Job descriptions are an essential part of hiring and managing employees. In addition to helping you recruit and hire the right candidates, these written summaries serve as a key basis for outlining employees' performance expectations, job training, job evaluation, and career advancement.

 

If you're just getting started, the tips below can help you understand the essential steps for how to write a good job description. And if you already have job descriptions in place, now is a great time to review them in light of these guidelines–you may discover it's time for some revisions!

What to Include

A job description should be practical, clear, and accurate to effectively define your needs. The following tips from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may assist in crafting effective job descriptions.

 

The Big Picture

Good job descriptions typically begin with a careful analysis of the important facts about a position, such as:Is it time to update your job descriptions?

  • Individual tasks involved;
  • The methods used to complete the tasks;
  • The purpose and responsibilities of the position;
  • The relationship of the position to other jobs; and
  • Qualifications needed for the position.

 

Important Elements of Job Descriptions  

Job descriptions typically include the following information:

  • Job title;
  • Objective or overall purpose statement;
  • Summary of the general nature and level of the job;
  • Job specifications, standards, and requirements;
  • List of duties, tasks, and experience critical for success; and
  • Accurate descriptions of the relationships and roles within the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles, and other working relationships.

It's a good idea to review job descriptions on a regular basis as tasks and requirements may change. In addition, you want to make sure you have realistic expectations about the jobs being performed.

Writing Style Tips

Consider these guidelines for how to write a good job description and help make your writing more effective:

  • Structure your sentences in classic verb/object format and include explanatory phrases. Since the occupant of the job is the subject of your sentence, it may be eliminated. For example, a sentence regarding the description of a receptionist position might read: "Greets office visitors and personnel in a friendly and sincere manner."
  • Always use the present tense of verbs.
  • If necessary, use explanatory phrases telling why, how, where, or how often to add meaning and clarity (e.g., "Collects all employee time sheets on a bi-weekly basis for payroll purposes.").
  • Omit any unnecessary articles such as "a," "an," "the," or other words for an easy-to-understand description.
  • Use unbiased terminology. For example, use the "he or she" approach or construct sentences so gender pronouns are not required.
  • Avoid using adverbs or adjectives that are subject to interpretation such as "frequently," "some," "complex," "occasional," or "several."

Comply with Nondiscrimination Laws

You should be conscious of state and federal anti-discrimination laws as you develop and update your job descriptions. Federal law generally prohibits discrimination against a job applicant or employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Many state nondiscrimination laws include additional protected classes, such as family status or sexual orientation. If you have any questions regarding whether a particular job requirement or statement is legal, please consult an employment law attorney who knows your state laws.

For More Information

Check out the SBA's page on Writing Effective Job Descriptions for more tips. And visit our Recruitment & Hiring section for step-by-step guidance on how to recruit, interview, and hire employees.  


Have you had a chance to download our free preview, "Health Care Reform: What to Expect in 2013–2014"? It's a simple way for employers to stay on top of the major changes ahead.

 

Image Credit: Victor1558

 

Topics: Human Resources, Recruitment and Hiring

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