8 Do’s and Don’ts for Job Descriptions in ‘09

Yesterday’s Advisor covered legal issues with job descriptions; today’s issue features key do’s and don’ts and introduces an extraordinary resource of prewritten job descriptions.

Here are BLR’s editors’ do’s and don’ts for worthwhile job descriptions that will really support HR operations.

1. DO give specifics

For example, rather than stating that a maintenance worker “keeps up equipment,” it is better to spell out the position’s requirements, which might include performing routine maintenance on assembly machines, including adjusting settings; cleaning and lubricating shafts, gears, and bearings; and dismantling and replacing defective parts, etc.

2. DO use accurate adjectives

Include adjectives that describe the pace of work (“deadline-driven,” “fast-paced”) or the work environment (“enclosed area,” “noisy setting”), but avoid flowery and overly long descriptions (“cozy but comfortable work environment that encourages creativity”).

3. DON’T use subjective terms

Avoid using words that are subject to differing interpretations. Instead of saying you seek a certain attitude, cooperation, or initiative, describe expected outputs, different constituencies with whom this position interacts, and the nature of those relationships (such as “reports to,” “provides support to,” “supervises”).

4. DON’T rely on abbreviations or jargon

A job description should be clear to applicants and employees. Abbreviations and jargon that are specific to your organization, and not to your industry, should be avoided or explained.

5. DON’T use words that raise a question of discrimination

Avoid language that would be questionable in a job listing. For example, don’t use words such as “youthful” or “able-bodied.”

Set that keyboard aside! Your job descriptions are already written. See why thousands of employers have a permanent place in their offices for BLR’s classic Job Descriptions Encyclopedia. Try it at no cost or risk. Find out more.

6. DON’T list unreasonable expectations

Most managers hope their employees will exceed their expectations and take on tasks and responsibilities beyond what’s required in the position, but avoid the temptation to include standards that don’t currently apply to this job.

7. DON’T list excessive qualifications or experience

If you include more than what is needed to competently perform the position, you will end up with bored, overqualified workers and you will limit your ability to place otherwise qualified candidates in the position.

8. DON’T include anything derogatory or specific about a person who previously held the position

Job descriptions are not the place to air grievances or disappointments about individuals who previously held the position. You can use past experiences to help ensure all necessary information is included, but make sure you describe only the job.

What’s the state of your organization’s job descriptions? Up to date? Accurate? Compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Good work! However, if you are not so sure that your job descriptions are as well executed as they should be (or if you’ve never even written them), you’re not alone. Thousands of companies fall short in this area.

It’s easy to understand why. Job descriptions are not quick to do, and they are not easy—what with updating and management and legal review, especially for the ADA’s requirement of a split off of essential vs. nonessential functions in the description. Wouldn’t it be great if they were available, already written?

Actually, they are. We have more than 500, ready to go, covering every common position in any organization, from receptionist right up to president. They are in an extremely popular BLR program called the Job Descriptions Encyclopedia.

First created in the 1980s, the “JDE” has been constantly refined and updated over time, with descriptions revised or added each time the law, technology, or the way we do business, changes.

Prewritten job descriptions in the Job Descriptions Encyclopedia now come with pay grades already attached. Try the program at no cost. Get the details.

Revised for the ADA, Pay Grades Added

There was a major revision, for example, following the passage of the ADA. In fact, BLR editors took every one of those 500 descriptions apart and reassembled them to be ADA-compliant.

Another, more recent addition was that of pay grades for each job, based on BLR’s extensive annual surveys of exempt and nonexempt compensation, and on other data. According to our customers, this is an enormous timesaver, enabling them to make compensation decisions even as they define the position.

The BLR Job Descriptions Encyclopedia also includes an extensive tutorial on setting up a complete job descriptions program, and how to encourage participation from all parts of the organization. That includes top management, the employees, and any union or other collective bargaining entity.

Quarterly Updates, No Additional Cost

Very important these days, quarterly updates are included in the program as a standard feature—essential at a time of constantly changing laws and emerging technologies. We’ll send you new or revised descriptions every 90 days. And the cost is extremely reasonable, averaging less than 66 cents per job description … already written, legally reviewed, and ready to adapt or use as is.

You can evaluate BLR’s Job Descriptions Encyclopedia at no cost in your office for up to 30 days. Just click here, and we’ll be set things up.