When Dave Myers joined J. Francis Co. in Pittsburgh, the company had no job descriptions. “Everything was loosey-goosey,” he says. But after several peer review meetings, one group member told them to get serious or get out. “We were in business 14 years before we wrote our first job description,” says Myers, vice president and general manager. And it proved more difficult than he imagined.

James Katzman

MAKING A START Using a format from a previous employer, Myers created descriptions for his job and that of the office manager. He then gave the format to other employees to write their descriptions. When that didn't work, he created a role exercise in which employees prioritized tasks and recorded time spent on each task per week. (For a sample, go to www.remodelingmagazine.com/webextras.) Looking at the findings, Myers says, “we realized that we were a $2.5 million company [with] someone focusing on production only 15 hours a week — and we'd wondered why production wasn't going well!”

So a lead carpenter was promoted to production manager. “[But] he self-destructed first, and then we voted him off the island,” says Myers, who admits that the lack of a complete job description played a role in the scenario. After that, the company created a production manager job description that included expectations and performance standards. Then, J. Francis Co. was able to post the position and hire someone who really met its needs.

GOOD FIT Now the company's employees perform the self-reporting exercise every six months. But although it is helpful, the information can be too subjective, so Myers has been focusing on creating more objective job descriptions.

“[Doing that] will help get the right person on the proverbial bus,” says Bill Wagner, CEO of Accord Management Systems, a behavioral consultancy that works with residential and commercial remodelers. Wagner's premise is that there's a gap between personality (which is innate) and behavior (which is changeable), or who you are and who you need to be. “The more you understand that gap,” he says, “the more you can accomplish.”

Each organizational chart position requires a different set of behavioral qualities. “Assuming a candidate has the skills, education, and experience, if they have those behavioral qualities they should do well on the job.” A production manager, for example, Wagner says, should [among other things] “have a combination of strategic vision and tactical vision, be highly results-oriented, self-confident, goal-driven, a good problem-solver, have no problem holding others accountable, and [be able to] deal with others on a ‘carefrontational' basis.” When posting a job classified, you can use this type of language to narrow the candidate field.

When interviewing, Wagner says, “Think about the right questions to ask” to elicit the best responses. He uses the McQuaig Survey to help compare an individual against a position. In its survey analysis, AMS offers suggestions for questions. For example, to find out about a candidate's stability and persistence, you might ask her to describe a time when she had to be tenacious to reach her targets, or about how she handled a job setback.

“Behavioral bottlenecks are much the same as physical bottlenecks, like getting a permit,” Wagner says. “If you don't attend to them, they'll come back and bite you.”

To see a McQuaig Survey sample as well as the J. Francis Co. production manager job description, go to www.remodelingmagazine.com/webextras.