February 11, 2011
Common Problems with Job Descriptions

Do your supervisors understand what makes a job description valid, useful and legal? Do they know some of the common problems that exist with job descriptions and how to avoid them? Below is some important information to convey to your supervisors about common job description deficiencies.

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Unfortunately, job descriptions sometimes fail to achieve their important purposes. A job description is only valid and useful to the extent that it accurately reflects job content. Typically, job descriptions are deficient in one of several ways.

  • They exaggerate or downplay the importance of a job. Unless a job is accurately portrayed and its worth is accurately appraised, the job description will be of very little use to anyone in the organization.
  • They fail to pinpoint the critical elements that differentiate between successful and unsuccessful job performance. When this is the case, the employee does not know what is expected and you cannot accurately evaluate performance.
  • They ignore the decision-making aspects of a job. All jobs involve a degree of decision making, which must be clearly defined in the job description, otherwise the scope of responsibility and accountability will remain unclear.
  • Another common problem with job descriptions is that they often fail to focus on job behaviors or are not specific enough about required behaviors. What this means is that they fail to describe what an employee actually does in specific and measurable terms.
  • Job descriptions sometimes fail to achieve their purpose when they describe qualifications that are not really needed to succeed in the job. When this happens, perfectly acceptable job candidates may be screened out, leaving the company open to discrimination charges as well as denying the organization the benefit of potentially good employees.

The above information comes from BLR's presentation "Job Descriptions: How to Write Them Effectively." For more information on all the training courses BLR has to offer, go to our Employee and Manager Training page.

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