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Before You Hire Anyone Write a Job Description

By Dr Paul E Adams |

First rate people hire first rate people, second rate people hire third rate people.

- Leo Rosten

Before you place a help wanted ad or spread the word that you are in the market for a new employee, have a job description in place. But one suited to you needs not the typical corporate job description written with the jargon of big business, otherwise, unless you are specific and write it in everyday English, you are wasting your time.

Ever read one of these corporate masterpieces? They ramble on about communication skills, leadership abilities, and the knowledge of budgets and organization theory. They contain wordy sentences about interacting and understanding the human resource contribution to the goals of the organization. Not bad, if you are writing a management text to impress those you went to high school with. But not good, if you are trying to describe what you want an employee to do and be responsible for.

Nevertheless, if you write it in simple language and tailor it to your business, a job description can be the answer to finding and hiring the right person. Start with a list of the tasks you want the employee to perform. The list will serve you as a hiring guide by establishing the qualifications necessary to fill the job. The job description should detail your employee s job responsibilities. Moreover, it can function as an employee contract of understanding as well a performance review document.

Here are five points to follow as you create a job description worth every minute you spend preparing it.

  1. Start your job description with a list of tasks.
    How do you know if you need another employee? A job description will tell you if the need is real or if you are feeling over burdened for the moment with too much to on your plate. Begin by listing the recurring tasks you would have the person do. If you can t fill the list-don t hire anyone. If you can, your list is the job description. It is the specific responsibilities you are going to pay someone to perform. Not generalities, as in a corporate job description, but specific tasks such as; balancing your checking account, posting invoices to the ledger, answering customer complaints, opening the mail, or conducting a monthly physical inventory.

  2. Properly written, it will specify the personal qualifications of the job.
    I know the owner of a small hi-tech firm who could not keep an office receptionist- each one quit in frustration. Why? He was hiring the wrong person. The position was ninety- percent accounting he solved his problem with a bookkeeper. Use your list of tasks to pinpoint the personal qualifications, the talents and skills you are looking for.

  3. Use the job description to detail your employee s responsibilities.
    A job description you can help you to avoid surprises and misunderstandings if you specifically state what you want accomplished. You won t hear such comments as: I didn t know I was supposed to, or you didn t tell me.

  4. It can underscore the relationship between you and your employee.
    A real benefit of the job description is that it becomes a contract of responsibility and expectations. Both you and your employee will have a firm understanding of your relationship as it removes the guesswork and vagueness of uncertainty and generalizations.

  5. Use it to review your employee s performance.
    Because an employee s responsibilities may change as your business grows, so should the job description. It needs to be a working document- flexible with your business needs. I suggest you periodically meet with your employee(s) and review it. Discuss what works, as well as the difficult or impractical areas that need to be revised. It is your opportunity to review your employee s performance with meaning and not a conversation couched in guarded language.
While I may delight in throwing a barb or two at big businesses hazy management language, a job description is one of the many sophisticated corporate management tools that you can revise and adapt to your small business. In future columns I will write about others you will find helpful to your business or career.

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