Keys to a Successful Job Description

Keys to a Successful Job Description

Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR

Developing and maintaining clear, concise and informative job descriptions is a significant part of the recruiting and hiring process.

A good job description not only identifies the key components, qualifications and essential job functions, but it also provides an idea of the job duties and responsibilities that the individual in the position will be asked to perform each day. However, if an employer is not careful it may run into trouble, so it’s crucial to keep the following tips in mind when preparing a job description.

1. Obtain Input of Current Employees

Sometimes, the employer’s idea of what a job entails is much different than the reality. That’s why conducting a thorough job analysis is a good starting point when drafting a job description.

Employers should obtain input from individuals currently holding the position, as well as the employee’s supervisors and those who interact with employees in the position on a regular basis. Consider the work the individual in the position is actually required to perform and how long he or she actually spends performing each task.

2. Choose the Job Title Carefully

The job title really sells the position the employer is seeking to fill as is it often the first thing a candidate views in the job advertisement. Therefore, ensure that the job title accurately describes the position without causing confusion. The employer should also provide an idea of how the job title fits within the organization and who the position reports to, or who will be reporting to the position with respect to the organization’s reporting lines.

3. Detail Skills and Qualifications

A good job description notifies candidates of the qualifications, skills and experience needed to perform a particular job, whether it be a specific educational degree, course or certification. However, in listing any required qualifications, an employer should also consider where it is able to be flexible. For instance, a candidate could offset insufficient work experience with a higher level of education or formal training. Conversely, a candidate may compensate for insufficient education or formal training with a higher level of work experience. While an employer may want an employee with multiple skills and qualifications, it should really zero in on what it considers to be the most important skills and qualifications needed for the job.

4. Provide Essential Job Functions

A clear job description will let a candidate know all of the specific tasks, duties and responsibilities that he or she will be performing on a daily or weekly basis. Employers should also consider whether any of the essential job functions may be performed with an accommodation, such as specific tools or equipment, and be prepared to answer any related questions from candidates.

5. Explain the Workplace Culture and Environment

It is important to convey to candidates what the workplace culture will be like, including:

• Whether the position will be working with clients and customers; or
• Whether it will be behind the scenes.
• Whether the position will entail a good deal of personal interaction;
• If the position will include a good deal of physical activity or heavy lifting; and
• Whether the job entails exposure to dangerous fumes, odors or chemicals.

This is all critical information a candidate will need to ascertain whether he or she is interested in the position.

6. Provide Competition and Benefits

Providing compensation and benefit information can give candidates a good idea of how the job is structured, such as:

• Whether it will be compensated on an hourly or salary basis;
• Whether the position is entitled to overtime;
• Whether the position will be eligible for benefits; and
• If not, what the eligibility requirements are.

It is also a good idea to explain how the position will be evaluated and reviewed, and describe any opportunities for advancement.

7. Avoid Discriminatory Words and Phrases

It is imperative to steer clear of potentially discriminatory words and phrases in job descriptions which may land the employer in hot water. Even if subtle, the use of such words may deter individuals from applying for a position.

Use gender-neutral language such as “chairperson” instead of “chairman” whenever possible. An employer should also avoid unconscious bias and using language suggesting a preference for individuals of a certain age, citizenship, national origin or gender etc. Additionally, make sure candidates know that the organization is an equal employment opportunity employer.

8. Remember a Disclaimer

Last but not least, don’t forget to include a disclaimer stating that the job description is not intended to cover or describe all tasks, duties and responsibilities the employee may be required to perform. Adding a disclaimer is important as this will permit the employer to retain the right to change or add new tasks or jobs, duties and responsibilities along the way.

Beth Zoller is the Legal Editor of XpertHR. XpertHR helps build successful workforces by providing practical tools, expert resources and agile HR solutions from the federal, state and municipal level to help businesses stay a step ahead.

Career Topics
Employment Trends