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Job Descriptions: Blueprint for Success

How to Write Effective Job DescriptionsCreating a good job description is typically the last thing an HR professional or line manager wants to do. The long list of their other responsibilities usually takes priority. But a well-crafted job description actually makes a wealth of managerial and HR tasks faster and easier to execute. The job description is a blueprint to hiring, evaluating, promoting, disciplining, and even terminating staff. A good job description can guide a company through every step of the employment process, and for staff, it is a tangible listing of what is expected of them in order to succeed.

The most overlooked, underappreciated, underused tool in an HR professional or manager’s tool belt: a good job description. The job description helps everyone be more effective and efficient; it provides clear guidelines and expectations and helps clarify any area of confusion. Crafting a good job description takes a bit of effort, but it is well worth the trouble in every aspect of employment.

The Job Description’s Many Uses

  • When you recruit, the job description outlines the skills, experience, and qualifications necessary for a great hire.
  • When you evaluate, the job description details expected performance goals easily verifiable against actual employee productivity.
  • When it’s time to consider promotion, the employees’ job description confirms current abilities, while the new job description outlines additional responsibilities they will perform.
  • For disciplinary issues, the job description validates the deficiencies and outlines what is necessary for improvement.

A good job description guides employees throughout their career and helps managers keep them on track. Creating a great job description doesn’t have to be intimidating. Take the time and follow these few basic guidelines to develop them for each position in your company.

Creating Job Descriptions

A great job description describes only the job. It’s only about the work, never about the worker. You can comply with every employment law if you limit the job description to outline the work that needs to be performed and not the worker that performs it.

Create a Job Description Template

Every job description in your company, from the most entry-level to the highest executive opening should be in a consistent format that’s easy to complete:

  • Title:  Job Title
  • Status:  Full-time, part-time, contract, shift/hours
  • Reporting:  Reports to/Supervises
  • Overview:  Summary of the work (optional)
  • Duties:  Listed by frequency and importance
  • Qualifications:  Degrees, certifications, etc. required to perform the work
  • Skills:  Additional skills required to perform the work
  • Experience:  Number of years in the field required to perform the work
  • Additional Requirements:  Job-critical details or necessities, if any

Begin to fill in the blank sections by simply creating lists. Work with the hiring manager, and even the employee, to create your lists. Here are some guides for the major categories.

Duties

Job description duties list tasks performed daily, weekly, monthly, and occasionally, ranked by frequency and importance. Don’t neglect important tasks that are performed infrequently. Using a machine every day is important, but routine cleaning/maintenance, even if infrequent, may be critical for safety reasons.

Include the following two tasks at the end of every job description’s list of duties. These boilerplate duties allow you to grow and evolve positions on an as-needed basis, and emphasize company rules and policies.

  • Performs other duties as required.
  • Performs tasks and maintains standards in accordance with company policies and procedures.

Qualifications

Is there a license, degree, or certification needed to perform the work? Include the minimum qualifications that must be held, and include any optional qualifications. Example: Bachelor’s Degree required, Master’s Degree preferred.

Skills

Include any special skills needed: hardware or software proficiency, typing speed, etc. List them in order of importance. Be careful to include skills, not traits. Example: “Must have fluency in the English language” is acceptable. “No accent” could be discriminatory.

Experience

List the minimum amount of on-the-job experience required to perform the work, if any. If you are seeking an employee with the exact experience, like “5 years’ experience as a full stack developer,” be specific.

Additional Requirements

Add any additional requirements or skills that are needed to perform the work: ability to work holidays, weekends or unexpected overtime, or the ability to work independently. Include skills that may be job-critical, but don’t fit in the other categories. Remember to include the skill needed, not the personality trait.

Good job descriptions are easy to create if you remember it’s all about the work, not the worker. Take the time to craft one for each position in your company – your managers and employees will thank you.

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About Riia O'Donnell

Riia O’Donnell has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management. She has been a contributing writer for a wealth of HR, training, and small business websites for the past 7 years.
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