Job Descriptions Suck – They Cause Your Mis-Hires

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Job Descriptions are often so vague that they lead to preventable mis-hires; Job Scorecards, with measurable accountabilities for everything including competencies, prevent costly mis-hires.

Exit interviews have for decades resulted in a common myth: companies conclude that the low performers they fired are just making excuses when they say their failing was because, “They never really told me what the job was.”  Sounds like sour grapes but oftentimes their “excuse” is valid.

Picture a VP of Sales whose job description was to boost domestic, international, and new product sales.  A sharp “doer” with a record of boosting sales, he confidently took the job.  A year later the CEO of that company hired me to coach the VP, because everyone on the top team considered him a failure.  Coaching was his last chance to keep his job.  I interviewed him, then asked for opinions of his boss (the CEO), peers, and direct reports. My first conclusion was – the job description did NOT accurately portray what he’d be held accountable for.  If he had known, he and any sane candidate would NOT have taken the job.  So … let me be blunt:

JOB DESCRIPTIONS SUCK: 99% of job descriptions are too vague.  Most members of the team had very different views:

  • The VP of Finance wanted profitable sales.
  • The VP of Marketing wanted her new products sold (profits could come later), because with patents running out her job depended on new products.
  • The VP of Operations wanted his domestic plants filled, fearing a focus on international would force him to close domestic plants that then would be less productive.
  • The CEO wanted the head of sales to do all of the above.

We at Topgrading, Inc. have helped hundreds of companies triple their success by hiring high performers.  Our starting point is what we call a Job Scorecard:  toss out the vague job description and be specific about WHAT NUMBERS HAVE TO BE ACHIEVED TO QUALIFY AS AN “A PLAYER”.  Candidates are told to make these numbers and, in turn, receive a maximum bonus.  In addition to benchmark numbers, the required sales in all categories are clearly spelled out, as well.

We help a lot of managers write Job Scorecards.  For a sales job it will list revenues, mix, profitability and the like.  We also average in ratings on “soft” competencies such as being a team player, Topgrading the sales team, passion, and other “outside of the box” initiatives, such as a percentage of days in the field meeting with customers.  If the CEO is convinced that personal relationships are critical, for example, one accountability can be 50% overnight travel to meet with customers.  Job descriptions rarely include any of this, and when new sales reps learns of this expectation, their commitment to the job might suffer.

Recommendation:  Create clear, thorough, COMPLETE Job Scorecards so that if all the measurable accountabilities are met, that person will be considered an “A Player”.  Remember to include numerical goals for the job PLUS survey targets on “soft” requirements. Taking every detail into account will help you find your ideal candidate that will not only succeed, but propel your company and their coworkers into greatness.

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