Why do we spend so much time and effort on job descriptions when they have little to do with the results of a team member?

Does a job description really define success?

Does a job description really capture the ideal candidate?

Obviously, there is a bit of sarcasm in these questions. This is exactly what I intended to communicate! I am not saying that well written job descriptions aren’t useful. But are they as valuable as we think?

Designing JDs in a Bubble

There are inherent issues with the way most job descriptions are developed. The intent is often to create a “catch all” that supposedly describes the ideal candidate. Sure, we look at individuals who were previously successful in each role. We might even sit with a hiring manager and get their description of the ideal candidate.

We then create a job description that serves as a constant across multiple hiring managers and even multiple divisions. After all, a salesperson is the same regardless of the hiring manager or the situation, right? WRONG!

Too often, job descriptions are created in a bubble. We create them using so-called best practices and compare them with industry benchmarks. This might be helpful at times for developing compensation ranges, but does it consider the reality of the circumstances?

Change the Start

Before you consider developing a candidate profile in the form of a job description or behavioral assessment, take a step back. The starting point of a job description is NOT what the hiring manager or HR executive thinks they want. The starting point which we often miss begins with the business strategy itself.

One of the greatest challenges in any business is making sure everyone agrees on your strategy.

How many times have you received conflicting feedback on a candidate that you just interviewed? One interviewer loves the candidate while another can’t find anything positive to say. Yet the candidate meets the requirements laid out in the job description.

Often this stems from two very different perspectives on our business strategy. If the business focus is not clear, how can we create a clear job description?

Define the Direction

To determine if your organization is on the same page, ask your hiring leaders to rank their priorities. For example, have each person who would weigh in on a candidate pick 5 or 10 of the following statements before defining a job description.

Current Business Priorities

  • Implement new systems or processes
  • Invest in our sales team or marketing team to help grow revenue
  • Cut down on waste and improve efficiency in our work to help improve the bottom line
  • Drive employees to achieve results with vision and passion
  • Drive growth through increased sales or improved customer retention
  • Increase employee engagement to improve productivity and retention
  • Foster and cultivate creativity or a new vision for the company
  • Develop new pricing or distribution options that will appeal to customers
  • Increase team cohesion in order to improve team-level outcomes
  • Increase reliability of production or services to help avoid costly disruptions or delays
  • Outmaneuver our competitors and be the first to the field
  • Drive market share with data-backed decisions and discipline
  • Improve forecast accuracy to help inform long-term planning and budgeting
  • Implement new structures or procedures to handle the needs of our growing workforce
  • Set up a new team or department that will help expand our business
  • Improve our employees’ loyalty and faith in the company
  • Promote from within to foster a culture of engagement and professional development
  • Create or redefine our company’s brand and perception in the market
  • Launch a new line of products or services that have never been done before
  • Determine how best to commercialize our new ideas or inventions

Based on my experience, leaders within the same organization generally have a different perspective of the direction of the organization. If the directions are different, the ideal candidate profile will be different. If the candidate profile is different, a common job description is rendered useless!

It’s not always easy to clarify and find agreement on a business strategy. However, it’s essential for making great hires and executing effectively on that strategy. After all, everything worthwhile is uphill!


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