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Job Description: It's Not to Be Taken Lightly!

A job description is a detailed written agreement between management and an employee that specifies the duties of a specific position. The description often includes responsibilities of both the employee and management along with the chain of command and a list of required skills, expected education, physical abilities, and equipment used for perspective employees for this position. Many descriptions include sections about the expected work environment including possible hazards of the workplace.

Important Questions about Job Descriptions?

It's helpful to ask the right questions regarding job descriptions.
  • Who creates these documents and for what purpose?
  • How restrictive is the language of the description and how completely must the applicant meet the requirements when applying for the position?
  • Is there room to grow into the job, or must you be ready to enter with all the required skills in tact?
  • What about disabled applicants?
  • Is there room for adjustments in the work environment to accommodate certain disabilities, or is the workplace inflexible and restrict the job to potential employees with discernable physical characteristics?
  • What is the chain of command in the position?
  • To whom would you report and would you be supervising others?
  • If the applicant is a supervisor, how many employees and at what skill levels and positions will the person hired for the position be supervising?
  • Will the position be paid hourly or will it be a salaried job.
  • Is there a union involved with the company and, if so, are you required to join to keep the job?
Many important questions should be considered when reading the text for a position you might be interested in seeking.

Knowing why employers construct a descriptions the way they do will help you create your resume in a way that caters to the employer. So let's peek at job descriptions from the employer's point of view.

As an Employer, What Value Do Employee Job Descriptions Bring to Your Business?

Well-written descriptions present an organizational flowchart for your workplace. They offer a clear-cut chain of responsibility for every step in your operation. Presented properly, the job description can demonstrate the company's direction along with each employee's place in the company's overall picture. This, if done properly, has the potential to assist every employee in realizing how important their roles are to the success of the company; therefore, making each feel more a part of the "Big Picture." The more important the employee feels his or her contribution is to the success of the team, the more likely he or she is to work smarter, which benefits everyone involved. Ultimately, the customers are the biggest winners and are more likely to return when they need more of what you offer! Win-Win-Win.

Know the Expectations Presented

A well-written description aids both the employee and employer in determining exactly what is expected from each. It is the first place to look when there is a breakdown in workflow to see where the system has stopped working properly. Is the employee not doing what is expected for the job to progress? Is the employee doing his best in an environment that is not compatible? Is more training needed? Does the company need to put extra people in that position during extreme times? The flowchart job descriptions provide give you the key to unravel a multitude of problems.

Know the Legalese

You can't overlook the Legal aspects of a well-written job description. Compliance can be a dirty word if not met head on. The job description is the perfect place to specify work conditions and physical requirements to satisfy organizations such as the "American's With Disabilities Act" (ADA) and "Occupational Safety and Health Administration" (OSHA). Overlooking these aspects of the job description can lead to costly down time, fines, and even lawsuits.

Job Descriptions as a Recruiting Tool

Well-written descriptions are an invaluable tool when recruiting new employees, whether from the Internet, in newspapers, through recruiters, or from existing employees looking to move up in the organization. A clearly written job-description will assist in answering questions of rejected candidates as well as picking the best-suited person for the open position.

To be a valuable tool in your business, the job description must be a working part of the everyday life of the company. In this fast-paced business world of ever-changing technologies and customer needs, the job-description can't just sit dormant in a drawer for years after it is written. Lying dormant will not only present minimal relevance for the job in a very short time, but it also quickly becomes a restrictive leash on the employer who gets the "It's not my job" attitude from employees. The job description must have flexibility, with a review on a quarterly or monthly basis, to keep up with changes not only in the employees holding the positions but also the changing needs of the company and clients. A great description is as important as any other tool in the company's toolbox. It must be a device that allows good employees to work outside the box and assist other team members. It must allow the employee to take advantage of the fast-paced movement in technologies without being punished for it. It is not just a source of paper trails to use against employees to restrict promotions and block salary increases and bonuses.

The Job Description in its Place

Next, we look at what shows up on most job-search sites. There are quite a few really good sites on the Internet that provide complete job-descriptions including items like staffing levels, the position to whom you would report, and the number and categories of employees who will be reporting to you, along with detailed lists of duties, responsibilities, equipment used, hours expected, and environmental working information. You will also find accepted guidelines for applying and dates applications will be accepted. Everything you need to know as a job applicant when searching for positions that fit your capabilities can be found. Most of these postings include acceptable alternatives to individual requirements such as Bachelor's degree required, some college preferred, three years' experience with increasing responsibilities, and/or a record of accomplishment in the job's field of knowledge. You may even find positions offering on-the-job training for applicants who have certain needed skills to enter the position.

Are You Qualified?

So why would anyone waste time applying for a job for which they are nowhere near qualified? For most employers, the job description is what the Human Resources department uses to choose which resumes or applications are forwarded to the hiring supervisor. You should understand that in a job market as overcrowded as the one we are presently in, sometimes employees will try anything in desperation. Sending in applications and resumes for jobs that you aren't qualified for just slows down the process for valid candidates.

Read Job-Descriptions Thoroughly

Spend time identifying the positions you truly want and then create a Great Cover Letter to go with each submission. A few extra minutes may mean the difference between being overlooked and being hired…or at least interviewed. An employer will respect and respond to submissions that address discrepancies in requirements if you include either alternate experiences or advanced training that qualifies you for the open position.

With the proper approach to reading and responding to an appropriate description, your job search is sure to be a success!

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