The Smoke and Mirrors of Job Descriptions

I recently came across a job posting for an organization that was looking for a human resources business partner. It was intriguing so I clicked on to see what it was all about. As I continued to read on and review the minimum requirements, I saw requirement after requirement reeks of recruiter. I read on further with the intention to find something in this job description that had the makings of a human resources business partner and still more recruitment duties.

Don’t get me wrong: every organization has their own internal titles that define what people do in an organization. However, there was nothing in this job description that screamed human resources business partner except for a one-liner asking for someone who has a generalist background. This posting got me thinking about all of the negative feedback I have received over the years not only from candidates, but in conversations with other practitioners about the poor manner in which job descriptions are put together and then broadcasted to the masses.

Companies shouldn’t arbitrarily choose a title for a position. There needs to be some logical link between the internal title and the real-world title as most people in that industry know it. In this case, calling the position an HR Business Partner says to a job seeker that the job is indeed an HRBP position. When they click to read on, that person will likely be looking for typical HRBP duties. When they read on and see that they are really looking for a recruiter, it is first off disappointing and automatically disengages a potential candidate from looking any further at your positions.

The other thing is the operational definition for job duties should more or less match what it is that an HRBP generally does in the industry. Again, there will be some differences due to differences in industry, culture, and needs within the organization. I’m speaking about the “bricks and mortar” of the job description, better known as the essential duties. Your essential duties should seem reasonable for the job classification you are trying to fill. It is not so much of an issue if you assign recruitment duties to an HRBP, but in addition to those recruitment duties, what are some of those specific generalist-oriented duties? Will this person be involved in succession planning, will they be managing other key staff, or will they be handling employee relations? This is a small list, but some of the questions that an active or passive job seeker would have in reading this posting.

Your need to fill a job is basic. However, your ability to attract the right people to your organization is heavily dependent on how well you write your job description. Having your title say one thing and having the actual description asking for another is what I call smoke and mirrors.

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Make sure your message is consistently conveying what you are recruiting for; what this person must be willing to do; the minimum knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform said job; and of course if there are preferred duties, that is fine too. If jobseekers don’t understand what your need is, they are automatically disengaged and turned off. Here are three things that are certain to occur if you post an ill-conceived job posting:

  1. It may paint your organization as not having a full understanding of what you want.
  2. It makes your organization appear as if it is unaware of the industry and what a particular practitioner actually does.
  3. The right people won’t apply, so the right people won’t be screened or interviewed, and the wrong people will be hired leading to turnover and job mismatches.

Spend the necessary time looking at your job descriptions on a regular basis. Train and hold your recruiters, compensation practitioners, and hiring managers accountable for making sure that duties and titles have real-world flair so you can recruit the right people from the start.

Janine N. Truitt is a human resources professional as well as an HR blogger/founder of “The Aristocracy of HR” blog. Follow her blog "The Aristocracy of HR" at http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ . Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her tweets on Twitter @CzarinaofHR. The opinions shared in her articles are her own and are in no way a reflection of the views of her employer.

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