What Should Be in a Job Description?

Expectations—organizations and employees have them. The expectations of both sides align when companies have specific job descriptions for the various positions that make up the organization.

A good job description can save our recruiters plenty of time when finding the best candidate for a certain position. Although crafting it is mainly the task of our HR team, the value of job descriptions go beyond the hiring process.

Job Descriptions Are Living, Breathing Documents

As management development consultant Susan Heathfield puts it, job descriptions become “living, breathing documents” that serve as plans for our workers if they are revised periodically as the workers’ roles evolve.

job descriptions put the management and its team on the same page in terms of vision and direction. They help teams discover the “big picture” and the part they have to play to help the company reach its goals.

Later on, job descriptions become the basis for performance feedback and facilitate manager evaluation. They can also be an important tool in the career development process of an employee.

For these documents to live up to their intended role, our HR team must understand the actual and current needs of the position to ensure that the applicant they hire matches what a certain department requires.

The Basic Parts of a Job Description

A job description would normally have the following parts: the job title, a summary or general statement of duties, functions of the position, skills and competencies, reporting and organizational structure, evaluation criteria, compensation, and work environment.

1. Job Title and Duties

The job title must be generally self-explanatory or generic-sounding enough so that it can be compared to similar job posts in the industry.

However, it must be specific enough to reflect the nature of the position and future duties. For instance, it is better to say “communications and events coordinator” or “editorial communications coordinator” instead of just “communications coordinator.”

The job description must provide details of the tasks of the successful applicant or employee currently holding the position. The list should be as short as possible, about two to three sentences, to avoid sounding like an operations manual.

Describe tasks with action words. If needed, provide the percentage of each task in light of the overall set of responsibilities (25% calls, 25% data entry, etc.).

Companies must also revise the vague and controversial disclaimer: “Perform all other duties assigned by supervisor or manager.”

Dr. Phuong Le Callaway, who holds a PhD in human resource management, suggests that managers must be more explicit about these “other duties” by answering the following questions:

  • What exactly are these “other duties”?
  • Are these duties essential and infrequent but in line with the worker’s job qualifications and classification?
  • Are the tasks essential and frequent (25% or more of the employee’s time) and are in line with the worker’s job qualifications and classification?

2. Skills and Competencies

Skills refer to abilities acquired through previous employment, educational attainment, or training and certifications in their field of expertise.

When necessary, we must specify the specific background a qualified candidate must have, including required skills transferable from other lines of work, and desired years of experience.

Meanwhile, competencies refer to certain innate characteristics such as communication, flexibility, and leadership or character traits such as patience, sense of humor, honesty, or compassion.

3. Compensation

The job description can mention the salary range for the position instead of assigning a particular amount. HR can explain salary grades if your company follows one.

4. Work Environment

The work environment describes the company’s physical location and its surroundings.

Job descriptions must also feature any physical demands of the job, such as prolonged standing, travel, exposure to extreme temperature, and heavy lifting.

Likewise, the it should include details pertaining to working hours or shifts, as well as the likelihood of rendering overtime work or working during holidays and weekends.

5. Evaluation Criteria

Although job descriptions. do not typically name specific goals, they should communicate the performance targets that we expect our staff to achieve so they will understand what the management deems important to achieve success in the business.

The job descriptions can state when appraisals happen, whether weekly, monthly, or annually.

How to Develop an Effective Job Description

Our HR team does not hold the sole responsibility in developing the job description for a position. To ensure that HR understands exactly what kind of candidate the company is looking for, the manager to whom the successful candidate will report must be on top of the job descriptions creation.

Employees performing similar jobs can contribute, especially if the position is new or is being opened to ease the current workload of existing staff.

Doing job analysis will be necessary to make a comprehensive job design. The analysis will involve enumerating the functions of existing employees and the important outcomes needed from the position.

For new positions, your job design team may need to conduct online or offline research and check sample job descriptions of similar jobs in the industry.

Job Description vs. Job Posting

In hiring people to fill a certain position, we cannot attract top talent by simply pasting the job description onto our want ads. We must regard the job descriptions as an internal reference. For an external audience, what we need is a job posting.

Compared to the job descriptions, the job posting must serve as a marketing tool that will draw applicants to work for you. A job posting will still feature the duties, skills, and competencies outlined in the JD. However, the information should be presented in a way that job seekers will want to join your company.

Although a job posting may sound less technical than a job description, we must remain straightforward and retain traditional job titles so that they will easily appear in the search engines of websites that job seekers use.

HR specialists still recommend using terms such as digital marketer, data engineer, or social media specialist instead of more whimsical titles like “data guru,” “marketing ninja,” or “social media maven.”

Besides clarifying the requirements of the position, your job posting must be able to answer the job seeker’s question: “What’s in it for me?”

Inform them about the company’s plans for the future, as well as the benefits you are prepared to provide. Do you offer flexible hours? Telecommuting? Child care assistance? Tuition reimbursement? Retirement contribution? Such unique perks give job seekers a reason to apply to your company.

The Future of Job Descriptions

Amid the advantages that job descriptions are known to bring into the recruitment process and even employee retention, a new school of thought argues that job descriptions have become obsolete.

Dr. Tim Baker, director of Winners-at-Work Pty Ltd and an international consultant who wrote The End of the Job Description: Shifting from a Job-Focus to a Performance-Focus, says that a job description focuses on tasks and functions only, leaving out “non-job performance.”

According to Baker, the term role description features the job role, plus four non-job roles: positive mental attitude and enthusiasm, team participation, skill development, as well as innovation and continuous improvement.

The shift from job descriptions to role descriptions has yet to be seen. Whatever the outcome will be, one thing is for sure: putting expectations into writing will help us communicate and work better with our staff as we reach business goals together.