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The Importance of Job Descriptions

As HR Consultants we are frequently asked by employers, “What documents are the most important for us to have for employees within our organization?” Generally, our first response is an employee handbook. An employee handbook provides information to employees on what is expected of them in the workplace from an organizational perspective. It is also then a document that management employees may use to manage employees holding both employees and management staff accountable for making sure that they are following all internal policies and procedures consistently.  An employee handbook also helps to keep an employer compliant with all federal, state, and local employment laws. So, an employee handbook is probably the most important document that any employer may create, distribute, and then implement within their organization. 

Generally, our second response outside of making sure that the organization is utilizing the appropriate forms, e.g., application for employment, the correct Form I-9 Verification of Employment, tax forms, disciplinary action form, etc. we strongly recommend that an employer have accurate and complete job descriptions. Job descriptions have many purposes, but specifically, a job description does the following:

  • Establishes hiring criteria when posting the job.
  • Aides in orienting new employees to their jobs.
  • Identifies the requirements of each job for current employees.
  • Sets standards for employee performance evaluations.
  • Establishes a basis for making reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
  • Provides documentation to occupational health providers when returning an employee to work after a workers’ compensation illness or injury.

Employers need to remember that job descriptions are not job postings. Information for a job posting may be taken from the job description, but they are not one in the same.

Job descriptions are also not written for the person who holds the job. They should accurately represent all of the essential duties and responsibilities of the job. The task of making sure that all of the essential duties and responsibilities are represented is sometimes a daunting task, but thorough documentation results in an employee truly understanding what is expected of them as part of their employment with an employer.

In order to make sure that a job description is complete and covers all of the purposes as bulleted above, it should include a section and explanation for each of the following:

  • Header to include:
    • Title of the Job
    • Department
    • Title of the Direct Supervisor
    • FLSA Exemption Status, e.g., exempt or nonexempt
    • Date, e.g., created or revised
  • Summary or Purpose of the Job
  • Essential Duties and Responsibilities
  • Supervisory Responsibilities, if applicable
  • Competencies
    • Organization-related
    • Job-related
  • Education/Experience/Certifications and Licenses – required or desired
  • Other Skills and Abilities – required or desired
  • Physical Requirements
  • Work Environment
  • Signatures – employee and direct supervisor


This section should be on the first page of the job description and should include the title of the job, the name of the department that the job is in, the title of the direct supervisor (not the name of the person), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption status, e.g., exempt from overtime laws, or nonexempt eligible for overtime in accordance with the law, and the date in which the job description was either created and/or revised. 

Summary or Purpose of the Job

This section is a one to two sentence paragraph with an overview of the essential duties and responsibilities of the job.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

The essential duties and responsibilities are a representation of all of the tasks that are required of all employees who hold the job.  Again, as stated previously it is not a list of tasks written for the employee, but a list of tasks that truly represents the job. Ideally, the essential duties and responsibilities represent the tasks in order from what is accomplished most, e.g., 100% of the time, to least amount of time. Each task should also be listed with an action word, e.g., sorts, writes, organizes, etc. If using action words like assists, make sure that it states which job title(s) that the job assists, e.g., assists the Director of Operations with writing monthly reports. This section should also include the statement – all other duties as assigned.

Supervisory Responsibilities

An example of what should be included in the supervisory section is as follows:

  • Supervises the employees who work in the Administration Department to include: the Office Manager, Executive Assistant, and the Administrative Assistant. Employee carries out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the organization’s policies and applicable laws. Responsibilities include interviewing, hiring, and training employees; planning, assigning, and directing work; scheduling and approving time worked; evaluating performance; rewarding and disciplining employees; addressing complaints and resolving problems. 


Competencies include the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that all employees in the job should have both from an organizational and job perspective. Examples include the following:

  • All employees within the organization must possess the following competencies:
    • Professionalism – Approaches others in a tactful manner; Reacts well under pressure; Treats others with respect and consideration regardless of their status or position; Accepts responsibility for own actions; Follows through on commitments.
    • Teamwork – Balances team and individual responsibilities; Exhibits objectivity and openness to others’ views and is willing to try new things; Gives and welcomes feedback from team members; Contributes to building a positive team spirit; Puts success of team above own interests; Builds morale and group commitments to goals and objectives; Supports everyone’s efforts to succeed.      

Organizational competencies represent the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that all employees within the organization must hold in order to be an employee of the organization.

