The Pros and Cons of Standardized Job Descriptions

standardized job descriptionsJob descriptions are an important part of hiring and managing employees. But, if you’ve ever written one, you know how difficult it can be to succinctly explain the full depth and breadth of a given position. In the face of this challenge, many companies and recruiters have turned to standardized job descriptions to advertise new openings.

Although not all jobs are the same, there are many elements of a job description that never change. According to Salary.com, these are: job title, location, Fair Labor Standards Act status, position summary, major responsibilities, job qualifications, and working conditions.

These elements can be used to develop a reusable template or standardized job description. While this type of job posting can streamline the hiring process, there are some drawbacks.

Let’s take a look.

The Pros of Standardized Job Descriptions:

  • Efficiency. It takes much less time to draft a standardized job description than it does to create one from scratch. This allows employers to write, post, and hire the right candidates quicker.
  • Establish need. Going through the process of writing a job description—standardized or not—is a good way to define a role. Think about the time it will take to complete the job, qualifications, special skills and any other important information. Hiring managers can use this job description to validate an existing need for a new hire.
  • Quickly qualify and disqualify candidates. Standardized job descriptions are often short and to-the-point. Rather than reading through paragraphs of subjective qualities and characteristics, standardized job descriptions allow you to quickly identify the skills a candidate must have and match them with the right resume.
  • Set clear expectations. Job descriptions serve as a guide for new employees. Use this opportunity to clearly define your expectations for this role. It’s important to be as transparent as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing a valuable candidate or employee because they had a different understanding of their role within the company.
  • Measure success. Standardized job descriptions provide an excellent way to measure an employee’s success. When conducting performance reviews, both the employee and manager should be prepared to reference the job description used during the hiring process.

The Cons of Standardized Job Descriptions:

  • Job differences. Not all jobs are created equal—even jobs with the same title. Expectations differ from manager to manager, different industries require specific responsibilities, certain qualifications may actually be optional, etc. In cases like this, a standardized job description may not be ideal or even possible. If you can’t clearly communicate a job’s requirements with a standardized description, consider skipping the template and crafting your own.
  • Pigeonhole candidates. Very specific job requirements may potentially deter qualified candidates from applying. For example, someone with 3 years experience may be more qualified to do a job than someone with 5 years experience—listing 5 years as the standard could eliminate a whole group of qualified applicants. To avoid this, make sure your listed requirements are actually necessary. Is there any wiggle room? Are you being too specific?
  • Vague expectations. While you don’t want to be too specific with your job descriptions, it’s also important not to be too vague. Vague job requirements will end up attracting the wrong candidates. You want to be as specific as possible without alienating any group of qualified applicants.

Whether you use standardized job descriptions or not, one thing is certain: good job descriptions aren’t slapped together at the last minute when an opening arises. “It’s crucial that you make writing job descriptions part of your overall business planning effort,” Grand Roads advised. “You can’t simply start thinking about job descriptions every time you have a specific search to conduct for a hiring requisition.”

So while certain elements of job descriptions may be standard, if you’re looking to make your company stand out to the best prospects, you need to leave room for a little creativity.

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