We released some research a few months ago suggesting that over a third of recruiters knowingly hire the wrong person just to fill a vacancy. I remembered this number earlier today as I waited for the train. It struck me at that moment because the person working behind the counter was grumpy and dis-engaged. I’m sure she knew all there was to know about the range of tickets on offer and the next train to call. The trouble is, this expert advice was being despatched in a way that made you believe you’ve actually ruined their day for asking! “How dare you ask me for an Adult Off-Peak Return - can’t you see I’m checking Facebook updates?”

I wonder what the contents of this person’s job description are. Technical skills? Certainly. Attention to detail? Maybe. Then you’d expect there to be a whole range of things about customer care, communication, adaptability and resilience. I’d even hazard a guess that the main point of this job is to provide brilliant customer service. Practically speaking, if I want a ticket I could probably figure out how to get one from a machine outside anyway. We want the human beings to do what only human beings can do (for the time being anyway) and display a varied range of ‘soft skills’ like empathy, compassion, support, guidance etc.

What happened to the good old job description?

So what’s going wrong here? Well, let’s face it, it could be many things. Let’s start at the start though – the good old job description. Its number one purpose is to communicate to an individual what the company expects of someone in that role. It’s a clear statement of the skills and behaviours needed and the role that job plays in the execution of the strategy. It should be used as a basis for solid grading discussions, recruitment and assessment discussions, and on-going performance and career development discussions. When people are clear on what’s expected of them, they are more likely to deliver what you want.

The problem is, the world appears to have fallen out of love with the humble job description (was there ever love..?). Managers hate creating them, HR struggle to keep track, and so we end up with a missed opportunity. Our latest research flags that 69% of companies believe incorrect job descriptions drive candidates with the wrong skills. I think most would agree that fixing this would have huge benefits to the business and its people strategy. Let’s face it, if we can’t properly define the jobs we want people to do, everything else will be like building a house on the sand. Is it time for a job description revolution!? Leave your comments below.


Start a job description revolution at your organisation: our job description builder helps your managers quickly create job descriptions that include the right skills and behaviours needed for the job. Watch video:


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About the contributor

Matt Chaplin is a Senior Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. He helps organisations attract, select, develop and retain the right talent to deliver on their strategy. He is an expert in designing and implementing talent assessment programs.

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