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The Job Description vs. The Job Requirements

I used to write a lot of job descriptions. It seemed for a while that every company worth its salt wanted job descriptions for every position from receptionist out in all directions. Then the fear of “it’s not my job” set in and job descriptions fell out of fashion.

From a philosophy standpoint, I have never been a big fan of job descriptions. I have seen them used more often by the plaintiff in employment claims than by the company in defense. Job normal”>requirements, however, are another story.

Yesterday, I found myself on a conference call involving the question of whether a soon-to-be-reinstated employee is physically up to the job from which he had taken medical leave. The great part:  we didn’t have to guess. My client had the foresight to develop job requirements for the position that specified weight loads the employee would have to lift to waist level, chest level and over his or her head during the course of the day. The requirements detailed the frequency of various tasks and other physical demands.

But job requirements need not be simply for positions involving manual labor. Requirements for promptness, language skills, computer proficiency, cognitive skills, visual acuity, etc. are valid and useful. While I have seen companies go to extremes by listing requirements no candidate could ever reach (one example of 2 advanced degrees from “MIT or equivalent” springs to mind), a well-crafted set of requirements can save a business a lot of time and heartache dealing with employment issues.

Often the development of a set of job requirements can be undertaken with people currently in the position and without the hiring of expensive consultants. In fact, the State of Maryland offers free, confidential occupational safety consultations which can be an important part of this documentation process. (MOSH Consultation Services can be arranged by calling (410) 527-4472).

As I’ve found myself telling more than one client in the past few weeks, the dog days of summer are a perfect time to attend to this bit of “housekeeping.”  Shore up your HR policies and paperwork while things are a bit slower. Chances are, you’ll be glad you did.