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Do I Need to Write Job Descriptions For Open Positions?

Q. I was interviewing a candidate for a job opening in my company and she asked to see the job description. I don’t have job descriptions. Do I need them?

A. Job descriptions are not required. No law states that you must have written job descriptions for the positions in your company. On the other hand, they can be very useful. Job descriptions are the result of job analysis -- the process of identifying and determining the particular job duties and requirements and the relative importance of these duties for a given job. Once you have determined the job duties and requirements you can write job description, but you can also use the document to:

  • Write job ads and interview questions – The first step in finding the right employee is to know what you need. Performing job analysis and writing a job description will help you to determine exactly what skills, experience, cognitive capabilities and behaviors you want in your new employee. Once you have determined these specifics, you can use them to write your job ad and interview questions.

  • Develop new employee orientation – Fully understanding the job duties can help you to make sure that nothing is left out when you put together the orientation plan for your new hire. The job description provides you a list of essential and secondary duties. You will be less likely to leave anything out when explaining what your new hire needs to do to be successful.

  • Create training and development specific to the needs of the job – What do you need to teach your employee to do? You know the skills your employee has. A job description outlines the skills required by the job -- what better way to identify gaps between the two? What skills or experience does the employee need to acquire to be able to move into another job? Job descriptions can help you to identify development needs.

  • Determine compensation and other rewards – Before you can determine how much you should pay for a particular position you need to know what is required to perform the job. Job analysis will help you think through education requirements, specific skills and licenses, levels and length of experience. All of these effect compensation.

  • Manage performance – Managing employee performance is easier if you have thought through the job requirements. In addition, many job descriptions will list performance expectation. For example, you may write that the employee will answer the phone, using a specific greeting, and a pleasant voice within three rings.

  • Decrease liability – The Americans with Disabilities Act, The Family Medical Leave Act, The Fair Labor Standards Act and workers' compensation all relay on knowing what an employee must be able to do and/or under what conditions they work to make determinations. These determinations include, but are not limited to, essential job functions, when an employee can return to work, whether a job is exempt or non-exempt, what physical or environment conditions the employee can expect to experience on the job. Having your jobs documented can help to protect the organization and give guidance to employees and their physicians when necessary.

While you are not required to have written job descriptions, doing so can make many of the human resources aspects of running your small business easier. If you need help, look for an experienced HR professional who can assist you in the process.

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