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Job Descriptions: Expectations vs. Reality
Is it acceptable to have a mismatch in the job description and actual responsibilities? Candidates should have an explicit understanding of their job role and responsibilities when considering joining your team. Additionally, the candidate will want to know what goals and benchmarks will define their success. When the candidate can clearly see what will define their accomplishments, they can align their work with the priorities of the organization. As a result, both parties will benefit.
Logically, candidates may question why the written content of the job description doesn’t quite match up with their job responsibilities when they transition into a new position. If this mismatch is drastic, new hires may begin to question their decision and ultimately, consider departing your organization. Additionally, the company may acquire a reputation for such practices if employees separate from the organization due to dissatisfaction with their role, or lack of clarity related to expectations.
Working with the human resources department, if there is significant mismatch between job expectations vs. actual job responsibilities, a revision of the job description may be necessary. Understanding that this process can take a significant amount of lead-time and may require the creation of a new position, employers should have significant foresight regarding the future needs of the department or organization that you are managing.
A few questions that hiring managers should ask themselves when considering the content of a job description are: What are the priorities of the department or organization? Does the job description reflect these priorities? What experience, training, or qualities of a candidate would maximize the opportunities for success in this position? How specific should responsibilities listed be, to reflect intended meaning vs. providing some flexibility as the work climate changes over time? Dr. Kelly Meier’s blog, related to writing a good job description, provides important recommendations related to job description construction and alignment of each position with the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Of course, it will require your professional judgment to determine whether or not a new job description is necessary or if candid, open conversations with the candidate during the job interview will suffice. Given the catchall phrase of “other duties as assigned”, the candidate is likely expecting to have some responsibilities that pop up that are either 1) unexpected or 2) priorities of the department that need immediate attention. If the candidate’s interests match up, this could be a synergistic opportunity to hire on an individual who is flexible, adaptable, and can address the needs of the department. If the candidate’s interests do not match up: it could be a good time to agree that the hire would not be a good fit.