Our CEO Hates Job Descriptions!

I regularly hear executives expressing anti-job description sentiment.  They want a nimble culture where everyone “does what it takes” and they worry employees will point to job descriptions as a way to avoid unpleasant tasks.  In other words, they fear a “If it’s not in my job description then I’m not doing it” mentality.  However, if that is a common reaction from team members, the organization has a culture problem – not a job description problem.  And while there are no federal or state laws requiring job descriptions, they can provide significant value and mitigate risk. Here are ways to use job descriptions to your advantage.

Communication Tool

Job descriptions help employees understand their roles in the organization and key performance expectations. They can also be used to communicate quality or quality standards.


Advertising Positions – Identifying the Right Person for a Job

It’s not uncommon for a job posting to glamorize a role and minimize the downside (every job has them).  But a well-written job ad will attract the right candidates by identifying the skills and experience required for success.

Give applicants a copy of the job description during the interview process. Some may decide they are not a good fit for the position and withdraw from consideration.  This can save considerable time interviewing candidates who are unlikely to be offered or accept the position.  And, if an applicant withdraws from consideration, then a prospective employer cannot be held liable for “adverse action” under applicable laws.

Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act

There are state and federal laws requiring reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities.  There’s no better place to start this conversation than with a job description.  Ask your employee or applicant to identify which essential functions he/she needs help with – which ones can only be performed with an accommodation?

A job description is also key in helping medical professionals determine whether an individual is able to perform a job or may need an accommodation to do so.


Determining Whether an Employee is Ready to Return from Workers Compensation Leave

Is your employee ready to return to full duty?  What is meant by light duty?  A job description is key to medical professionals understanding job expectation and determining whether an employee can safely return to work.


Determining Minimum Qualifications

Does a role require a specific certification, license, professional designation?  Does it require passing a drug test or a background check?  If yes – put it in the job description. Also, consider including other minimum qualifications such as regular attendance and the ability to work well with others.  And if the role cannot be performed remotely, be sure to state this in the job description.


Determining Whether A Job is Salaried or Hourly

Whether a job should be classified as exempt or non-exempt is based on what an employee actually does – not what the job description says they do.  However, accurate job descriptions can help justify why an individual is paid on a salary and not hourly basis.  For example, is managing a team of employees a significant part of the role? If yes, be sure to include the managerial duties.  Does the job require an advanced degree and significant independent decision making? If yes, include a statement like, “regularly exercises independent judgment regarding important matters” or similar language.


Determining Compensation

Ever been surprised by a candidate’s salary expectations? How do you determine the market value for a role?  An accurate job description (again, not just a job title) provides crucial information for determining market-based salary, bonus and other benefits for attracting and retaining top talent.

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