Writing Effective Job Descriptions
From the Small Business Administration
Writing effective job descriptions is an art. These written summaries ensure your applicants and employees are excited by their jobs, understand their roles and what they need to do to be held accountable.
Job descriptions also:
- Help attract the right candidates
- Define the major areas of an employee’s job and position
- Serve as an outline for performance expectations, job training, job evaluation and career advancement
- Provide a reference point for compensation decisions and unfair hiring practices
A job description must be practical, 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:
- The purpose and responsibilities of the job
- Individual tasks involved
- The methods used to complete the tasks
- Who the role reports to and/or subordinate roles
- Qualifications required for the job
WHAT TO AVOID
Don’t be inflexible with your job description. Jobs are subject to change for personal growth, organizational development and/or evolution of new technologies. A flexible job description encourages employees to grow within their position and contribute over time to your overall business.
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Job descriptions typically include:
- Job title
- Job objective or overall purpose statement
- Summary of the general nature and level of the job
- Description of the broad function and scope of the position
- List of duties or tasks performed critical to success
- Key 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
- Office culture and environment
ADDITIONAL ITEMS FOR JOB DESCRIPTIONS FOR RECRUITING SITUATIONS
- Job specifications, standards, and requirements
- Job location where the work will be performed
- Equipment to be used in the performance of the job
- Collective Bargaining Agreements if your company’s employees are members of a union
- Salary range
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 the subject of your sentence, 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” instead of “You will greet office…” or “The receptionist will greet…”
- Always use the present tense of verbs.
- If necessary, use explanatory phrases telling why, how, where, or how often to add meaning and clarity (e.g. “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.
- 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 adverbs or adjectives that are subject to interpretation such as “frequently,” “some,” “complex,” “occasional,” and “several.”
- Remember, a job description is often the first impression your company will make on a potential employee. Make sure that your company’s culture and personality shines through!
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