- Writing an Effective Job Description
The job description should accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities of the position. When well-written, it produces a realistic picture of a job and answers the question, "What does the person in this role actually do?"
A job description not only describes the position’s responsibilities, it sets the foundation for recruiting, developing and retaining talent and also sets the stage for optimum work performance by clarifying responsibilities, expected results, and evaluation of performance. It is also an important component to maintaining an equitable compensation system and ensuring legal compliance. The document should be revisited and updated in line with the annual performance evaluation cycle.
The job description contains sufficient information to describe major responsibilities and essential functions as they exist today. They provide the information necessary to classify the position, not the person; thus they are “incumbent neutral” and not based on any specific quality of an incumbent (such as knowledge, skills, abilities, performance, dedication, loyalty, years of service, or degree). The document should not include every detail of how and what work is performed so that it remains useful even when minor changes occur. Job descriptions can be written as a joint effort between supervisor and employee, but the supervisor must approve.
A job description contains the following components: Job Classification Title; Working Title, Job Purpose, Essential Functions/Job Duties, Minimum Qualifications, Preferred Qualifications and Physical Demands.
- Job Classification Title
The Job Classification Title is a title used by Human Resources to group jobs into predetermined classifications, especially within the Clerical and Support classification.
- Working Title
The Working Title is a brief description (1-4 words) of the job which reflects the content, purpose, and scope of the job and is consistent with other job titles of similar roles.
Examples include: Child Care Specialist; Director of Web & Digital Media; Coordinator for Intramural Sports; Director of Communications; AC/Heating Mechanic; Carpenter; Police Dispatcher.
- Job Purpose
The Job Purpose provides a high level overview of the role, level and scope of responsibility consisting of three or four sentences providing a basic understanding, the “bird’s eye view” of the role. A concise summary of “why the job exists?”
- Essential Functions/Job Duties
This section contains a description of the duties and responsibilities assigned to the job. They describe the fundamental nature of the job which occupies a large proportion of the employee’s time.
Some items to consider:
- Include explanatory phrases which tell why, how, where or how often the tasks and duties are performed.
- Focus on outcome of tasks.
- Reference areas of decision-making, where one will influence or impact.
- Identify areas of direct or indirect accountabilities.
- Describe the level and type of budgetary or financial responsibilities.
- Describe the nature of contact, the people contacted, and the extent to which the incumbent will interact with others within and outside of the University.
- List job duties that reflect the position requirements and ensure they are not based upon the capabilities of any one individual.
If applicable, also address the type of supervisory responsibility that is expected from this role. Detail the extent of the job’s authority to hire, discipline, terminate, assign work, train, and evaluate performance of subordinates. This can be either a separate job duty or noted in other job duties as appropriate.
The following lists various levels of supervision:
- Provide direction to other individuals.
- Supervises, hires, trains, provides work direction, and problem-solving assistance for student workers. Also oversees the daily operations of other staff.
- Supervises staff, including hiring, scheduling and assigning work, reviewing performance, and recommends salary increases, promotions, transfers, demotions, or terminations.
- Manages others through subordinate supervisors.
The job duties should be listed in accordance to their importance and/or frequency which they are performed. They are typically presented in a bulleted or numbered format, consisting of approximately 4-6 separate duties, with each one assigned a “percent of time” (adding to 100%) which reflects the estimated time an employee will spend over a year. Duties that require less than 5 percent of time should be combined with other duties or removed from the job description.
- Minimum Qualifications
This section lists the required level of job knowledge (such as education, experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities) required to do the job. This section focuses on the “minimum” level of qualifications for an individual to be productive and successful in this role.
NOTE: For Clerical & Support classified positions, the minimum qualifications are predetermined by Human Resources. For Administrative classified positions, the minimum qualifications will be reviewed by Human Resources for appropriateness and consistency. Applicants that do not satisfy all listed minimum qualifications cannot be considered for the position.
Identify the educational qualifications that an employee must possess to satisfactorily perform the job duties and responsibilities. State the educational qualifications in terms of areas of study and/or type of degree or concentration that would provide the knowledge required for entry into this position.
Identify the minimum number of full-time experience required in terms of years and the type of work experience that an employee needs to be qualified for the job.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
In stating required knowledge, include the level or depth of knowledge required for entry into the position. The following definitions should be helpful:
- Working knowledge: sufficient familiarity with the subject to know basic principles and terminology and to understand and solve simple problems.
- General knowledge: sufficient knowledge of a field to perform most work in normal situations. The work calls for comprehension of standard situations and includes knowledge of most of the significant aspects of the subject.
- Thorough knowledge: advanced knowledge of the subject matter. The work calls for sufficient comprehension of the subject area to solve unusual as well as common work problems, to be able to advise on technical matters, and to serve as a resource on the subject for others in the organization.
- Comprehensive knowledge: requires complete mastery and understanding of the subject. This term should be used sparingly and only for unusually exacting or responsible positions required to originate hypotheses, concepts, or approaches.
List specific skills and/or abilities required for incumbent to be successful in this role; including designation of any required licenses or certifications. Some considerations are: analytical, budget exposure, communication internal or external, computer, creative thinking, customer service, decision-making, diversity, logical thinking, multi-tasking, negotiation, problem solving, project management, supervision, teamwork, etc.
- Preferred Qualifications
An expanded listing of the Required Qualifications which can be used to further determine a person’s ability to be productive and successful in this job. These Preferred Qualifications are “nice to have” but are not essential to carrying out the day to day functions of the job. If included, the Preferred Qualifications can focus on any or all of the following: education, experience, knowledge, skills and abilities.
- Physical Demands/Working Conditions
Identify the physical demands and working conditions that relate directly to the essential job duties and responsibilities to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Describe the type, intensity (how much), frequency (how often), and duration (how long) of physical or mental capabilities required. Consider the following:
- Environment, such as office or outdoors.
- Exposures encountered, such as hazardous materials, loud noise, or extreme heat/cold.
- Essential physical requirements, such as climbing, standing, stooping, or typing.
- Physical effort/lifting, such as sedentary - up to 10 pounds; light - up to 20 pounds; medium - up to 50 pounds; heavy - over 50 pounds.
- Indicate if required to work weekends, nights, or be on-call as a regular part of the job.
- Travel requirements.
- Emergency staff designations.
- Hints for Writing Job Descriptions
Job descriptions should be prepared in a manner that all components are accurately stated to create a clear understanding of the role.
Here are some hints to assist you in the process:
- Write in a concise, direct style.
- Always use the simpler word rather than the complicated one; keeping sentence structure as simple as possible. It will cut verbiage, shorten your description, and enhance understanding.
- Use descriptive action verbs in the present tense (for example: writes, operates, or performs).
- Avoid abbreviations and acronyms. Other people reading the position description may not be familiar with them. If abbreviations and acronyms are necessary, define them the first time you use them.
- Don't use ambiguous terms. If you use terms such as “assists, handles, and performs,” describe “how” the position assists, handles, or performs. Using the word “by” and then detailing the processes, tasks, or operations performed will usually clarify the ambiguity.
- Avoid gender-specific language, such as, “He manages,” “She is responsible for.”
- Focus on essential activities; omit trivial duties and occasional tasks.
- Avoid references to other employee’s name, instead refer to job title or department.
- Only include current assigned duties. Do not include potential future duties or eliminate any duties that may no longer be required in the future.