  • An employee who holds this job must possess the following competencies:
    • Oral and Written Communication – Speaks clearly and persuasively in positive and negative situations; Listens and gets clarification; Responds well to questions verbally and in a written format; Writes clearly and informatively and edits work for spelling and grammar; Reads and interprets written information; Presents numerical data effectively, as required by the job.
    • Judgment – Displays willingness to make decisions; Exhibits sound and accurate judgment; supports and explains reasoning for decisions; Includes appropriate people in decision-making process; Makes timely decisions.

Job-related competencies represent the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that all employees who hold the job must have in order to be successful in the job.  They should align as closely as possible with the essential duties and responsibilities of the job.

Education/Experience/Certifications and Licenses

This section should include the minimum requirements required with regards to education, years of experience, certifications, and/or licenses required for the job. If an employer allows an employee to obtain certifications and/or licenses within a specific period of time during their employment, the timetable should be listed in this section, e.g., employee should obtain their certification as an Office365 Administrator within three-months of employment. It is also good to have a statement such as the following in order for employers to hire those employees who may have a combination of education and years of experience in order to hold the job.

  • High school diploma or general education degree (GED); or five years related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience. Previous office administrative/clerical experience is required. Previous supervisory experience is desired.

Employers may also list those educational or years of experience that they desire in this section versus what is required, e.g., Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc.

Other Skills and Abilities

This section represents those skills and abilities that may either be required or desired in order for an employee to hold the job. Some examples include the following:

  • Computer software skills required include: Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, and Access.
  • The ability to learn department specific software within a reasonable timeframe is desired.
  • The ability to utilize a broad knowledge of management principles, practices and techniques to formulate and coordinate activities and functions with the organization is required.
  • A comprehensive understanding of accounting principles and practices and report writing, while paying close attention to detail is required.
  • The ability to operate a computer, printer, copy machine, scanner, fax machine, and other office equipment is required.
  • The ability to speak, read and write in English is required. Spanish is desired.

Physical Requirements

The physical demands 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. It is important to also include a statement stating that reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential duties and responsibilities. Examples of what should be included are as follows:

  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to stand; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; reach with hands and arms; stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; talk or hear; and taste or smell. The employee is frequently required to walk; or sit. The employee is occasionally required to climb or balance. In addition, the employee is regularly required to move or lift up to 50 pounds and occasionally required to lift up to 100 pounds with the use of a cart, dolly, or other assistive device.
  • Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision (clear vision at 20 inches or less), distance vision (clear vision at 20 feet or more), color vision (ability to identify and distinguish colors), peripheral vision (ability to observe an area that can be seen up and down or to the left and right while eyes are fixed on a given point), depth perception (three-dimensional vision, ability to judge distances and spatial relationships), and the ability to adjust focus (ability to adjust the eye to bring an object into sharp focus).

Work Environment

The work environment characteristics described in this section should be representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential duties and responsibilities of the job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential duties and responsibilities. Examples of what should be included are as follows:

  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly exposed to working near mechanical parts and electrical shock when working with office equipment. The employee is also regularly exposed to outdoor weather conditions, fumes or airborne particles, toxic or caustic chemicals, and wet or humid conditions (non-weather related). The employee is occasionally exposed to extreme cold (non-weather related) and extreme heat (non-weather related). The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate to loud.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required on the job may include: gloves, rubber boots, safety vest, hazmat suit, goggles, and masks. The department will provide all PPE as required by the job.
  • The Administration Department is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and this job may require work beyond these hours and on the weekends and on holidays, as needed. The job also requires that the employe be on-call and then called-in to work, as needed. Employee will also be required to drive organization-owned vehicles. Thus, a valid driver’s license is required and employee’s must be able to be insured by the employer.


Both the employee who holds the job and the direct supervisor should sign the job description. This helps to make sure that the employee understands the expectations of the job that they hold and for the direct supervisor to understand those essential duties and responsibilities that they are going to evaluate the employee on throughout the year.

So, while employee handbooks aid both the employee and employer in communicating organizational policies and procedures as well as legal requirements for the employer, job descriptions provide an individual employee with job specific information. While some employers believe that including all of the above information in a job description may be overkill, truly more employers understand the importance of making sure that all of the above information is communicated to employees in a concise manner in order for the employee to truly understand the expectations of the job in order to be successful. The ability for the employee to be successful is ultimately the responsibility of an employer, thus making sure that expectations of the job are clear only benefits the employer in the long-run.

For additional information on how to create and implement job descriptions, please contact us at www.newfocushr.com.

Written by:     Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP






New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.