About Job Descriptions

Why are job descriptions so long?

Is it just me or are most job descriptions overly wordy and complicated? When a job description exceeds one page, I start asking what’s important in the role. When a job description exceeds two pages, I’m lost. Long job descriptions are well intentioned. The hiring company wants to provide as much information as possible to candidates. In theory this should help to reduce the number of unqualified applicants and at the same time allow the applicant to understand what kind of employee the company wants to fill the role. But for me, long job descriptions start to blur the most important candidate characteristics an employer is seeking. I think it’s reasonable to define any job on a single page.

Get stuff done

Many years ago, I had a colleague Doug, who simplified his own job description to three words. 

Get Sh!# Done. 

Doug was, and I’m sure still is, that guy on the team who just rolled up his sleeves and did whatever was needed to accomplish a task. If he didn’t know how to do a task, he found out how or found someone to help. He was a student of company processes and looked for ways to improve and advance the flow of work. 

At a different job, I had a colleague Pam, who built a career from transforming herself to do what the company needed. Pam learned the business and new skills after starting the job. She embraced the purpose and people within the business. There was no specific job description for Pam because she did a little bit of everything. In her own way she was like Doug. She just got the job done.

I admire the Dougs and Pams of the world because they are the people in the organization that everyone looks to for subject matter expertise. But they are also true leaders of the company that have influence beyond what their job title and responsibility provide. Their opinions influence decisions. Their dependability impacts project success. 

Hire for attitude and mindset and teach the skills

I’ve read that it’s better to hire for attitude and teach the skills necessary to be successful in a job. I’d love to see some studies about how that advice holds in a business environment. While hiring for attitude-only may be extreme, it provides a good basis for removing some of the fluff that fills many job descriptions today. Maybe there’s a place for a job description that defines the boundaries of the role in a few statements but also includes statements like:

Embraces company purpose; willing to learn and perform any task to deliver services to our customers; perseveres in tough situations; takes accountability for actions; optimistic about life.

Job descriptions can be more simplified and focused. Don’t forget to define characteristics that make an employee successful in your culture. 

Onward and Upward!

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