Writing Job Descriptions
Let’s set the scene. The weekend has arrived and you are looking forward to two days of relaxation. Pouring yourself a glass of wine, you curl up on the couch and reach for your favorite reading material – your company’s job descriptions.
Fine, let’s be real; nobody actually likes reading job descriptions. They are boring, dry and tend to be perused only by applicants and new hires. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important – or that the act of writing them doesn’t carry a fair amount of weight.
Why Job Descriptions Matter
Yes, the reading is dull. But well-written job descriptions are still an essential component to establishing expectations and protecting your company from potential liabilities. Don’t believe me?
- When onboarding new employees, the presentation of a job description sets them up for success, making the requirements of their job clear from the start.
- That same job description serves as a guideline for supervisors completing employee reviews.
- And should any bypassed applicants claim they were wrongfully discriminated against (or fired employees claim they were wrongfully terminated) the job description can be used to prove they didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the position.
There is a huge liability created by non-existent or incomplete job descriptions. So even if the idea of writing them bores you to tears, the importance of completing them for each and every position within your corporation cannot be denied.
What to Focus On
Well-written job descriptions are clear and concise. They rely more often on bullet points than walls of words, and they use numbers to define expectations rather than vague statements that could be easy to misinterpret.
Make sure you are identifying expected results. If the job requires a 20% sales increase in the first year, include that information. Don’t create unrealistic expectations or dream goals, but do outline the results that will be required of the person who lands this job.
Along those same lines, a good job description identifies both essential and non-essential job duties. Your essential job duties are those that occur on a daily basis; requirements of the job that exceptions cannot be made for. Identifying these duties that are essential to the job can help you to both make your decision, and to protect you from potential discrimination lawsuits.
Your finished job description should include the following sections:
- Summary: Keep it brief, no more than one paragraph.
- Duties and Responsibilities: This is where you break down those essential vs. non-essential functions.
- Qualifications: Education and prior work experience.
- Competencies: Skills with equipment or computer programs.
- Supervisory Responsibilities: If applicable.
- Physical Requirements: How much lifting, standing, walking and even sitting are required?
- Working Conditions: Does the job require the position holder to be outside? To travel? To work in a loud or chaotic environment?
Writing a job description isn’t an exact science, but there are a few common mistakes you should absolutely try to avoid:
- Inaccurate Titles: It might make you feel good to slap a VP in front of everyone’s title, but unless you want to pay every VP of Sales the same as you pay the company’s actual VP, keep your titles accurate.
- Supervisor Identification: Identify supervisors by title, not name. Remember, the names of supervisors will change – their titles will not.
- Exemption Status: Make sure you are properly identifying each position as exempt or non-exempt.
- Trashing Previous Versions: Always retain previous job description copies for at least three to five years. These could be pertinent to claims brought against the company as a result of issues during those years.
Get to Writing
You know what’s expected of you now, so sit down and get it done. Accurate job descriptions are a great way to convey expectations and protect your company. And the sooner you complete this task, the sooner you can enjoy that glass of wine and reading material you might actually enjoy.