How to Write a Job Description
by Judith Lindenberger
Job descriptions are important for attracting the right job candidates, helping employees understand their responsibilities, evaluating employees' performance, and much more. Here are tips for writing good job descriptions.
Think of a job description as a “snapshot” of a job. The job description needs to communicate clearly and concisely what responsibilities and tasks the job entails and to indicate, as well, the key qualifications of the job – the basic requirements (specific credentials or skills) – and, if possible, the attributes that underlie superior performance.
Following is a quick look at the categories that make up a well-written job description:
- Title of the position
- Reports to (to whom the person directly reports)
- Overall responsibility
- Key areas of responsibility
- Consults with (those who the person works with on a regular basis)
- Term of employment
- Qualifications (necessary skills and experience required)
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Educational requirements and experience requirements are the areas where inadvertent discrimination may occur. Educational requirements must be a real necessity for the job. If someone could accomplish the work with equivalent job experience but who lacks a specific credential, the job description should be modified. And to avoid age discrimination, experience should not include an upper limit.
Sample job description:
Title of the position
Senior Mailroom Clerk
Building Services Supervisor
Supervise mailroom staff and interface with all levels of management regarding mail and supply deliveries
Key areas of responsibility
- Maintain established shipping/receiving procedures
- Sort and distribute mail on a timely basis
- Maintain all photocopiers, fax machines, and postage meters
- Order, store, and distribute supplies
- Facilitate all off-site storage, inventory, and record management requests
- Document current policies and procedures in the COS Department as well as implement new procedures for improvement
- Oversee the use of a company van when needed
- Ensure that water and paper is available for customers on a continuous basis
- Building Services Supervisor
- Mailroom staff
- All levels of management
Term of employment
- Strong sense of customer service
- Good organizational skills
- Ability to lift a minimum of 25 pounds
- Supervisory experience in a corporate mailroom environment
- Good driving record
- Don’t rely solely on a job’s history as you’re putting together a job description for today. Focus instead on what the job needs to be in light of the organization’s current needs and long-term objectives.
- A task is what the person in the job will actually do. Qualifications are the skills, attributes, or credentials a person needs to perform each task. Clarify the actual tasks and responsibilities before you start thinking about what special attributes will be needed by the person who will be fulfilling those responsibilities.
- A well-written job description consists of more than a laundry list of the tasks and responsibilities that the job entails. It reflects a sense of priorities.
- Credentials (such as degrees and licenses) are absolute necessities in some jobs. The thing you want to make sure of, however, is that whatever credentials you establish have a direct bearing on the candidate’s ability to become a top performer.
- The job you describe must be truly doable. When you’re lumping several tasks into the same job description, make sure that you’re not creating a job that very few people could fill.
- Use specific language. For example:
Proficient with Microsoft Word, Excel, QuickBooks
Good communication skills
Ability to communicate technical information to nontechnical audiences
Handles administrative chores
Receives, sorts, and files monthly personnel action reports
Warning! A job description is generally regarded as a legal document. Any references to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin or nationality, or physical or mental disability is illegal.
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Judith Lindenberger MBA has a distinguished career in human resources consulting and is recognized for her innovation and excellence. The Lindenberger Group, LLC provides results-oriented human resources consulting, organization development, customized training workshops and personal career training to help individuals and organizations improve their productivity and performance. Contact them at 609.730.1049 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lindenbergergroup.com.