Dear Workforce How Do We Decide Whether to Use Job Descriptions Versus Role Profiles?

By Staff Report

Jan. 21, 2009

Dear Madness but No Method:

There are several situations in which a company needs clear, accurate and business-focused information about employees’ roles. This information is necessary when:

  1. Managers hire new people.
  2. HR benchmarks salaries against those at similar companies.
  3. A supervisor and employee discuss performance goals and expectations.

The information needed for each of these tasks is different and changes over time. That means someone has to figure out how to collect the needed data, ensure that it is used to the best advantage, and keep it up to date. Job descriptions and role profiles are just two of the templates companies may use for these purposes.

Basically, job descriptions are high-level overviews of basic skills a person needs to perform the role’s functions. The document typically lists various tasks to be done and the prior experience that the company believes is necessary for successful execution. It also includes information such as the title and reporting structure.

Job descriptions are most commonly used for hiring and salary benchmarking. The tasks and experience data outlined in a job description are comprehensive enough to give a candidate an idea about whether they are qualified. It also usually contains enough information for the compensation specialist trying to benchmark salaries to determine if a job is equivalent to one in another company that may have a different title.

Most job descriptions do not have enough detailed information to help a hiring team outline the specific role a new hire will fill. Nor can a manager use it to underscore the company strategy or the expectations they have of the incumbent.

The role profile, which is a more comprehensive instrument, provides some information not found in a basic job description. A role profile often contains an explanation of the company or group strategy. It also details the critical skills, accomplishments and competencies expected of a successful employee.

Crafting role-profile documents is a lot of work. So before investing the time, determine how they will be used in your organization and whether they will be valued. For instance, many companies use individual development plans or personal goal-setting documents to set employee expectations. In that case, a role profile document might be redundant.

Some companies require the hiring team to meet prior to interviews for any job. The hiring team documents tasks, skills and behaviors needed in the successful candidate. They also determine which interview questions each will ask and agree on a time to vet the candidates. In companies with such robust hiring reviews, a role profile would be unnecessary.

Finally, in many smaller companies, jobs are quite flexible. Roles may change often as the company evolves. Here, role profiles would need repeated rewrites or they would become outdated.

Both job descriptions and role profiles are valuable when used in the right way. To determine which tool to use, first understand the needs that you are trying to fill and which competing or overlapping processes are in place already.

SOURCE: Ellen Raim, Cascade Microtech Inc., Beaverton, Oregon

LEARN MORE: Please read the value that job descriptions can play in recruiting talented people.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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