HR Connection: Jobs in Writing

If you’re facing an HR issue, you’re not alone! Welcome to your new HR Connection column. This is one of the many new services being offered by HR Connection, NAR’s Human

Resource Services for AEs. Send your HR- related questions to Selected questions will be answered in each issue of Realtor® AE magazine. This column addresses your questions on job descriptions.

What can I do to help my association staff do their jobs better?

Besides proper training and support, a clearly defined job description can help your staff be better at what they do.

I know that developing job descriptions can be time-consuming, especially if you have a large staff. But, if they are used properly, current job descriptions on file for each position can help you set standards for performance and guard against future legal liability

Why are job descriptions important?

Just like you would never drive a car blindfolded, you should never offer someone a position without a clear awareness of what the job entails. The job description: 1) identifies the job’s responsibilities, skills, experience, and education requirements; 2) helps you identify the most important responsibilities when recruiting and interviewing; 3) tells employees what’s expected of them; 4) helps you identify whether the position is exempt or nonexempt; and, most important, 5) is your gauge for employee performance issues, which will guide many of your employee-related decisions. Tip: Be sure to keep about 5 percent to 10 percent of the job description under the “other duties as assigned” category. This will allow you to assign your employees additional responsibilities that may arise during the course of the year.

How does a job description help me in recruiting and interviewing?

A job description should contain whatever you conclude are the bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs) of the job. These will help you narrow down your candidate pool to those who can perform all the necessary job functions.

For example, you may have a position that requires heavy lifting and typing. All applicants who apply, male or female, should be told of this requirement so if they can’t lift or can’t type, they are not qualified.

Putting your BFOQs in writing is also a good risk-mitigation practice should a situation arise where a job candidate brings a lawsuit against the association because he or she believes the hiring decision was based on race, for example, when in fact it was because he or she couldn’t perform one of the documented BFOQs.

How does the job description help me address performance issues?

You can use the job description to gauge whether an employee’s performance is on track and to determine where improvement is needed.

For example, let’s say you have a clerk position whose main responsibility is to accurately enter data each week. You realize that the employee has made many errors in data entry and is one week behind.

You should meet with the employee, review the appropriate section in the job description, and talk about the mistakes with the data entry. Ask the employee what he or she thinks is the cause for the errors. Also ask the employee for suggestions on how to eliminate the errors. You may be surprised at the answers. Maybe there are too many interruptions while the employee is completing the data entry. Your game plan would be to determine if there is any way to eliminate the interruptions, or help the employee effectively deal with the interruptions.

Timely follow-up and ongoing feedback, such as annual performance reviews, are critical to help your staff stay on track and help you avoid liability. If the employee has improved, be sure to acknowledge it. If not, be sure to set up the performance improvement plan that specifically details what needs to be improved, along with a time line, up to and including termination. Most important, follow through and adhere to your time line. Document each meeting and record the level of success, or lack thereof. When your time frame calls for termination, follow through. You have the documentation indicating your unsuccessful efforts to assist the employee.

How do I determine FLSA status?

When determining FLSA status, federal law requires that the majority of the position (more than 50 percent) must be exempt level work in order for the position to be considered exempt. However, check with your state law to determine whether your state has more stringent rules, such as Illinois. The Department of Labor Web site, describes in detail which positions are considered exempt from overtime. A checklist which will assist you in analyzing the positions for Federal compliance can be found at

What’s your HR question?

Submit your comments, suggestions, and questions for future column topics to I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Further resources: Find these related HR articles on

HR Issues: Better Job Reviews, by Doug Hinderer
Legal Update: Fire without Fear, by Laurie Janik
Outsourcing HR: Is a professional employment organization for you? by Sarah Wortman
Smooth Staff Turnover: How to make these transitions quick and less painful, by Carolyn Schwaar
Why Employees Stay: How four associations use benefits to recruit top talent and keep them happy and productive, by Paul Beakley

This column is not intended to provide legal advice. Contact your association counsel for information related to employment issues.

What information should be included in a job description?
At a minimum, job descriptions should include the following information:

* Employee name
* Title
* Supervisor name
* Supervisor title
* Date job description was last updated
* Primary duties/responsibilities—including the frequency of performance (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, annually) and percentage of time spent on each duty/responsibility; the decisions and recommendations employee is expected to make for each duty/responsibility
* Experience, skills (physical and technical), education required
* If position is supervisory, add names and titles of subordinates and other employees under the supervisor’s span of control

Many sample REALTOR® association job descriptions can be found in the REALTOR® Association Resource Exchange.