Writing Your Own Job Description: Good Idea?

Inspired by a question over at Ask The Headhunter:

Is writing your own job description a good idea?

Here’s the context, from a ATH reader:

I came in second — didn’t get the job. But the company interviewed me again for a unique new position based on my unusual set of skills. They want to create a job for me, but prior to interviewing with the company president, I’ve been asked to write up the job description. I think this is genuine, but my research on the president indicates some issues. I’m worried he’ll use my job description to create the job and then make me compete for it with others. How can I structure the document to protect myself?

It’s kind of a catch-22, though one that many would probably love to be in right now. If you spend tons of time writing a job description tailored specifically to your skills, reasoning that the more you make the description match your own skills the more likely it is that you’ll be a “perfect fit,” then you’ve wasted a lot of time in the unlikely event that they then turn around and re-open the position to interviews.

If you don’t invest much effort in it and write a more generic description, then you’re less likely to get the job but at least you didn’t spend a lot of time on your way to find that out.

In either case, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to work for a company that would do that, anyway.

Other commenters took issue with the idea itself: “Why would an employer ask a non-employee to write up a job description? Unless they’re going to pay you a fee to do it. After all, aren’t they asking you to do consulting work? Shouldn’t they be writing up their own job descriptions?”

But most agreed that this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“If you really want to work for the company, sounds like a great opportunity to design a job for yourself… write the spec to YOUR strengths, capabilities and interests.”

And on a more personal note, we agree that if you’re going to get to write your own job description anyway, it’s much better to get it in writing before you start the job. An acquaintance of ours started a job that was, the manager admitted, “mostly grunt work,” but “we want you to grow in the position and structure it the way you want,” he said. You may not be surprised to hear that that didn’t happen.