THE UBIQUITOUS JOB DESCRIPTION
The two board members looked across the table at each other in defiant frustration. They were at loggerheads over whether the CEO was doing a good job or not. “This guy is screwing up the company,” said one. “He’s just failing, plain and simple. He’s the wrong person for the job, and we need to get rid of him.” “I disagree completely,” said the other. “The customers are happy, and everything I hear tells me he’s doing a great job. We need to give this guy a public pat on the back and a big raise.” The two board members looked across the table at each other in defiant frustration.
How could this happen? How could two board members have such differing opinions about whether the top officer in the company is succeeding or failing? Maybe it’s because they aren’t using the same ruler to measure success. Maybe it’s because they’re evaluating two different jobs.
One of the standing maxims in Industrial-Organizational Psychology is, “Everything begins with a job description.” Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I am certain that a good job description serves several valuable purposes.
A clear job description provides:
Direction and focus for the efforts of a person in the job
A consensual basis for evaluating a person’s performance in the job
An “ideal candidate” template with which to compare potential new hires for the job
The traditional job description consists of KSA’s,(knowledge, skills, and abilities), although some people use KSAO’s so they can throw in an “other” catch-all category. What I prefer is to organize a job description under four basic headings: purpose, skills, personal traits, and training and experience.
The “purpose” section should be a brief sentence about the overall purpose of the role. For example, the “purpose” section of a job description for the CEO of an organization might say something like: “Oversees all functions and operations of the organization.”
The “skills” section of a job description for the same CEO would include items
People/political skills: building relationships with stakeholder groups, broad social savvy
Financial skills: managing to a budget
Leadership skills: creating and communicating a vision, inspiring others to follow
Management skills: organizing and coordinating work, events, and people
Communication skills: effective spoken and written communications
Marketing/sales skills: ability to bring in revenue
The “personal traits” section of this job description might include items such as honesty and integrity or a passion for the mission of the organization, and the “preferred training and experience” section might include items such as the type of training and degree(s) and years of relevant experience (e.g. management experience) to prepare the person for the job.
Some tips for writing job descriptions:
Keep the job description simple, straightforward, and relevant; you usually don’t need a multi-page document
Enlist the current job holders to help create the job description
Shoot for limiting the major areas of responsibility to 5-8
Rank order the areas of responsibility by importance
Include an estimate of the percentage of time spent for each area of responsibility
Technique #1: Create clear job descriptions for each role in your organization.
Technique #2: Keep your job descriptions simple, straightforward, and relevant; you usually don’t need a multi-page document.
Technique #3: Use your job descriptions to provide direction and focus for a person in the job, a basis for performance evaluation, and an “ideal candidate” template with which to compare potential new hires.
Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.