How to Write A Job Description

how to write a job description

Writing a job description sounds simple, doesn’t it? You just list off the qualifications and duties for a particular position in your organization. There, you’ve described the job! But job descriptions are a crucial building block for your hiring and employee development strategies, and play an important role in compliance.

That sounds like a lot of work for a description to do, doesn’t it? But think of job descriptions as an essential human resources benchmark, one that helps the company as a whole to understand itself. So let’s start by figuring out just what a job description is.

What Is A Job Description?

Job descriptions are formal explanations of the duties and responsibilities associated with a given role. They lay out what an employee in this role is expected to accomplish, who reports to them, and who they report to. They explain the importance of the role to the company overall, and all of its key relationships to personnel, clients, and, depending on the company, products. Think of them as a basic definition that you can refer to in case of disputes, but also build other documentation and conversations on top of, including discipline and compensation.

What Are Job Descriptions For?

Job descriptions are the fundamental and most basic definition of the roles in your company. From job descriptions, you can begin to build an organizational tree, laying out the relationships between your departments and individual employees. You can use them to build out better job posts, because you’ve already laid out the job in its essence. You can also use them to set the terms of discussions around compensation and discipline. They’re the benchmark against which you can measure real job performance, by seeing how closely the description and the actual work match.

When a role shrinks or expands you should adjust the job description accordingly. When a number of roles change suddenly, a full job description review should be conducted, to make sure your idea of how the company functions matches the reality, and to make sure that you’ve got the right people in the right places, and finally, to make sure compensating them fairly.

What Do I Need to Include In a Job Description?

Job descriptions should outline:

  • The duties and responsibilities of the role and the importance of each
  • What their role contributes to the organization as a whole
  • The position of the role within the company

That all sounds simple enough, but to in order to ensure your description is accurate, you should perform a job analysis, thinking about:

  • What team the role belongs to
  • What tools and which accesses the role requires
  • What level of authority and supervision the role requires
  • What education and special skills the role requires
  • What special demands, if any, the role requires (for example, particular physical or scheduling demands)

To ensure you don’t miss key elements of the role, invest time in this analysis, watching how the current employee operates over the course of at least a week. Talk to the employee, their colleagues, their supervisors, and their subordinates, to better understand the impact they have on the organization.

Should I Use a Template?

Yes, you should definitely use a template.

Once you’ve begun your job analysis, and before you actually start writing descriptions, you should select or develop a job description template. In this post I laid how why you should use a job description template and how to choose or develop one that works for your organization’s specific needs. You need a job description template for the same reasons that you need job descriptions: they keep you honest and accurate, and give you a reliable paper trail on which you can build conversations about performance, compliance and more.

If every job in your organization is described in the same way, using the same template, it’s harder to miss important details and it’s harder for your biases to get in the way.

With your template and your job analysis in hand, writing the actual job description is simple.

Finally, make sure your descriptions are signed off on (and dated!) by business leaders, who, depending on the size of the organization, may be your immediate HR supervisor, department managers, executives, or even owners. This provides a valuable second set of eyes on your work and completes the responsibility loop.

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Megan Purdy

Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.

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