Why are job descriptions important?

A job description laid out on a desk with an orange folder on top of it

Job descriptions have been around for hundreds of years. In newspapers from the 1880s, you can find people looking for everything from servants and apprentices to apothecaries, and nowadays, it’s easy to find available jobs with a quick online search.

And these descriptions all have one thing in common ‒ they explain what specific roles involve.

What is the purpose of a job description?

A job description is important for both an employer and potential employee. For a potential employee, a job description’s purpose is to demonstrate the job functions they will be expected to carry out. But unlike in the 19th century, job descriptions need more than just a small paragraph on what work needs to be completed. Potential candidates want to know more information, such as location, company benefits, parking and salary, to ensure the job is right for them. 

For an employer, whether you’re hiring your first employee or you’ve recruited many times before, a job description allows you to be specific about the qualifications and skills candidates should have, so that you know you will be hiring the best and most relevant people.

Why is a job description important?

Clear and precise job descriptions are really important, but why exactly? Below, we’ve taken a look at some of the reasons why they are so crucial, for both you as an employer and for job applicants.

They help you to hire the best candidates

You should view a job description as an advert for your company. You want potential employees to read it and apply for the role, and a candidate can tell a lot about a company from the description.

When you specify exact qualifications, experience levels and skills, only those who fit the criteria will apply, which can prevent time wasters or people who are not suitable for the role from applying. You don’t want to hire a candidate who may hand their notice in soon after starting because the job isn’t what they thought it was, so it’s important to prevent this from happening early on.

The more detailed the description, the better the quality of your applicants, and the more likely it is they will know if the job is right for them.

You can use them to monitor performance

Job descriptions can sometimes be used to ensure the employee is undertaking all the tasks being asked of them.

Sometimes, what is and isn’t part of an employee’s job description can become blurred, particularly as the job role grows and changes over time. The description is a good basis that shows the tasks they should be undertaking and the minimum targets they should be reaching, and both of you can refer back to it to ensure they’re on track.

They highlight where additional training is needed

When you’re interviewing a potential candidate for a certain job role, it’s rare that they will be proficient in all areas of the job already. Training of some sort is always needed in a new job, and a clear job description can highlight where this training is needed. During the interview, it may become clear which areas candidates are more proficient in and which areas they have less experience in. Getting a grasp of the training they need prior to starting is important, so you can put together a plan for when they start.

They can mitigate risk

There’s no law that says you need to provide a job description (though it would be very difficult to hire without one), but they can be used as legal documentation if an employee filed a lawsuit against a company. This is fairly rare, but can still happen. The description is proof that the employer expects a certain amount from the employee and may be used to show how the employee wasn’t doing their job. This could be useful in a case where an employee is suing for unfair dismissal, for example, and the description could help to show that the employee wasn’t doing what was expected of them.

Hopefully, this has helped to highlight the purpose and importance of job descriptions when it comes to hiring an employee for your business. They certainly are useful documents that should be regularly checked over and updated to keep them current.

Do you have one or more employees?

If you have an employee on a temporary or permanent basis, holding employers’ liability insurance is a legal requirement.

Under the Employers Liability Act (1969), employers must legally have a minimum of £5,000,000 employers’ liability cover.

Employers who do not have this insurance can be fined £2,500 for each day they are not properly insured.

You can learn more about employers’ liability insurance here.


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