When should you write job descriptions? When:
- Tasks keep falling through the crack or being duplicated.
- You hear “It’s not my job” more than you like.
- You are hiring and need to explain the job to candidates.
- Hand-offs between employees make tasks more complicated than they need to be.
Before you start drafting one, think through what you expect for each position, both tasks to be done and employee qualifications. Don’t write down what the last person did, think about what you want the position to be. You can include preferred qualifications as well as required, just be sure to label them that way.
Most job descriptions will have these sections:
- Overview of position responsibilities, one or two sentences long
- Who reports to the position, who the position reports to, who they work unusually closely with
- Tasks – major groupings rather than detailed lists; this is not a training manual (“Handle AP” rather than “input payables into the computer using this software”)
- Physical requirements (e.g. lifting, environmental such as heat and cold, wearing protective gear such as ear protection or respirators)
- Practical requirements (travel, driver’s license, overtime)
- Skills, education, and training
- Characteristics (e.g. team player, attention to detail)
Don’t write a job description for a person, write it for the position. If you have to replace that person, what tasks would logically be done by that position? Often a long-term employee will have picked up additional tasks that really belong to someone else (or sometimes shed tasks that they should do), so think about coherent groupings of tasks and skills rather than the skills of the current or previous employee.
Some employees have a wide variety of tasks; if those tasks will always be grouped together, write it down as one job description; if they will logically be split up in the future or transferred to someone else, write more than one. For instance, if one person currently handles all HR duties and AR/AP and will for the foreseeable future, write a description for an office admin or something similar that includes all the tasks; if your company is growing and you will need a dedicated bookkeeper in the near future, write two difference job descriptions and specify that the employee currently does both jobs.
If you are writing a set of job descriptions, think through all the things that need to happen to keep your business running and make sure that each task is assigned to one person. If more than one position is involved with a task, specify the relationship: is it “get information from someone and then do…” or is it “work closely with someone to accomplish the task”? Who is ultimately responsible for getting it done?
Taking the time to think through who you want to do what tasks can save you a lot of time spent hiring and refereeing between employees, while ensuring that work gets done efficiently.