How and When to Conduct a Job Description Review

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Quick! When’s the last time someone in your company reviewed all its job descriptions? That long, huh?

Job descriptions are a boring but basic workforce management tool. When written well and regularly updated they help everyone from candidates, to employees, to human resources know where they stand. They create a benchmark for performance reviews and compensation negotiations, they help define the workday for team members and team leaders, and finally, they help to identify gaps in your workforce.

Are Job Descriptions Really That Important?

Yeah, they are! Job descriptions aren’t just a list of duties for a given employee, they’re a key document for day-to-day management, compliance, employer brand and recruiting. Managers use job descriptions to determine what tasks they can assign to which employees and to crosscheck their expectations with employees’. Recruiters use job descriptions to write informed and accurate job posts and ads, and to build hiring campaigns based on what the company really needs. Employees use job descriptions to understand their place in the company and as a reference point in compensation and promotion conversations. Job descriptions codify expectations and relationships — they’re a foundation for building performance reviews, understanding what metrics are most important in managing your company’s workforce, creating a fair a pay scale, and simply, a document that helps prevent misunderstanding and abuse.

How Often Should I Review Our Job Descriptions?

Job descriptions should be reviewed when your company is creating new positions, making substantial changes to existing positions, your company is undergoing a major organizational (or technological) shift and periodically on a set schedule.

Some organizations review job descriptions every few months. Others review them every five years. How often you perform a spot or total review depends on how quickly conditions change in your business. Startups might need to review their job descriptions more frequently — luckily for them, they tend to have fewer employees, so the review will go quicker. Large, established organizations can afford to review job descriptions less often, since a company with thousands of employees isn’t typical undergoing frequent and fast change. Schedule a total review of every job description at an interval that makes sense for your organization and that’s within your capabilities — but do schedule one. Spot reviews of roles that have been added or changed is important, but without a total review things will be missed.

There’s no one answer to this question because organizational size and type varies so much. But a good rule of thumb is that in addition to a regular review of all job descriptions, whenever compensable factors or requirements change significantly a review should be performed.

How Exactly Do I Review A Job Description?

Ok, so you’re finally going to do it. You’re going to review all your job descriptions — great! But what exactly does that mean? Reviewing a job description is just what it sounds like: checking the description for accuracy. Does the description still cover the requirements of the role? Is the job categorized correctly? Are compensable factors, which are important for salary negotiations and compliance, accurately described?

Don’t just go on your gut instinct. Check the description against your org chart, if you have one, and recent self-assessments by team members and evaluations by managers. This is a valuable cross check because if employees are self-reporting spending a large percentage of their time on work that is not just absent from their job description but precluded by it (for example, if it’s out of their band or pay range), then you have a potential problem on your hands. If the description needs to be adjusted, rewrite it using your job description template and ensure that it’s signed off on by key stakeholders.

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Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.

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