Screw The BFOQ!

Outlining the specific behaviors on job descriptions

Job descriptions are one of the most important documents we can create. It outlines the requirements and duties of a position — which dictate how we advertise for the job, screen and select candidates, compensate, train and develop, and evaluate performance.

Screw The BFOQ!


Much focus is given to making sure the physical, experential and educational requirements of the job are included in the job description. These are better known as the bona fide occupational qualifications, or the BFOQs. Once BFOQs are determined, an outline of job duties and tasks are listed — and anything that isn’t included gets captured under “other duties as assigned” or a blurb about “this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list.”

Then the door is usually closed on the job description for a few years with everyone feeling like “Whew, glad that’s over!”

As a result, our job descriptions become little more than a list of requirements and duties that leave us with little guidance on the successful behaviors needed for the job … which give us no insight on how to evaluate performance. This leaves everyone frustrated and confused on what it really means to meet performance expectations.

That’s why, in creating or updating job descriptions, we should adjust the focus to outlining the behaviors that will lead to success in the position. This is done by looking at the job duties and asking what actions are required to ensure success at each one. Here’s an example:

Job: Customer Service Representative

Duty: Receive, investigate and resolve customer complaints


    • Actively listens to the customer
    • Provides reassurance without making promises to the customer
    • Maintains positive demeanor and appropriate language
    • Takes thorough notes  to include date, time, customer name, customer contact info, customer description of the problem, any response provided, etc.
    • Updates records following each call to create full history of activity surrounding issue

Expanding job descriptions this way will make the description quite lengthy. Deal with it. The benefits of outlining the specific behaviors expected far outweigh the extra pages it creates. Because behaviors are what managers evaluate, measure and provide constructive feedback about. And because behaviors are what managers discuss when coaching employees to develop and improve. Therefore, behaviors should be an integral part of the description.

Job duties alone are too subjective and tend to be rigid. This leaves too much ambiguity on performance expectations. The line for matching, meeting and missing expectations becomes blurry — and we spend unnecessary time defending our desire for excellence because we failed to define it at the outset.

The BFOQ requirements are important because they are the foundation of the job. They tell us what a person needs to know and be able to do, both physically and mentally, to begin and continue to fill the position. This is really important! So the BFOQ cannot be abandoned or glossed over — but they cannot be the focus, either. Because the BFOQs do not provide guidance on how to coach or develop a person to be successful once they are in the position.

So screw the BFOQ!! Toss those Job Duties aside! Focus on creating and updating job descriptions to highlight the behaviors that demonstrate excellent performance.

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