Job Description

What Is Job Description?

A job description is a document that identifies, defines and describes a job in terms of its duties, responsibilities, working conditions, and organizational and operational interrelationships.

Since there is no standard format for job descriptions, they tend to vary in appearance and content from one organization to another.

However, most job descriptions will contain at least three parts: job title, job identification section, and job duties section. If the job specifications are not prepared as a separate document, they are usually stated in the concluding section of the job description.

In simple words, a job description emphasizes job requirements. Exhibit X shows specimen of a job description for a HR employment assistant.

This specimen job description includes both job duties and job specifications and should satisfy most of the job information needs of managers who must recruit, interview, and orient a new employee.

Exhibit X: Job Description for an Employment Assistant
JOB TITLE: Employment Assistant
Job Identification
    Division:                         Southern Area
    Department:                Human Resources Management
    Job Analyst:                  Virginia Sasaki
    Date Analyzed:            12/3/08
    Wage Category:          Exempt
    Report to:                      HR Manager
    Job Code:                      11-17
    Date Verified:               12/17/08
Brief Listing of Major Job Duties
    Performs professional human resources work in the areas of employee recruitment and selection, testing, orientation, transfers, and maintenance of employee human resources files. May handle special assignments and projects in EEO/Affirmative Action, employee grievances, training, or classification and compensation. Works under general supervision. Incumbent exercises initiative and independent judgment in the performance of assigned tasks.
Essential Functions and Responsibilities
  • Prepares recruitment literature and job advertisements for applicant placement.
  • Schedules and conducts personal interviews to determine applicant suitability for employment. Includes reviewing mailed applications and resumes for qualified personnel.
  • Supervises administration of testing program. Responsible for developing or improving testing instruments and procedures.
  • Presents orientation program to all new employees. Reviews and develops all materials and procedures for orientation program.
  • Coordinates division job posting and transform program. Establishes job posting procedures. Responsible for reviewing transfer applications, arranging transfer interviews, and determining effective transfer dates.
  • Maintains a daily working relationship with division managers on human resources matters, including recruitment concerns, retention or release of probationary employees, and discipline or discharge of permanent employees.
  • Distributes new or revised human resources policies and procedures to all employees and managers through bulletins, meetings, memorandum, and/or personal contact.
  • Performs related duties as assigned by the human resources manager.
Job Specifications and Requirements
  • Four-year college or university degree with major course work in human resources management, business administration, or industrial psychology; OR a combination of experience, education, and training equivalent to a four-year college degree in human resources management.
  • Considerable knowledge of principles of employee selection and assignment of personnel.
  • Ability to express ideas clearly in both written and oral communication.
  • Ability to independently plan and organize one’s own activities.
  • Knowledge of human resources computer applications desirable.

Parts or Sections of a Job Description

Job Title

Selection of a job title is important for several reasons. First, the job title is of psychological importance, providing status to the employee. For instance, “sanitation engineer” is a more appealing title than “garbage collector.”

Second, if possible, the title should provide some indication of what the duties of the job entail. Titles such as meat inspector, electronics assembler, salesperson, and engineer obviously hint at the nature of the duties of these jobs. The job title also should indicate the relative level occupied by its holder in the organizational hierarchy. For example, the title junior engineer implies that this job occupies a lower level than that of senior engineer.

Job Identification Section

The job identification section of a job description usually follows the job title. It includes such items as the departmental location of the job, the person to whom the jobholder reports, and the date the job description was last revised.

Sometimes the job identification section also contains a payroll or code number, the number of employees performing the job, the number of employees in the department where the job is located, and the O*NET Opens in new window code number. “Statement of the Job” usually appears at the bottom of this section and distinguishes the job from other jobs—something the job title may fail to do.

Job Duties, or Essential Functions, Section

Statements covering job duties are typically arranged in order of importance. These statements should indicate the weight, or value, of each duty. Usually, but not always, the weight of a duty can be gauged by the percentage of time devoted to it.

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The statements should stress the responsibilities all the duties entail and the results they are to accomplish. It is also general practice to indicate the tools and equipment used by the employee in performing the job. Remember, the job duties section must comply with law by listing only the essential functions of the job to be performed (see Job Analysis and Essential Job Functions).

Job Specifications Section

As stated earlier, the personal qualifications an individual must possess in order to perform the duties and responsibilities contained in a job description are compiled in the job specification. Typically the job specification covers two areas:

Uses of Job Description

Job description can be used in the following areas of human resource management:

  • Job grading and job classification
  • Providing base for deciding skills and qualifications required of the job holder. This can be used to prepare recruitment advertisement and interviewing an applicant for the job.
  • Developing career plan. Job description helps in assessing whether the job will efficiently utilize the abilities and provide scope for the aspirations of the prospective job holder.
  • Training and development.
  • Setting performance standards and appraisal.
  • Determining a fair rate of pay for the job.
  • Developing work procedures and processes.
  • Taking preventing measures to minimize the impact of hazardous working conditions.
  • Employee counseling and vocational guidance.
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Limitation of Job Description

Despite its great uses, job descriptions suffer from the following limitations:

  • They are mainly suited for jobs where the work is largely repetitive, and therefore, performed by low-grade employees.
  • Jobs are likely to be constantly changing as turbulent business environments impact upon them, so a job description is constantly out of date or limiting in nature.
  • Job descriptions stifle flexibility and encourage demarcation disputes, where people adhere strictly to the contents of the job description, rather than responding flexibly to task or organizational requirements.

Writing Clear and Specific Job Descriptions

When writing a job description, it is essential to use statements that are terse, direct, and simply worded. Unnecessary words or phrases should be eliminated. Typically, the sentences that describe job duties begin with a present-tense verb, with the implied subject of the sentence being the employee performing the job.

The term “occasionally” is used to describe duties that are performed once in awhile. The term “may” is used in connection with duties performed only by some workers on the job.

Even when set forth in writing, job descriptions and specifications can still be vague. To the consternation of many employers, however, today’s legal environment has created what might be called an “age of specifics.” Federal guidelines and court decisions now require that the specific performance requirements of a job be based on valid job-related criteria.

Personnel decisions that involve either job applicants or employees and are based on criteria that are vague or not job-related are increasingly successfully challenged. Managers of small businesses, in which employees may perform many different job tasks, must be particularly concerned about writing specific job descriptions.

Managers may find that writing job descriptions is a tedious process that distracts from other supervisory responsibilities. Fortunately, software packages are available to simplify this time-consuming yet necessary task. One program provides an initial library of more than 2,500 prewritten job descriptions. Since the program works much like a word processor, text can be easily deleted, inserted, or modified to user demands.