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That's not in my job description!

This is one of the responses I’ve heard over time that doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve always believed if I’m asked to do something (within reason, of course) that is for the good of the company and not objectional on moral or legal grounds, even if it’s outside of my scope of responsibilities, then I’ll do it. There have been times stepping outside the lines has provided insight to other areas and offered a growth opportunity for me.

But really, are job descriptions important? Why do we need them, and do we pay attention to them anyway? The answer is yes and for a variety of reasons.

Job descriptions help us determine what we want a position to accomplish and how the position fits into the organization. They help us decide what skill set is needed in hiring so we aren’t just throwing darts at warm bodies hoping to hit the “right” one. They make us think through what we really need for productivity and/or operational success so that we have a solid plan.

In addition, Job descriptions can also help reduce risk in organizations by showing the justifications for skill sets in hiring decisions so we’re not as likely to make biased choices. Job descriptions can help managers focus on skill sets rather than personalities. Interview questions should be based around the knowledge, skills and duties noted in the job description. They also help the candidates understand what they’d be doing in their role.

We sometimes forget, too, that job descriptions aren’t set in stone and should be updated on a consistent basis (typically annually) to make sure they remain in line with company goals. When possible, we should review them with the employees to see if expectations meet reality and what needs to change when reality is different. This can also help signal other needs for additional skill sets or a reorganizing of duties.

So next time you’re looking at hiring, or if you’re reviewing a current position or employee, make sure you have developed a job description that incorporates what you’re wanting that position to accomplish. And think through the skills needed to achieve these goals. This will help you have a more productive conversation with employees and/or potential candidates, clarifying expectations and promoting success.

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