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How to Write a Good Job Description for Your Small Business

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Before you start hiring for any position, it is important to develop a good job description.  It should align with your company’s vision. It can also be the foundation of your hiring and recruiting strategies. Your job descriptions should become the backbone of every position. Plus, it should provide enough details about the position for applicants to determine if they are the right fit. 

Why Are Job Descriptions Important?

According to Indeed:

•    62% of employers receive too many applications from unqualified applicants

•    65% of employers have had to revise a job description after it was posted because candidates weren’t qualified

If your job descriptions do not have detailed information about the job, then you may receive resumes from many unqualified candidates. 

It is important to:

Set Clear Expectations

Job descriptions let applicants and current employees know exactly what knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are needed. 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. Your descriptions should be clear and concise. This allows applicants and employees to have a complete understanding of the job.

Furthermore, consider writing your job descriptions with more inclusive wording.  Especially if you are not receiving a diverse number of applicants.

Show Your Company Culture

The job description gives a brief snapshot of expectations and your company culture. Your header for the job description could also give a brief overview of the company. It should also describe the skills you look for in an employee and team member. 

Include any information about your company that you think an applicant should know. By showing your company culture, you may attract employees with the same values. However, don’t make it too long as applicants may not read it. 

Develop Good Interviewing Questions

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. What makes for a great employee? You are looking for someone who has the right skill set. You also want a good attitude and manner that fits with your business. 

Support Performance Reviews, Training, and Development

When conducting a performance review with your team, measure their performance against the duties listed on their job description. If someone is not performing to the standards of the job, then it can also be a tool to use for training and development. 

When you write a good job description it can help you understand exactly what you need. Analyzing the job closely. Conducting research will help you find the best people for the job.

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How to Write a Job Description

There are several steps when writing a job description, including the following:

Conduct a Job Analysis 

If you have current staff in the role, you should ask them and their manager to complete a detailed job analysis. They should list their job duties, requirements, and qualifications. Then interview them or the supervisor to clarify or get more detail if needed. 

Also, for each task, 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. 

Conduct a job analysis on a position every 2-3 years or if the position has changed. This helps to write a good job description as well as provide professional development opportunities. 

Conducting a job analysis for each position can also help you decide on pay rates as well. 

Write a Clear Job Title and Summary

Think about what you want the title to say. 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.

List the Essential Functions

When listing the essential functions from the completed job analysis form, use action verbs.  Write from the job duties the employees or the supervisor gave. 

Also, you can get a list of action verb examples to help you start each sentence (e.g., oversee, manage, facilitate, etc.). List them in order with the larger tasks being at the top. Look for ideas online to help you find wording if this is a new job. 

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.

List the Education and Experience Qualifications

After listing the essential functions, 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. Write what is required and what is preferred. 

For example, you may want to hire a bookkeeper for your small business. You prefer someone with a degree. 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 of 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. You can run into problems if you hire someone who doesn’t meet your requirements over someone who does meet them. 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 qualifications. 

List any Specialized Knowledge

This is where you would put the software knowledge needed. Also, if they need experience using any specialized tools for their trade. Again, 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

List the Competencies

These are usually soft skills or abilities which are needed to do the job. They are necessary to find exactly what you want. Furthermore, they set clear expectations for someone looking at the job advertisement. They will also help you develop behavioral interview questions if you prefer. 

For example, you could say:

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)

Detail 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

Make it Readable

Write your job descriptions to make readability easier. If you have no breaks or if it is too wordy, applicants may miss key components. Also, use bullet points and good formatting to make it clear. 

When applicants are looking for a job, they do a quick scan of job descriptions. They scan to see which ones they want to read further to apply. Double-check your grammar and spelling. Make your job descriptions easy to read and mobile-friendly.  

Do you expect your business to keep growing? If you want to attract goal-oriented job applicants, include that information. For example, if you are looking for salespeople you could say, “We project company growth by 30% this year and are looking for people to develop new accounts.” 

Final Thoughts

The job description is the backbone of that position.  Furthermore, everything else should be based upon that description. Every employee should have a copy of their job description. They should also sign and return a copy to you indicating they understand the duties of the position. Update your job descriptions every 2-3 years or if the duties change. It is vital to have a job description for every position as they are important to your brand. They define your expectations of what you want from your new hires or existing employees.

If you are receiving applicants who don’t meet the qualifications of the job, include a statement that says candidates should only apply if they meet the requirements. If you still receive a lot of unqualified applicants, review your job description. Ensure it is clear and describes the job well. Consider getting feedback from other staff members as well. 


Author: Kimberley Kay Travis

Kim Travis has over 20 years of experience in business, human resource management, and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, small business growth, leadership development, workplace safety and health programs, and writing business content.