What should be in a job description? That is something that employers ask every day. Should they include a brief summary of the job? Should they include the essential duties and responsibilities of the job? Should they include required knowledge, skills and abilities? Should they include required education and experience? Should they include the physical requirements and work environment? The answer to all of these questions is “yes.” A well written job description includes all of the above plus additional information. This article will help you to understand the important components, so that your company will be on their way to having well written job descriptions.
Heading Information – The heading information should include the title of the job, department, title of the position that the job reports to, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption status and date written or revised. While there is additional information that may be included in the heading these items are the most important.
Job Summary – The summary should include a very brief overview of the essential duties and responsibilities of the job. Ideally, it should not consist of more than one to three sentences.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities – The essential duties and responsibilities of the job are represented in this section. Listing the essential duties and responsibilities in percentage order of time spent on each task is a great way to get started. Each essential duty and responsibility should start with an action word, e.g. creates, implements, develops, coordinates, etc. Try and stay away from the word assists, as it is generally not descriptive enough to explain what the action actually entails. Don’t forget to include all other duties as assigned, so that if you accidentally forget an essential duty it is covered with these words.
Supervisory Responsibilities – If the job has supervisory or management responsibilities it should be listed in this section and not in the essential duties and responsibilities section. Each supervisory responsibility should be included here to include: interviewing; hiring; training; planning, assigning and directing work; scheduling and approving time worked; appraising performance; rewarding and disciplining; and addressing complaints and resolving problems. It is not necessary to list the number of employees or job titles of jobs supervised, however, it is strongly suggested that the name of the department(s) where the employees are assigned be included.
Competencies – Competencies are also sometimes referred to as knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform the job. Most companies select three to four competencies that all employees who work within the company should possess, e.g. teamwork, customer service, organizational support and written/oral communication skills. They also select three to four competencies that incumbents in each job should possess, e.g. leadership skills, strategic thinking, cost consciousness, analytical or technical skills, initiative, motivation, quality management, adaptability, dependability, etc. It is strongly recommended that each competency have a description of what is expected so that individuals in the job completely understand what knowledge, skills, and abilities that they need to possess in order to be successful.
Education and/or Experience – This section should indicate the lowest level that the company requires a candidate to have with regards to both education and experience related to the job. In most companies, the lowest level of education is a high school diploma or general education degree (GED). In other companies it may be a bachelor’s degree (B.S. /B.A.). Regardless, the educational requirements should be clearly defined. The number of years of experience desired and/or required should be included here too. It is also okay to state that an equivalent combination of education and experience is required in lieu of the stated educational and experience requirements. This allows an employer to hire a candidate who may not have the exact education and experience requirements, but may have comparable education or experience independent of the original requirements. If the position requires supervisory experience, make sure to include the number of years required in this section as well. Any specific requirements with regards to experience should be included here too, e.g. operations, strategic planning, CNC machining, compliance, etc. Keep in mind that this is a good place to include specific requirements related to education and experience.
Certificates, Licenses and Registrations – Include any required and/or desired specific certifications, licenses and registrations needed for the position. An example would be to include a valid state driver’s license for positions that require driving. Remember that even if an employer sends an employee out on an errand one time per year with either a company car or their own automobile, that a valid driver’s license would be required. More obvious registrations would include a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, a certified financial planner, etc.
Other Skills and Abilities – This section is a catch all for additional knowledge, skills and abilities that may not have been included in the other sections of the job descriptions. Standard lines include: Candidates must have the ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with board members, management-level employees, staff employees and customers. –OR- Candidates must have the ability to adapt and conform to shifting priorities and demands and execute accordingly. This section provides freedom for listing those specific knowledge, skills and abilities needed for the job, not listed elsewhere in the job description.
Other Qualifications – This section includes other qualifications required to include; computer software skills, language abilities (either written or spoken), mathematical skills, reasoning skills, office machinery skills, amount of travel, etc. needed to be successful in the job.
Physical Demands – The physical requirements described in this section are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential duties and responsibilities of the job. Please remember to include in this section that reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential duties and responsibilities. Physical activities, e.g. standing, walking, sitting, climbing, talking, hearing, etc. and the approximate percentage of time should be included for each position. In addition, the weight to be lifted or exerted should include how much and how often. Any special vision requirements for the position should also be included. As most employers do not have the expertise in house to correctly evaluate the physical demands needed for a job, it is strongly recommended that you engage with a human resources, ergonomics or work simulation professional to correctly assess the physical requirements needed for each job.
Work Environment – This section represents the environmental conditions that an employee is exposed to while conducting the essential duties and responsibilities of the job. Examples include: outdoor weather conditions, fumes or airborne particles, risk of electrical shock, work with explosives, toxic or caustic chemicals, risk of radiation, etc. In addition, it is critical to list how much noise is typical for the work environment, e.g. very quiet, quiet, moderate, loud, or very loud noise conditions. The hours of operation that the employee is expected to be on the job should be included here as well.
While these are the important sections that should be included in every job description there are others that some employers include.
Mission/Vision/Core Values – Some include their company’s mission, vision and /or core values within the job description. If you select to do this it is recommended that you include it after the heading section and before the job summary. Including this information holds every employee accountable for adhering to your company’s mission, vision or core values while performing the essential duties and responsibilities of their job.
Signature Section – Some companies require that each employee and their immediate manager and/or supervisor sign the job description. This is a great idea as there are no misunderstandings as to what the expectations are for the job by either party. A fully executed copy is then given to the employee with a copy placed in their employee file.
Whether your company’s job descriptions include the above information or not, remember that they should be written with the job in mind and not around a specific employee’s skill set. Keep in mind that if something happens to that employee and they don’t return to the job that your company needs to have a well documented job description in place in order to keep the operations running smoothly.
Written By: Kristen Shingleton, M.B.A., CCP
President, New Focus HR LLC