Misleading and Misguided Job Descriptions … or BS?

Hiring and InterviewingTell the truth! Do job descriptions really help you to hire the right candidates?

I pose this question, because during my career, I made it a habit to visit with the “hiring manager” to review the job description before beginning the search for potential candidates. This raises a question: If the job descriptions have been approved by the organization, why aren’t they accurate and reliable? I believe that there are two contributors to this dilemma; the “Average Man” theory and the concept of Position Evaluation.

Average ManThis concept emerged from the studies conducted by a Belgian mathematician that led to the practice of “type casting” by averaging the qualities of various professions such “soldiers” or “iron-workers.” The problem with type casting, is that it diverts attention away from what is relevant and informative about an individual candidate.

Position EvaluationPosition evaluation systems typically are performed and controlled by the Human Resources function. Essentially they evaluate and award a point value to each qualification such as education, experience, outside contacts, people responsibility and scope of influence. There is some value in these systems because they generally prevent less valuable jobs to be rated higher than more valuable jobs. The value of the job is the primary rationale for establishing a salary range that the organization is willing to pay for that job.

Context PrincipleIn the context of hiring, performance depends on the interaction of a specific individual, in a specific situation. So, the candidates that performed successfully in an environment, related product line and regulatory environment similar to yours, may have more potential than a “Type-casted” candidate. The context principle suggests it is better to focus on the particular performance a job demands and the particular contexts where the employee will be performing, and then look for candidates who have successfully executed similar performances in similar contexts.

None of these requirements provide insight into the actual constellation of a candidate’s abilities. More importantly, fulfilling them provides almost no useful information about whether the candidate can execute the specific performance you need in the specific job contexts.

In addition to the boilerplate job description, what else can you use to help you select the right candidate? Lou Adler recommends: Instead of describing the person you want, describe the job you want done. He also suggests that team members may feel more connected and fulfilled by their jobs, which makes them more productive and loyal and possibly easier to recruit other outstanding candidates. Finally, organizations always complain about a shortage of skilled talent gap. But, if you focus on the contextual details of the job, you’re more likely to make a great hire and be rewarded.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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