Result Based Hiring Moves Past Traditional Job Descriptions!

Result Based Hiring Moves Past Traditional Job Descriptions!

by Sara Bennett | February 12, 2024

0 Author-Jeanne, Hiring Strategies and Tactics, INFO/RESOURCES - HIRING / CANDIDATE SELECTION PROCESSES, Results Based Hiring Processes*, Thought Leader / Featured Blogs*

Traditional Job Descriptions and a Results Focused Hiring Process Don’t Always Go Together!  

The use of the job description as an organizational tool dates back a long ways, likely created at the turn of the 19th century when the industrial revolution burst onto the scene requiring organizations to find new ways to organize work into specific tasks and responsibilities. As the number of jobs on an assembly line grew, with multiple people doing the same or similar work, HR was tasked with standardizing descriptions of work into formats that would keep their employer in compliance with a growing number of government regulations re: standardized work weeks, overtime pay requirements, workers compensation, and mandated benefit requirements.  Job descriptions quickly turned into lists of tasks the worker would perform and pre hire skill and experience requirements.

Today we see a variety of job description formats, each designed for different purposes, to support different approaches to describing work.   Some formats reflect an employer’s need to document certain administrative or compliance elements of the job.  Other formats focus more on making the job description part of the company’s hiring process or making it tool for managing the employee’s  performance once hired. Most job descriptions still include 1) a list of the tasks to be performed by the person doing the job, and 2) a list of qualifications a candidate must have in order to be hired.

Our POV is that most job descriptions aren’t being designed to play a role in today’s very competitive marketplace.  First of all  job content can change “just like that.’  Traditional job descriptions with their lists of work to be done can be outdated even before they get published.  Nor is their list of tasks to be performed or hiring requirements needed or preferred, interesting enough to inspire a candidate to say “choose me.”  Talented candidates always want to know more about the WHYs behind the WHATs, before they are willing to engage.  How will they be able to make a difference?  Most traditional job descriptions don’t answer that question.    

This blog is being written to offer some ideas for how hiring managers can make their traditional job descriptions more relevant in today’s world of work. We will make the case that traditional JD formats that focus on the work to be done rather than the results to achieve, need to be tweaked if we want them to play an important role in the recruiting process.  We will point out that a shift in mindset (from a task to results focused mindset) is needed if you want your hiring process to deliver quality hires.          

How do you turn a traditional, task focused job description into a RESULTS FOCUSED hiring process? 

Here’s the steps we think are important…

Start by asking questions about the bigger picture – WHY does this job exist?  How does this  job contribute to the company’s mission and goal?  

In recruiter training, most recruiters have been taught that their first job is to pin down a hiring manager’s wants and needs.  They’ve been taught ask all those WHAT questions.  WHAT skills? WHAT knowledge?  WHAT work  experience are you looking for in a prospective employee?  We are encouraged to get as specific as possible when describing the WHATs while also  making sure that the “list” doesn’t get so long or become so unrealistic that the candidate who could meet all the marks doesn’t exist!

The traditional job description does indeed answer these low level recruiter questions, and almost always describes WHAT the employee will do once hired.  What these types of JDs don’t do is answer the question as to WHY these tasks have been assigned to this role – what results is the employee expected to deliver?  How will they contribute to the company’s mission or goals?  What do they have to deliver in order for their hiring manager to consider them a successful hire?

In a results focused hiring process you always start with a good understanding of the company’s mission and how the job is intended to contribute?  .  

The next step is to organize the list of TASKS into areas of RESPONSIBILITY

Most job descriptions contain a fairly long list of the tasks that the employee will do.  We find it helpful to organize that list into a much fewer areas of responsibility.

Some jobs have only one area of responsibility;  others have several.  We have a person on our team, for example, who touches and has been assigned important results she is expected to achieve in Operations, Marketing, Recruiting, and Administration. By first organizing her work into specific areas, we can focus on describing the results she is expected to deliver in each of these “buckets” .

Organized in that way what we uncovered is that the results we expected her to deliver varied in terms of the level of delegation and accountability we assigned to her.  Her results ranged from  “supporting ” results assigned to a team of folks (a team participant),  to results where  she was the only one involved (an independent producer).  Getting clear around these diverse areas of responsibility and organizing them into visual buckets was incredibly helpful to getting a clear picture of this role.

Once you’ve identified the AREAS of RESPONSIBILITY, get clear on the results important to each bucket!   

Most areas of responsibility have 2-3 results considered key.  To help you describe these results, take a look at the tasks that fall into each of the responsibility buckets, and ask WHY these tasks are important – what are they supposed to achieve.

Traditional job descriptions tend to get organized around descriptions of the tasks, and then go on to describe the result.  The results focused hiring process shifts that  thought process by focusing first on the results a role is expected to achieve and then identifying the tasks currently considered important to achieve those results.

For example instead talking to a candidate about an Account Manager role and the need for them to “meet with key customers monthly” – in a results focused hiring process your first focus is on the results.  “This role has been created to increase the number of products or services we sell to each customer.  One of the ways we do that is by meeting with key customers monthly.”  

The difference in these two conversations might seem a bit nit picky,  but by keeping conversations with candidates focused on RESULTs, not TASKS – you’re sending the message that what’s most important to you about what a successful hire is finding someone who will achieve a goal, not just complete a set of tasks.

