How to Write an Effective Job Description

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A job description explains the duties and responsibilities of a job and the qualifications needed. A good job description can entice a job seeker to apply. Conversely, a poorly-written or confusing description can discourage a candidate from applying.

The benefits of writing an effective job description

A well written job description will:

  • Help attract the right candidates
  • Be a template for writing your job posting and advertisements
  • Increase the diversity of your applicant pool
  • Serve as a guide for writing your interview questions and candidate evaluation
  • Set realistic expectations for the new hire
  • Assist managers/supervisors with performance reviews and identifying areas for training or development
  • Prevent legal problems with federal agencies in the event of a discrimination allegation

Jobs may change with time due either to personal growth, organizational development, and/or the evolution of new technologies. Flexible descriptions will encourage your employees to grow within their positions. This, in turn, will help them provide more value for your business.

Above all, your job descriptions should be concise, clear, but also flexible. Keep in mind that it will serve as a basis for outlining job training or conducting job evaluations. Therefore, review your job descriptions periodically to make sure they accurately reflect what the employee is doing and your expectations of results.

Steps to writing an effective job description—what to include

Firstly, gather the appropriate people for the task. The manager to whom the position will report might be the best person to take the lead. If there are other employees performing similar jobs, they can also contribute. Additionally, if the position is new and will relieve current employees of work load, they should be part of the discussion.

Secondly, perform a job analysis. You need as much data as possible. The job analysis may include the job responsibilities of current employees, internet research and sample job descriptions for similar jobs. It would include an analysis of the duties, tasks, and responsibilities of the position. The more information you can gather, the easier it will be to write the description.

Thirdly, write the job description. The format and style for writing job descriptions is different from any other type of business writing. It is not a complex process, but you should follow a basic format and include specific components. The basic components are:

  • Compelling intro
  • Job title
  • The job title of the person the employee reports to
  • Job summary
  • Key responsibilities (job duties)
  • Minimum job requirements
  • Physical requirements and work environment
  • Disclaimer

Compelling Intro

Most job descriptions open with the job title. In today’s competitive hiring environment, we recommend writing a short, catchy into. Remember, on a job board, your posting is listed along with all the other open jobs for the same position. Consider the candidate’s point of view. They may see 10 or 20 postings for the job title. How can you stand out? That’s where a unique, enticing opener comes in. Tap your marketing team to help you with this part. Specifically, whomever writes your landing pages, social posts, website copy or email nurtures. It’s their job to grab the reader’s attention using as few words as possible. Recruitment and marketing have much in common. Both seek to bring individuals to your company, whether a job seeker or customer.

Job Title

The job title should accurately reflect the type of work. For example “clerk,” “processor,” or “analyst”. Furthermore, it should also indicate the level of work being performed; “senior analyst” or “lead accountant”.

Job Summary

The job summary describes the primary reason for and function of the job. It also provides an overview of the job and introduces the responsibilities. The job summary should describe the job without detailed task descriptions. Its length should range from one sentence to a paragraph, depending on the complexity of the job. It is easier to write the summary once you have completed the more detailed information.

Example: A job summary for a Human Resources Director

“Manages the human resources function and day-to-day human resources management activities throughout the organization. This includes employee recruiting, orientation, compensation, benefits, and related programs. Manages all HR functions, staff, and the HR department budget.”

Key Responsibilities

Begin each job responsibility with a present tense action verb and describe the area of responsibility in action terms. Normally, there will be 7 to 10 responsibilities, depending on the job. Examples:

  • Develops marketing programs directed at increasing product sales and awareness.
  • Writes programming code to develop various features and functionality for commercial software products.
  • Designs and develops user interfaces for commercial software products.
  • Supervises technical support employees in providing technical support to organization clients.
  • Manages development of advertising and various marketing collateral materials.

Minimum Job Requirements

This section describes the minimum knowledge, skills, and abilities. This information helps determine if the candidates are minimally qualified. However, avoid arbitrary requirements that are difficult to validate.

Include only the minimally acceptable requirements. Moreover, do not inflate requirements and be specific and realistic.

It’s important to remember not to consider the education, experience, or skill level of current jobholders. Include only what the job actually requires.

Moreover, ensure the requirement relates to how and why the job is done

Requirements should include:

  • Education —the type and minimum level, such as high school diploma and/or bachelor’s degree.
  • Experience —the type and minimum level, such as three to five years of supervisory experience, five years of editing experience, and two years of experience with content management systems.
  • Special skills — such as languages spoken and computer software proficiencies.
  • Certifications and licenses — such as industry certifications and practitioners’ licenses.

Physical Requirements

This section describes the physical demands and environment of the job and lists the basic physical conditions needed. This section should list specifics such as lifting heavy objects or standing for long periods of time. Examples include:

  • Requires ability to lift large and heavy packages.
  • Must be physically capable of safely lifting a minimum of 50 lbs. without assistance.
  • Requires the ability to work flexible shifts.
  • Must be able to travel 50% to other job sites.
  • Able to meet tight deadlines in a fast-paced work environment.

Disclaimer

All job descriptions should have a disclaimer that clearly states that the description is only a summary of the typical functions of the job, not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of all possible responsibilities, tasks, and duties. Additionally, disclaimers should also state that the responsibilities, tasks, and duties of the jobholder might differ from those outlined in the job description and that other duties may be assigned. It’s important to understand that in a labor union environment, the job description could be literally interpreted.

Improve Job Descriptions for Better Hiring Outcomes

Small business employers face a tight labor market for the foreseeable future. To compete for talent, look for optimization opportunities. Improved job descriptions, application procedures and evaluation processes can improve hiring outcomes significantly.

Affordable technology like WorkforceHub Applicant Tracking has tools for creating and managing job descriptions as well as the entire hiring workflow. For more information, visit WorkforceHub Hiring and Applicant Tracking.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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