Whether you're posting a job ad for a new sales professional or assessing your current employees, having clear job descriptions makes it easier to understand what exactly a role entails. Not only will you find it easier to recruit employees and help your staff understand their roles, but you might even avoid some legal issues. However, you should be aware that job descriptions do have limitations and become outdated, and they can lead to disagreements. Be aware of these job description advantages and disadvantages so you can use job descriptions most effectively in your business.

Benefits of a Job Description

One advantage of a job description is that it makes it easier for you to recruit qualified employees. Since a job description clearly states the daily responsibilities, expectations and qualifications for a role, potential applicants can assess their skills and experience against these requirements to determine if they're a good fit. At the same time, during the screening process, you can look back at the job description to analyze whether an applicant qualifies for the position and whether additional training would be necessary.

A job description also helps employees better understand the position so that they know what to do in the workplace. For example, a job description for a cashier might detail the employee's responsibilities greeting customers, completing transactions and keeping the checkout space tidy. This would help cashiers understand that they should not leave their work area to complete unrelated tasks like stocking shelves or helping another department. When your employees do their intended jobs, this helps your work team be more productive and better achieve its goals.

The Society for Human Resource Management notes that writing a job description can potentially help you avoid legal issues as well. For example, examining the daily duties of a role can help you determine how to make reasonable accommodations to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also gives you the opportunity to consider necessary safeguards to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Negatives of a Job Description

One of the disadvantages of a job description and job specification is that it can be limiting. In a workplace where employees work across different roles, a job description detailing duties for one position might give employees false expectations of the role and lead to confusion. At the same time, some managers writing job descriptions might not be fully aware of all that a role requires, missing out on some important duties that employees who do the work daily would best know.

Another downside is that a job description can cause disagreements between managers and employees, especially when the job description isn't well written or is not conclusive. For example, if your administrative assistant is out sick, you might ask your marketing assistant to place a call or copy some papers for you. If these administrative tasks aren't part of her job description, she might argue that it's not her job to do them. Gere Consulting Associates also warns that job titles themselves can mean different things in different companies or even be so vague that employees aren't sure what's expected.

Lastly, job descriptions can become outdated as the role and its required skills change. This means they may not accurately reflect the position the employee holds at a given time, especially for ever-changing roles in fields like information technology. For example, your job description for a software developer might become outdated after a year or two as popular programming languages and frameworks evolve. The use of automation can also eliminate job duties and require new skills to operate equipment.

Writing Job Descriptions Effectively

Knowing the job specification advantages and disadvantages can help you write more effective job descriptions that clearly detail requirements and avoid legal issues. It helps to work with a human resources professional and even seek insight from employees when drafting a list of job duties and skills. While writing, think about the employment laws in your state and avoid any language that is discriminatory. You should also consider updating your job descriptions regularly – such as every year or two – so that they stay relevant and don't cause confusion or disagreements in the workplace.