Why HR Managers Must Manage Expectations

May 19, 2014 at 8:12 am 1 comment

It was the sort of opportunity that most job hunters only hope for, and Jasmine R. wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity for a more prestigious position and a bigger paycheck—never mind the fact that it wasn’t the job she had originally applied for. When the CEO of the Richmond, Va.-based consulting firm called to ask if Jasmine would be interested in interviewing for a position as operations manager, rather than the associate consultant position for which she had originally applied, Jasmine thought, “I’m not about to turn down an interview.”

After two promising interviews, Jasmine was disappointed to learn that the company ultimately selected another candidate who had experience more relevant to the position. However, the CEO was determined to bring Jasmine and her skill set onboard. And why not? Hiring the best talent is an excellent way to strengthen your company, recruiting experts agree. Ultimately, the consulting firm created a new position where they felt Jasmine’s experience could best be put to use.

“We talked numbers, and I was eventually offered an official letter,” Jasmine recalls of that process. “Then the Friday before I was supposed to start, the CEO called me with an explanation as to why I now needed to take the initial job that I interviewed for, the operations manager position.”

The previous employee had been fired after only six weeks on the job … and Jasmine was soon to understand why. You see, while it can be in a company’s best interest to hire top talent, that talent will only serve you if you are putting it to use. The best way to guarantee that your new hire will be utilizing their talent in their new position is to start with a well-written job description.

“Job descriptions are an integral part of the hiring process,” says Miriam W. Berger, a talent acquisition specialist and senior recruiter for A Hire Authority LLC. “A poorly written job description will affect advertising, candidate pre-screening and interviewing, reference evaluations, employee reviews and employee goal-setting as well as legal documentation if a wrongful termination lawsuit is brought against the company.”

For Jasmine, the problems began when the lion’s share of work she was assigned was in the area of accounts payable and receivable as well as invoicing. “To put it in perspective, my last month with them I invoiced 32 different clients, which means 32 different time reports, receipt reports, etc.” For an experienced accounts professional, perhaps that would be no monumental task. But for Jasmine? “Honestly, I had never done that, and in my interview I made that perfectly clear,” she says. “They said ‘Well, the last candidate didn’t really have that much experience so I think you’ll be fine.’”

In that case, preparing a detailed job description that separated the candidate’s skills and requirements into the categories of “must haves” and “would be nice to haves” might have helped both Jasmine and her manager recognize right away that Jasmine’s skills didn’t line up with the bulk of activities she would be assigned.

As Berger elaborates, “The job description, if written and developed with specific skills and responsibilities, can be—and should be—used for setting goals and conducting employee reviews. The job description should be used as a recruitment tool during the interview process to make sure the candidate has the required skills. If the candidate is hired, the job description should be used during the first couple of weeks of employment to go over what’s expected of the new employee. One of the biggest reasons candidates give for leaving or being asked to leave a position is that the job described was not the same as the job they were being asked to do.”

That certainly proved true for Jasmine and her employer. It is hardly surprising then that, after several months, both parties mutually agreed that the job wasn’t working.

“We met a few times and I said my side, they said their side,” Jasmine says. “My side was essentially that I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to handle the workload and that it would be a good idea to start looking in other directions.” Because the employer recognized that Jasmine’s talents weren’t being utilized in her position, they agreed to work with her in finding a new job and work on better understanding their internal requirements.

To better understand the position, the company would be well-served in creating a detailed job description for the next candidate. Berger notes that the most common mistake when it comes to writing a job description is making it “too vague.” “When a job description is used in the recruitment and selection process it is important to be specific so the skills and responsibilities can be communicated properly to the candidate. Being too vague usually occurs when the hiring manager, along with other managers who will be relying on this employee, either do not take the proper time to write the job description or are not exactly sure what will be needed for an employee to be successful in the position,” she says.

Ultimately, the CEO of the consulting firm was able to ensure future job descriptions would be less vague by conducting an exit interview. Jasmine suggested they adjust the job description to consider someone with an accounting background. “I brought to their attention that maybe this position couldn’t be filled by one person with the current growth of the company. They had someone there for four years who grew with the company,” Jasmine says. “In the time that I was there I saw nine people get hired, so it was growing dramatically.”

The CEO served as a reference for Jasmine in helping her land a new job that, although equally demanding of her time and energy, has been a better fit for her skill set and resulted in a happy employee and employer. Are you looking to improve your company’s job descriptions? Consider these additional tips from Berger:

  • Refrain from using words in the job description such as “assist” or “help with” when the person will be required to really “own” the specific task. For example, hiring managers decide that proofreading is a critical skill for a marketing position but fail to mention that the candidate is responsible for the end product being grammatically correct. In the job description, the role shouldn’t be described as “assists with.” It should read, “Responsible for assuring grammatical accuracy for all marketing content prior to publication.”
  • Use ultra-specific language. Another example of being too vague would be saying “good communication skills.” Better to say, “Must have at least one year prior experience dealing successfully with unhappy or irate customers by phone.”
  • Avoid hiring the “wrong” person for the job. When composing the job description, it is best to have any managers who will be working directly with the person provide their input.
  • Be sure not to go overboard. Create a job description filled with unrealistic expectations.

Entry filed under: Employee retention. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Blog Posts | R. Megan Headley  |  May 19, 2014 at 9:22 am

    […] Why HR Managers Must Manage Expectations, May 2014 post for Raising the HR Bar, the blog of Workplace HR & Safety […]


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