What Goes in a Job Description?

posted in: People 0

When people sit down to focus on a job description, they usually start with the tasks assigned to the position: bookkeeping, answering the phone, stocking shelves, designing products, leading classes, etc. This is the heart of a job, but it needs to be fleshed out for a complete description.

A good job description includes:

  • Overall responsibility of the position: “Responsible for running the department and supervising the techs”
  • Physical criteria
  • Who the position reports to
  • Who the position works closely with
  • Who the position supervises
  • Hiring and firing authority, if any
  • Job tasks (essential functions, customary tasks)
  • “Other tasks as assigned” or, for owners and managers, “Other tasks as needed”
  • Safety requirements
  • Skills, knowledge, and education required for the position (including any credentials legally required)
  • Environmental stressors such as extreme hot or cold, night shift, or use of personal protective equipment, if any
  • Travel requirements, if any

The level of detail of each item will depend on the purpose of the job description. For instance, a description being drafted for hiring will have much more about the skills, knowledge, and education required than one being drafted for internal use. (Ideally, there is a complete version somewhere that has all the pieces and how they fit together.) Sometimes the description will include salary ranges, if these are set for positions.

Writing descriptions for all jobs at once provides a chance to make sure that there are no overlaps or gaps between positions. Pay attention to hand-offs: “Give output to this position” leads to “Gather information from that position and do something with it.” And to reciprocity: If A has “Works closely with B” , then B’s description needs a reciprocating item about working closely with A.

A job description with all the above items gives a good picture of what the job entails and what is important in someone who fills the position. This clarity can preclude all kinds of arguments, particularly regarding turf battles and task exclusions (“It’s not my job!”), and gives a way to hold employees accountable. In the long run, it makes running a company a lot easier.