Writing an Effective Job Description

Writing Effective Job Descriptions

What are your expectations for employees in specific jobs in your business? A job description ensures that your applicants and employees understand their roles and what they need to do to be accountable.

The importance of job descriptions cannot be understated. It is essential in hiring and managing your employees. A job description:

  • Helps attract the right job candidates.
  • Describes the major areas of an employee’s job or position.
  • Serves as a major basis for outlining performance expectations, job training, job evaluation and career advancement.
  • Provides a reference point for compensation decisions and unfair hiring practices.

Overview of Job Description

A job description should be practical, functional and current. It also should be clear and accurate in order to effectively define your needs. Good job descriptions typically begin with a careful analysis of the important facts about a job such as:

  • Individual tasks involved.
  • The methods used to complete the tasks.
  • The purpose and responsibilities of the job.
  • The relationship of the job to other jobs.
  • Qualifications needed for the job.

What to Avoid in a Job Description

Don’t be inflexible with your job description. Jobs are subject to change for personal growth, organizational development and/or evolution of new technologies. If inflexible, job descriptions will keep you and your employees from trying or learning new tasks within the job. A flexible job description encourages employees to grow within their position and contribute over time to your overall business.

What to Include in a Job Description

A job description includes:

  • Job title.
  • Job objective or overall purpose statement.
  • Summary of the general nature and level of the job (no longer than three to four sentences).
  • Description of the broad function and scope of the position.
  • List of duties or tasks performed critical to the success (including principal duties, continuing responsibilities and accountability of the occupant of the position).
  • Most important functional and relational responsibilities in order of significance.
  • Description of the relationships and roles within the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles and other working relationships.

Additional Items for Job Descriptions for Recruiting Situations

  • Job specifications, standards, and requirements (minimum amount of qualifications to perform essential functions of the job such as education, experience, knowledge and skills).
  • Job location where the work will be performed.
  • Equipment to be used in the performance of the job.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements (agreements and terms that relate to job functions, if applicable, such as when your company’s employees are members of a union).
  • Non-essential functions (functions which are not essential to the position or any marginal tasks performed by the incumbent of the position).
  • Salary range (pay for the position).

Proper Language in the Job Description

Keep each statement in the job description crisp and clear:

  • Structure your sentences in classic verb/object and explanatory phrases. Since the occupant of the job is your sentences’ implied subject, it may be eliminated. For example, a sentence pertaining to the description of a receptionist position might read: “Greets office visitors and personnel in a friendly and sincere manner.”
  • Always use the present tense of verbs.
  • If necessary, use explanatory phrases telling why, how, where, or how often to add meaning and clarity. For example: “Collects all employee time sheets on a bi-weekly basis for payroll purposes.”
  • Omit any unnecessary articles such as “a,” “an,” “the,” or other words for an easy-to-understand description. Using the above example, the statement could have read, “Greets all visitors and the office personnel to the building in a friendly and a sincere manner.”
  • Use unbiased terminology. For example, use the he/she approach or construct sentences in such a way that gender pronouns are not required.
  • Avoid using words which are subject to differing interpretations. Try not to use words such as “frequently,” “some,” “complex,” “occasional,” and “several.”