By Mike Hoffman
In the last twenty years, almost every part of the recruitment process has changed more dramatically than any time since the creation of classified advertising.
But, one thing that hasn’t changed, is the job description.
The starting point for every job. Everything culminates in this two page Word document that often amounts to little more than a shopping list of ‘wants’.
Often dry and unreadable, the job description describes what people do in a function, even if it bears no reality to what they do day to day. A job isn’t ‘real’ until it has a job description. Yet we all acknowledge that, once you’ve signed on the dotted line, you never see that document again until an appraisal, a disciplinary or redundancy.
So why does the job description matter so much?
Well, for two reasons, really…
It conveys the content of the job. But as companies are investing in innovating across the recruitment cycle, from VR interviews to ever-bolder ‘Blind’ candidate assessment processes – your attraction copy needs to be just as exciting, engaging and imaginative. We need to remember that the job description is primarily an HR tool. Not an attraction tool. So, while it should guide and inform attraction, it should not be used as a style guide.
And importantly, the job description ensures a level playing field. A lot of the innovation in assessment described above is designed to make sure unconscious, structural biases are not excluding non-traditional audiences from roles. Yet, evidence shows that women will rule themselves out of applying for roles much more often than men, thanks to the power of job descriptions.
According to a study at Hewlett-Packardd published in the Harvard Business Review, men will apply for jobs they think they are 60% qualified for, whereas women tend to want to be 100% sure they are qualified for the same jobs. And one of the clearest differences between the sexes in their approach is over job descriptions, where women are nearly twice as likely to rule themselves out based upon the job guidelines.
So, as businesses increasingly aim to ensure more representative boards, reform pay inequality between men and women, and encourage more diverse workforces, perhaps it’s time the job description played its part in engaging with wider audiences and broadening the appeal and information of the role it describes.