How to write a good job description for your vacant role
By Judith Lindenberger

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
  • Department
  • 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)

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.

Tips:

  • 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:
Too General Specific
Computer literate 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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