Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Job Ad Doesn’t Need to Be a Job Description

Ah, job descriptionsBoring lists of knowledge, skills, abilities, duties, and education and experience requirements – a description of the “essential functions” of a job.  Not compelling reading at the best of times, and for many positions, job descriptions quickly become out of date (or even irrelevant to the actual job) because keeping them updated falls to the bottom of HR’s to-do list.  When it’s time to recruit, however, everything changes.  Recruiters and hiring managers frantically revise and update job descriptions for use during the recruitment process. Although it’s natural to wait for a recruiting push, in a perfect world the description would be updated much more frequently. 
It’s always good to keep a job description current and complete, but remember that a job description isn’t a job ad.  Yes, the description sets out all necessary information to explain a job, but it doesn’t serve the same function as an ad.  A job ad is a marketing tool that should encourage people to apply – in other words, an advertisement.
Just as there are certain things we want to see in your job descriptions, employment lawyers have a wish list of things they’d like to see (and not see) in a job ad:
1.         Complete and accurate information.  Effective marketing is important in job ads, but ads should never mislead.  A clear summary of the job, presented in a positive and interesting way, should be the goal of every ad. Overselling can lead to misunderstandings that might come back to haunt the employer.
2.         Inclusive language.  Unconscious bias is a hot topic right now, as it should be.  Job ads can be rife with unconscious bias that discourages women, applicants of color, and other diverse candidates from applying for jobs.  New tools, including a gender decoder, are available to help employers reduce the unconscious bias reflected in a job ad (or job description). 
3.         ADA compliance.  For employers with more than 15 employees subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, job ads must either explain the essential functions of a position or indicate where applicants can get this information.  Essential functions define a job and the failure to explain them can set an employer up for a lawsuit.  If constant lifting of 40-pound boxes is required, for example, the job ad, or a source of information linked to the job ad, should clearly say so. Essential requirements should never be hidden from applicants.  In addition, qualified applicants with disabilities must have an opportunity to request a reasonable accommodation that will allow them to perform the essential functions of the job.
4.         A way for applicants to learn more.  A job ad can be short and colorful, but it should provide ways for an interested reader to get more information. A link to the job description, a telephone number to call to reach a recruiter, and an email address for the hiring manager are good additions to a job ad.  Informed applicants are more likely to have realistic expectations about the job – and about their chances of being hired. Realistic expectations mean fewer disappointed applicants and fewer opportunities for candidates to infer unfair treatment or unlawful motives. 
As employers struggle to find good talent, they need to get the attention of the right candidates.  A great job ad can be a terrific way to do that, but a misleading or non-compliant job ad can create liability.  By having two separate and carefully prepared job ads and job descriptions, employers can minimize their legal risks while reaching top candidates and encouraging them to apply.
Posted by Kate Bischoff