Crafting an effective job description is vital for hiring the right people and managing them once hired.

“Effective” isn’t the same as “complex”; a written summary of a person’s job should strive to outline the essential functions, set performance goals, and provide a definition of success upon which both employer and employee can agree.

What They Do for Your Business

  • Attract job candidates with the right skills and mindset.
  • Outline specific job-related tasks.
  • Ensure that employees understand their roles within the company.
  • Set expectations and create accountability for how job performance should be evaluated.
  • Delineate criteria for career advancement.

Effective Job Descriptions Promote Accountability

A standard format ensures functionality and organizational consistency. Defining duties is crucial to making employees answerable to their efforts, and accountability means standing by your actions and decisions as they relate to assigned job functions. When your organization’s expectations are communicated early, clearly and often, employees will find success much easier to achieve.

Here are 10 things you probably want to include in your job descriptions:

  1. A company overview and purpose statement.
  2. The applicable job title and overall objective.
  3. A general summary of the nature of the work, including a list of duties or tasks to be performed on a regular basis.
  4. A list of the short- and long-term goals and a description of the broad function or scope of the position.
  5. The location where the work will be performed and whether the employee will be required to travel, use their personal vehicle for work purposes or have an opportunity to work remote.
  6. The level of the position within the company hierarchy (e.g. entry-level, technical specialist, management or director) and required experience.
  7. Expected hours, whether the work will be full- or part-time, and when overtime or irregular scheduling will be required.
  8. Salary range and benefits.
  9. Required technical functions and opportunities for on-the-job training.
  10. Signature lines for both employee and supervisor prominently featured on the document.

Use of Concrete Language Outlining Job Duties

Workers can’t follow instructions they don’t understand, so job function documents must communicate simply and effectively. For example, don’t repeatedly use the employee’s name; refer instead to the position title, use a placeholder, or — even better — omit the subject altogether. Thus, a sentence describing an office manager might read: “Ensures office efficiency by planning and implementing office systems, assessing layouts, and procuring equipment.”

Here are some other writing tips:

  • Exclude any unnecessary articles (“a,” “an,” “the”).
  • Use simple present verb tenses rather than future perfect (“works,” “writes,” “meets”; not “will work,” “will write,” “will meet”).
  • Avoid jargon, industry buzzwords and variable definitions.
  • Steer clear of using gendered pronouns (“he,” “she,” “him,” “her”).
  • Restrict the use of undefined adjectives and adverbs. (Parties may disagree on what constitutes an “excellent work product,” for example.)
  • Favor words that describe the specific and tangible to the vague and imperceptible.
  • Describe activities using active phrases to add potency and clarity.
  • When possible, flesh out descriptions by adding the why, the how, the where and the when.
  • Strike a balance between brevity and detail. (A one-page document is often ideal.)

Update Job Descriptions Often

As a company changes, so does what they need from those on staff. Roles evolve, and so should the documentation that outlines those roles.

When an employee earns a promotion, his entire relationship to the organization may shift; if people leave unexpectedly, other workers may need to take up some of the remaining workload. Acknowledging these changes sends a message that a company recognizes a worker’s contribution and formalizes workers’ natural progression from one role into another.

Other Uses of Job Role Materials:

Beyond harmonizing the worker-employer relationship, job descriptions can be useful in showing compliance with workplace regulations and contractual obligations, for example:

  • If the employee is disabled, to show adherence to workplace accessibility requirements.
  • To illustrate accession to collective bargaining agreements if employees are union members.
  • To resolve disputes over equal pay by illustrating why one employee is making more or less than another.

One other way they can be used is to encourage workplace wellness. By better understanding the duties associated with an ailing, injured or disabled employee’s workplace needs, physicians can better determine when that employee should return to work from hospitalization or medical leave.

Make the Most of What You’ve Put on Paper

Have job candidates carefully review their assigned duties before completing the recruitment process. Draft interview questions designed to confirm a prospective employee’s understanding of the role for which they applied.

Encourage candidates to ask follow-up questions that clarify each point of their job duties, and revisit those questions early and often. It’s hard for businesses and their employees to be on the same page if there’s no page to begin with.

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