Job descriptions – are they fit for purpose? - Guest blog by Nicky Machin

Job descriptions – are they fit for purpose? - Guest blog by Nicky Machin

Posted on 10/01/2018 by Kirsty Craig


Many man hours spent writing job descriptions set me thinking about what job descriptions should really say if you want to attract the best people to your organisation.  Traditionally, and for most organisations, the current practice is to list all the tasks of the job, then tag on some things called ‘competencies’ which we hope someone will understand, and perhaps a few lines of ‘person spec’ which again, we hope will describe the ‘kind of person’ we are looking for. Most efforts at producing job descriptions result in a rather dry and dull read that can contain jargon, colloquialisms and lists of tasks that don’t really describe the importance of the job to the organisation nor excite candidates or employees.

Culture and organisation

What we don’t focus on is the culture and values of the organisation or attracting people to work with us who have the same outlook on life and who will stay the distance with us and add to our organisation in a positive way. Job descriptions should describe to any employee, current or prospective, what the job is, why it is valuable to the organisation, what the main responsibilities are, and very importantly, how the job needs to be done in terms of quality, collaboration with others, communication and success factors (for customers and other stakeholders). Job descriptions should be in plain English and effort ensuring each and every employee understands their job is always time well spent.

War for talent

The war for talent is on again, attracting it to your organisation is critical to success and evaluating the cultural fit is essential. Latest statistics inform that the Employment rate is 74.9%, that there are 115,00 more private sector professionals than in December 2016 and that 70.4% of women are in work, the highest rate since records began.
Whilst skills can be learned and built, and experience can be gained, personal attitudes, traits and values are deep-rooted and very hard to change if the person/organisation ‘fit’ is a mismatch.
And… dealing with this can be very damaging for all concerned - have you told someone they just ‘don’t fit’? It’s a bit like the ‘it’s not you, it’s me', break up conversation!
In a 'dare to be different' world, maybe we should craft our job descriptions to focus on the type of person we are looking for and why -the attitudes, approach to life and work that they will need to succeed in our organisation and focus on that… we can still talk about the tasks of the job that the person will need to be able to do or learn, but a focus on the culture and values and on the relationships they will need to have, might just pique the interest of the very people you are really trying to attract?

Tick list

And the interview conversations might be very interesting too. Rather than concentrating on the experience and the ‘tick list of what the candidates have done, explore their behaviours, their learning agility and the real person you are talking to, to discover what they can bring to your organisation.
Yes, the job needs to be done, and you need to be confident the candidate or employee can do it or can learn it, but explore what else this person, as a whole, has to offer your organisation.

If you would like help with your job descriptions, with recruiting the right person for the job or evaluating performance in your organisation against the jobs you have, please get in touch.


About Nicky Machin, Puffin HR Ltd...

With 25 years management experience, a Master’s degree in employment law and a fellowship from the CIPD, Nicky is proud to deliver excellence and expertise in the employment and management of people. Her extensive experience is enhanced by her approachability, clarity, cultural awareness and hands on delivery of ‘do how’ as well as ‘know how’.