allowing you to reassess the relevance and value of the role and the suitability of the present incumbent or identify the most appropriate ‘fit’ when going to the market to recruit
  • Clarifying the structure of the role and where it now fits into the organisation
  • Setting in place updated performance measures to keep pace with the company’s goals and to fit with its current and future strategies
  • Recruitment is a simpler exercise because you are clear about what you are trying to achieve and why
  • Recruitment success is greatly enhanced by the provision to the candidate of a clear outline of the role, its duties and responsibilities, location, career advancement opportunities, remuneration and the like
  • Staff retention rates are generally greatly improved by up-to-date relevant JDs

Job descriptions benefit from being living breathing things that move with the times, reflect current conditions and requirements and are constantly scrutinised and amended to reflect new or changed responsibilities or promotion. A great JD forms the basis of performance management, staff appraisal, salary benchmarking and increases. And of course you are actively fostering your employees’ sense of ownership and commitment with their increased awareness of value of their contribution and where it fits within the company’s overall strategy.

The time expended on maintaining up-to date J Ds is minimal when you consider the value of this very productive exercise in improving your company’s performance and success.