The reality is that new technologies and marketplace shifts can change how we do our jobs “just like that”, even though the goals for what we are expected to deliver.   Job descriptions built around tasks need to be updated every 2-3 months.  Job descriptions built around RESULTS can stick around for a while.

When the results an employee is expected to deliver is placed at the center of work conversations, and the conversations that take place when a candidate is being considered for a role, the ripple effect in productivity, resilience, and the candidate’s motivation to achieve results, touches every corner of the organization. The organization suddenly becomes more bottom up, less top down.

And for candidates applying for jobs, talking about results is also a way to engage a high quality candidate early in the hiring process.  Talented employees want to be challenged.  Talking with them about goals, not tasks, is a way to do that.  Organizationally, the link between an employee’s sense of purpose and their productivity is well documented.  Motivational research continues to show that employees who have bought into the mission are the employees most likely to “go above and beyond”.  We’ve all seen that employees who don’t know why their job or what they do matters, are employees who tend to disengage,  or even worse, turn their jobs into a personal agenda.

Here’s an idea:  Instead of relying on a traditional job description to “describe the work”, how about creating a 30-60-90 day PLAN for PERFORMANCE.  

In fact if we had to choose between kicking off a recruit using either a traditional job description focused on a list of tasks and candidate qualifications, or a 30-60-90 day post hire performance plan, we’d choose the latter.  It is really important that in any hiring process we are able to communicate what a new employee is expected to achieve (by when) if they “get the job.”

And a 30-60-90 post hire performance is not the plan you prepare when a more seasoned employee gets in trouble – not meeting your expectations.  The 30-60-90 day post hire plan lays out what a new employee can expect to experience in their first 90 days on the job.  It is also a road map with check points every 30 days to make sure the employee is on target to become the quality hire you need them to be.

The process of creating a post hire 30-60-90 day performance plan minimizes hiring mistakes because it requires a hiring manager to think clearly about their expectations.  It also requires them to get real about what their new employee will experience in their work environment post hire – the CONTEXT in which the work will be done.

One of the questions we always ask during an intake conversation with a hiring manager re: a new role that we haven’t work with before is:  How would you describe a “day in the life” of your new hire during their first 30 days on the job?  What will they need to know or learn?  What obstacles will they face?  What support systems are or are not in place that will help them be successful?

What we’ve found is that its often the context in which work is done that gets revealed by these questions that makes a difference to what a new employee can deliver!

Hiring managers who don’t pay attention to  CONTEXT will often…

  • Make mistakes in what they come up with as a profile for their “preferred candidate” – missing some of the soft skills or talents important to actual success on the job  
  • Misrepresent the reality of the role, what it will look and feel like to a new employee, leading to early term turnovers
  • Hire candidates who actually might be the right fit for the role, but lack the skills or talents needed to navigate some unique aspects of the current context.

An additional benefit of preparing a performance plan up front is that they make it easy for a hiring manager to track the progress of a new employee once hired.  So many times managers will decide that a new hire isn’t working out because they haven’t taken the time to describe what it means for an employee to “work out” .  In other words, they have no clue what a quality hire looks like in 30-60-90 days.

Performance plans are great tools to get a candidate thinking about the job and what it might be like to work for your company.  When a hiring manager is specific about what they expect by when and presents that  outline to prospective candidates, the right candidate’s wheels will start to turn even before they’re hired, kick starting the onboarding process.  And I guess you just have to trust us when we say that creating a 30-60-90 day pre hire performance plan will set you, your job, and your company apart from competitive opportunities in the candidate’s eyes.

Its always a good idea to pin down as much as possible about how you will measure the results you are expecting in your 30-60-90 day plan.   

While nailing down the details of how results will be measured isn’t as important to the hiring process as it is to performance post hire. I can’t tell you the number of times in our own organization where we’ve had to scramble to find the right data and present it visually to a new hire in order to give them feedback on how they are doing. The data is almost always there, but not available in a visual designed to tell the story at a quick glance – and its that story the employee wants, needs and deserves.

It would have been so much better had we done the work to identify the data we needed before we hired so we could get our new employee’s on their RESULTS right out of the gate.  Enough said.

Final Thoughts – Why is the focus on RESULTS so important to hiring success?

The data about the number of hiring decisions that end up being hiring mistakes hasn’t really changed that much over the last decade.  Data shows that somewhere between 35 and 55% (depending on who is doing the counting) of all new hires turn into hiring mistakes at some time in the first 12 months.  And that’s been true for the last several years.

What we know about this statistic is that a lot of hiring mis-fires  have roots in how the job descriptions that are used to drive most hiring processes tend to be focused on tasks not results.  People get hired because they are really good at doing certain types of tasks; but they often lose their job when they aren’t achieving the expected results.

In many (but not all) cases the issue with hiring mistakes lies more with the hiring process (including the job description at the center of that process) than the person hired.

A results focused hiring process requires a shift in how hiring managers and their recruiters approach the hiring process.   Relying on job descriptions built around the what’s (the tasks to be performed, the skills needed to do those tasks) need to be shifted into job descriptions built around the whys (the results needed by the team).  When a hiring manager makes that shift the impact on who is hired and how can be game changing.


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire quality employees who are the “right fit” for their roles, for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

If you’re a hiring manager looking for a service that will actually “make a difference” to who and how you hire, contact us at 425-637-3312 or fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

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