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I Hate Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are one of the 5 worst things that businesses have ever created. Like most tools, it was created with the best of intentions, but should be banned.

The reason most companies use job descriptions is to define the expectations of a role, help the organization ensure proper people allocation, and help when needing to hire for a role.

Considering those are all admirable behaviors, why do I dislike them so much?

First, they are rarely used that way. Job descriptions are created once (they take a long time) and rarely updated. I would hazard a guess that most job descriptions are out-of-date by the time they finally get through the approval process. This means that the description on the paper rarely matches what the individual actually does. I would be willing to bet that most employees don't even know what their job description says, and if they read it would say "I don't do that".

Second, these descriptions tend to be generic to a role, not a person. Most companies have a job description for a title, without any realization that not everyone with the same job title does the same thing. Great Managers may have 2 analysts with the same title, but having them doing different tasks based on their strengths and development plans. How can 1 job description be adequate?

Last, job descriptions are rarely forward looking. In other words, they refer to the skills needed at the time they are written, with no regard for the skills that can be anticipated in the future.

I do think that job descriptions could be useful, but they would have to be totally redesigned and rethought. That might be a good topic for another day.

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