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The Best Way to Write a Job Description

Posted on September 15, 2014
Kayla DineenWritten by Kayla Dineen | Email author

So you want to fill a position in your organization and your recruiter has asked you to submit a job description…now what? Ideally, your organization will have already created job descriptions for similar positions that you can tweak to fit the needs of your position specifically.  However, this may also be the first time your organization has hired for this particular type of position in which case you may be starting from scratch.  In either case, following these guidelines when approaching the task of writing out a job description will help you to establish a relevant and comprehensive job description your recruiter can use to find the right fit for the role.

  1. Start with the Basics: Determine the position title, department, who the position will report to and consider if this will be a full-time or part-time position. Don’t panic if you get stuck! If you are struggling with the position title or the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classification of whether the position should be compensated on a salaried or hourly basis; writing the rest of the job description and coming back to these details may make the work flow more naturally. And don’t forget to reach out to your Human Resources representative for additional guidance.
  1. Summarize the Purpose: At a high level, think about why this position exists (or is going to exist) in your organization.  What are the top three expected outcomes that you hope to accomplish by filling this position?
  1. Determine the Functions of the Role: What are the primary duties and responsibilities of the individual that will be filling this role?  It’s not necessary to list everything that the position entails, but you want to be sure to cover the majority of what will be expected of the employee in this position.  List the primary responsibilities (those items that take up the most time and play the most significant contribution to the organization) first to emphasize the significance of those duties.  This position description will be your employee’s first preview into the expectations that you as a manager, and the organization, have of him/her in his role.   Consider listing “other duties as assigned” as the last function of the role to call attention to the fact that the job description is not intended to cover everything that the employee may be required to do as part of his/her role.
  1. Determine the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs): It’s important to take a look at the requirements of the position and determine what level of education, relevant experience, and/or certifications that an employee may need to be successful in this role.  In addition to education and experience, you may want to also consider what software and/or programs they need to be familiar with and any communication skills that will be required, etc.
  1. Ensure Compliance: You’ll want to review your position description to ensure that you are compliant with the federal and state regulations with regards to your position description.  If your position has any physical requirements that are necessary to perform the essential duties of the position (for example, the ability to lift up to 25 pounds) be sure to clearly list them on the position description.  While this may not seem like a significant aspect of the job description, it is considerable in terms of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act so it is strongly encouraged to spend some time listing the physical requirements of this position. Your recruiter and/or Human Resource representative is a great resource when determining if your job description meets all requirements and best practices.

Writing a job description is often perceived as a daunting task by managers; however, if you break it down to these five simple steps it will be quick and painless to develop a job description that is comprehensive and provides the employee with a clear understanding of his/her position.  Remember that this job description lays the foundation for performance management moving forward as it creates a common ground of expectations between you, your employee, and the organization.

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