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The end of the job description?

George Selvanera, Business Disability Forum

Recent research by the School of Management at BDF Member University College London came up with some very interesting findings about the way businesses are starting to recruit.

The research examined new business start-ups and how these fast-moving, workplaces have fast moving jobs to match, with specific job specifications tailored to the abilities of high-performing employees instead of being fixed to traditional job descriptions that are too often overwhelmed by long lists of apparently essential criteria.  

Though it only examined a small section of businesses, the findings are definitely food for thought, particularly in relation to recruiting disabled candidates.

Just one in five employers say that disabled people regularly apply for roles with them.. Part of the reason is that job descriptions too often prevent diverse talent from applying. Too often employers are seeking a candidate who is already doing that role in a competitor business. Unless the competitor has a very diverse talent profile (and let’s face it, most don’t) the barriers for diverse and disabled talent securing roles remain in place.  

A focus on process rather than outcomes in job descriptions is another way of preventing disabled talent from applying too.

For example “holding a UK driving licence” might be relevant if the role is to be a driver, but won’t be relevant if the role involves “being able to travel”. One criteria excludes anyone who may be unable to drive because of a disability, the other focuses on what needs to be achieved.

Designing jobs in this inclusive, results-focused way opens vacancies to a wider talent pool and allows new employees to complete their role as effectively as possible.

There’s a word of caution to add here: when it comes to making job opportunities more accessible, this is about making job descriptions that are accurate based on what needs to be achieved, not doing away with setting out the specifics of the job altogether. 

Not setting out all that is expected from a job risks discriminating against the successful candidate in a different way – by forcing them to undertake tasks they may not suitable for – and risks legal action.

So the answer is not to ditch job descriptions entirely, but to focus on the outcome, not how the outcome is achieved.

Needless to say, questions about the best way to approach job descriptions come up a lot at BDF as employers increasingly recognise that they need to redesign each step of the recruitment process to make their processes more accessible to the widest possible talent pool. Only last month, we launched new guidance ‘disability-smart approaches to talent acquisition: a best practice approach to working with recruitment suppliers’ sponsored by BDF Partner EY and undertaken in collaboration with APSCO.

Many BDF Partners, Members and other organisations also have signed up for free to BDF’s Recruitment Service Providers Charter sponsored by BDF Member Sopra Steria Recruitment which sets out the minimum standards for any recruiter to ensure they are making recruitment processes accessible. This includes most particularly ensuring that job descriptions do not inadvertently exclude diverse talent.   

More information on the recruitment of disabled people is available from BDF; and if you’re interested to sign up to the BDF Recruitment Service Providers Charter then please contact us at 020 7403 3020 or at

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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