Basics for Writing Job Descriptions

The job description is where your business’s hiring criteria are first formally set forth. But this doesn’t mean just any garden-variety job description will do. The job description you’ll construct will be airtight because the job description will eventually drive the job ad, the candidate selection process, and a new employee’s first performance appraisal.

In general, the terms responsibility, role, and function reference a particular position’s higher-level features within an organization, and the terms duties and tasks to describe the actual day-to-day activities of a particular position.

There are a number of reasons to create job descriptions, and a description’s content can vary greatly depending upon its intended uses. For example, a company may create job descriptions primarily

  • To establish performance expectations

  • To help with recruiting and hiring

  • To highlight the essential functions of a position in the event the company needs to accommodate an individual with a covered disability under federal or state law

  • To differentiate between jobs that are exempt versus nonexempt from legal overtime and other requirements

To ensure that your job descriptions are written in a way that carries out your reasons for having them, you may want to consult a lawyer before finalizing and using them.

A well-thought-out job description

  • Accurately outlines the applicable hiring criteria

  • Ensures that everyone who has a say in the hiring decision is on the same page with respect to what the job entails

  • Ensures that candidates have a clear idea of what the position requires if they’re hired and what performance success looks like

  • Serves as a benchmark for performance after you hire the candidate

  • Serves as a reference tool during the evaluation process

Think of the job description as your blueprint. Do a good job of constructing it, and all the subsequent pieces of the hiring process will more easily fall into place.

The following important elements may be included in a well-written job description:

  • The job or position title (and job code number, if applicable).

  • The department within the organization in which the position exists.

  • The reporting structure for the position, both up and/or down, as applicable. For example, the title of the person(s) to whom the position reports and any position(s) and/or numbers of employees over whom this position has supervisory responsibility.

  • A brief summary (one to three sentences) of the position and its overarching responsibility, function, or role within the organization and how it interrelates to other functions within the organization.

  • A list of the position’s essential or key job duties. You also could include a list of the less important or marginal job duties identified as such, the estimated time to be spent on each duty (which should total to 100 percent), and the frequency of performing each (daily, weekly, periodically).

  • Whether the job is exempt or nonexempt.

  • Whether regular and prompt attendance is required.

  • A qualifying statement that the list of job duties is not exhaustive and may be revised from time to time as per business needs.

  • The qualifications for the position (meaning, the specific knowledge, skills, employment, or other experiences, training, language, or aptitudes required for the job).

  • The educational requirements for the job, if any, such as degrees and licensing.

  • Qualities or attributes that contribute to superior performance in the position.

  • If appropriate, a statement of the physical demands of the position (for example, lifting or mobility requirements).

  • A statement that the position also includes “such other duties as assigned” to protect your company’s ability to add duties as needed.

  • A statement that your company is an equal employment opportunity employer.

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