How To Write A Good Job Description

A job description communicates your expectations to your employee, evaluates their professional performance, and sets the tone for their employment.  Failure to provide a job description leads to miscommunication and disorganization so it should be one of the first things you have your new employees sign.

How To Write A Job Description

Step One: Start With The Requirements

The first step is to make sure that you understand the job requirements that the employee will be performing.  If this position requires certain certificates or skills, make a list of all of these items.  Be sure to include them in the description.  Also, make a list of the preferred job qualifications. These additional qualifications separate the “meets basic expectations” candidates from the “highly desirable” candidates.

Step Two: Avoid Exaggeration

Exaggerating job description requirements puts you at risk and simultaneously loses you candidates.  You want to have a balance when you provide job descriptions. After all, you both advertise with these and have your selected candidate sign them.   So, you shouldn’t hire a candidate who does not meet your requirements.  Thus, making sure you don’t exaggerate your job description means that you can bring in good candidates.

Many companies do not follow this trend and it can be costly.  First, exaggerating job descriptions scares away many candidates.  So, your pool may be small.  Second, if you hire someone that does not meet your advertised “requirements” and other candidates get word of your decision, it hurts your reputation. Additionally, if candidates suspect you hired the under-qualified candidate for discriminatory reasons, you may have a lawsuit on your hands.  Even if you easily win such a dispute, it is still an expense that you can avoid.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that your rejected candidates will not know who you decided to hire.  In the age of social media, a 30-second linked-in search can quickly reveal your choices.

To avoid this, stick to your requirements and make them absolute.  Then, add your preferences to attract higher-end candidates.  This frees you up to pick and choose ideal traits of candidates and does not prevent qualified people from applying. It also gives you the freedom to select a less “qualified” candidate when our requirements are met, but you happen to have a trait in that candidate that is especially appealing.

Step Three: Include “Position Purpose” Statement

A position purpose statement communicates to the employee the “Why” behind what they do.  Employers often include a generic statement about the role of the job. However, a purpose statement gives value to the position. It allows the employee to understand the true importance of their role. It grows their knowledge and increases the likelihood that they will believe that their job makes a difference. Increasing this, in turn, increases the likelihood that your employee will be motivated to stay with your company.

Step Four: Include Physical Risks and Job Hazards

Many individuals will have a reason that they cannot perform a particular job or may need to request reasonable accommodation.  Being upfront about the risks associated with the job allows candidates to understand what you require.  It also enables them to be selective about the risks they are willing to take for their employment.

For example, you may have a construction position that requires exposure to elements and heavy physical labor.  You may have a lab position that requires exposure to toxic chemicals.  These risks should be communicated so that you do not fail to alert your candidates and employees fully. Many employees will be okay with these risks. However, failure to disclose these risks can be lawsuit risk. It can also be a reason that you end up having high turnover rates.  You may get candidates who are not aware of the risks and leave quickly once they discover the true nature of the job.

Step Five: Signature Lines, Dates, and Official Sign-Offs

This step is standard, but important.  As companies grow, it is common for documents to change an evolve. Often, these new documents will reflect important changes, but then managers will still use the old document.  The official job description should always have a sign-off from a person in leadership. This may be the HR department or the owner if the company is too small to have an HR person on staff.

Additionally, the job description should include the version number and the date that it was created.  Whenever a new job description is signed and put into the employee’s file, someone should do a quick check to make sure that it is a recent and accurate job description.