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by Mary Anne Kennedy

Job descriptions aren’t merely lists of qualifications and duties. To the contrary, they are active documents by which you determine who you will hire, and how you will evaluate and compensate the people who will eventually fill those jobs. Getting them right takes time and a good understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish.


Q. How do you determine the level of education and years of work experience required for a job? 

A. That’s a good question. You have to really know what it is you’re going to be expecting. A rule of thumb is that an entry-level position may not even have a year of experience. But a managerial role will need experience. That person, for example, may need to have 3-5 years of experience, but the exact number will depend on what that manager will need to do. The higher the position and the more people responsibilities will mean more experience is required. It can even be 7-10 years of experience for a managerial position, on average. But it really depends on the level of the position you’re posting. 


Q. Can you substitute equivalent experience for education? 

A. Yes. It depends on the situation you’re facing and the competition and whether you’re bringing in the level of talent you need. The other piece to it is this: if the person doesn’t have the degree but can still do the job, that’s great, but will they be able to advance in the organization? The people that they will be competing with will likely have the education. You can allow experience instead of education, but don’t set up your new employees for future failure if you really do require the education. 


Q. My understanding is that employers are better off if the physical requirements are listed on the job description. What do you recommend? 

A. I think you’re absolutely right. You want to be able to confirm that someone can do the job without directly asking about any disabilities. If you’ve listed the specific physical requirements – such as lifting 50 lbs, walking specific distances, etc. – then you can ask directly whether or not the person is capable of performing all of the duties in the job description. 

The other related item to include is the work schedule. When people are told the schedule and what will be expected, and they explain which items they can and cannot commit to in terms of the schedule, then the company can determine whether it will work. But every time you put something in there that is very specific about what the job requires, you’re better off because it provides proof that the employee knew the expectations.