A good job description is important for every business owner whether you have a small or large business. Job descriptions should align with your company’s vision and can be the foundation of your hiring and recruiting strategies.
Why Are They Important?
- They set clear expectations– Job descriptions let applicants and your current employees know exactly what knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) you want and need in that position. If you hire candidates who don’t understand the expectations before they start, they may not be able to perform at the level you need them to. You should make sure your descriptions are clear and concise to ensure potential applicants and employees have a complete understanding of those expectations.
- They show your company culture– The job description gives a brief snapshot of expectations and your company culture. Your header for the webpage which introduces the job description for advertisements could also give a brief overview of the company and the characteristics you seek in an employee and team member.
- They make interviewing easier– Interview questions should be based on your job descriptions. If you want someone to be able to do a specific task, then your job description should reflect this.
- They help with performance management– When conducting a performance review with your employee make sure you are measuring their performance against the duties listed on their job description. If your employee is not performing to the standards of the job description, then it can also be a tool to use for training or disciplinary action.
When you write a good job description it can help you understand exactly what you need and what you are looking for. By analyzing the job closely and doing research it will help you find the best people for the job.
How to Write a Job Description
There are several steps when writing a job description, including the following:
1. Conduct a job analysis
If you have current employees in the role, you should ask them and their supervisor to fill out a detailed job analysis form or ask them to list their job duties, requirements, and qualifications on a spreadsheet. Then you should interview them or the supervisor to clarify or get more detail if needed. If you are still not getting the information you need or understand what they are doing, try conducting a desk audit and watch them complete a specific task to understand. Sometimes, they will either not write enough or they will write too much so it is important to talk to them to understand their essential job duties. Also, for each task ensure you get the percentage of time they spend on those tasks. Include examples on the job analysis form so the employee and supervisor will know how to write their job functions.
2. Write a Clear Job Title and Summary
Think about what you really want the title to say and make sure you accurately describe the job in one or two sentences in the summary. Also, look at your job title. Will it attract the type of applicants you want? Is it professional? Ensure your summary is accurate, but short. It should be a summary of the essential functions. For example, an accountant summary could be:
The purpose of this position is to provide financial information to management by researching and analyzing accounting data.
3. List the Essential Functions
When listing the essential functions from the completed job analysis form, use action verbs and write them from the job duties the employees or the supervisor gave. You can get a list of action verb examples online to help you start each sentence (e.g., oversee, manage, facilitate, etc.). You should list in order by how much percentage they placed on the job analysis form with the larger tasks being at the top. If you don’t know exactly everything you need because this is a new position, look for ideas online to help you find wording. For example, for a landscaper:
Mow lawn using a riding lawnmower; ensure correct height specifications are used for each customer requirement
Plant and prune bushes, shrubs, trees
Apply fertilizer to needed areas to promote plant growth
Try to stay under 10 – 12 duties and you may want to include “Other duties as assigned” to cover some small tasks and anything added to the position.
4. List the Education and Experience Qualifications
After listing the essential functions, you should start a new category for qualifications. This is where you list the education and years of experience needed. Also, include any certifications in this area as well. You should also put what is required and what is preferred. For example, let’s say you want to hire a bookkeeper for your small business. You prefer someone with an accounting degree, but you also know that you wouldn’t mind someone with ten years of experience and no education so you could list it like this:
Bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field preferred
Minimum ten years’ experience in bookkeeping or accounting required
It is important you hire for the requirements as reflected in the job description so it doesn’t look like you made an exception to a requirement. You can run into problems if you hire an applicant who doesn’t meet your requirements listed over someone who does meet your requirements, especially if the other person is in a protected class. You don’t want to discriminate or look like you are discriminating. Any applicant you hire should meet your required qualifications.
5. List any Specialized Knowledge
This is where you would put software knowledge needed or if they need experience using any specialized tools for their trade. Again, when writing a job description you may want to list what is preferred or required. For example:
Intermediate Microsoft Office skills required
Familiarity with general ledger accounting software preferred
Knowledge and understanding of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) preferred
6. List the Competencies
These are usually soft skills or abilities such as communication which are needed to do the job. They are necessary to find exactly what you want and they set clear expectations for someone looking at the job advertisement. They will also help you develop behavioral interview For example, if you need someone with excellent communication and organizational skills, you could use:
Ability to clearly and concisely communicate with all levels of the organization and customers
Strong organizational skills with attention to detail
Excellent analytical and critical thinking skills (this one is good for a financial or management position)
7. List the Physical Requirements and Working Conditions
This is important especially if the position is going to require someone to work with chemicals or do any type of physical labor like lifting or bending. This helps the applicant know what is physically involved. For example:
Ability to lift greater than twenty pounds
Exposure to inclement weather
Ability to bend, stoop, twist, crawl
The job description is the backbone of that position because everything else should be based upon that description. Once a new employee starts their new position or a new job description is generated from changes, you should make sure the employee has a copy of the job description and that they sign and return to you indicating they understand the duties of the position. You should try to update your job descriptions every 2-3 years or if the duties change. It is important to have a job description for every position as they are important to your small business brand and they define your expectations of what you want from your new hires or existing employees.
Author: Kimberley Kay Travis
Kim Travis, co-owner of Travis and Adams Consulting Group, has over 20 years’ experience in human resources and leadership roles.
She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, leadership development, manufacturing safety programs, and writing business articles and blogs.