How to Write a Job Description

Job descriptions provide structure and clarity. This article highlights the benefits of creating job descriptions and takes you step by step, through the anatomy of a well-crafted job description.

A job description is like a blue-print. It defines the role, clarifies scope and communicates responsibilities. Without it, a person can’t be expected to commit to a role or be held accountable. Indeed, every employee should have a job description. From an employer’s perspective, writing a well constructed job description enables you to think about the role and where it fits in the organization. Large organizations likely have templates for the most common roles, so don’t reinvent the wheel unless it’s necessary.

Crafting a job description requires a lot of thought. If you’ve constantly recycled outdated job specifications, it worth taking the time to revisit those documents, as it will help clarify in your mind the type of individual you want to hire.

An Opportunity to Soul Search

Before you write the job description you have a great opportunity to give thought to what type of person you really need and what the role needs to be. Culturally, what kind of person is going to be the best fit for the role and the company? What technical and soft skills will they require to be successful?

When we draft job descriptions we’re usually looking for the “ideal” candidate. By all means, shoot for that individual, but remember if you cling too tightly to your ideal that person may well not exist. It’s important then to sort out the absolute “must haves” for the role from the “nice to haves”. This approach ensures you won’t have to compromise your hiring, but also gives you some flexibility, which will help given the tight labour market.

Other key considerations to look at and assess include:

  • What department requires the role?
  • How many people are in the department and where does this role fit with everyone else’s?
  • Who will the individual report to?
  • Is this a new role? Does it require different personality traits to others in the team?
  • What bigger areas is the new incumbent likely to contribute to or grow into?
  • The Ingredients: What goes in the job description?

The following is a simple template to guide you as to what information you need to gather and include for the job description:

  • Job Title — this explains the type of professional you are hiring
  • Based at (Business Unit, Section — if applicable)
  • Position reports to (Line Manager title, location, and Functional Manager, location if matrix management structure)
  • Job Purpose Summary (ideally one sentence)
  • Key Responsibilities and Accountabilities (ideally 8—12 items)
  • Main responsibilities — outlines the most important duties
  • Secondary responsibilities — periodic versus daily routines
  • Core competencies required — skills and attributes required to perform the job well
  • Experience required — Number of years experience general, i.e.: 5 years post qualifying experience; industry specific, i.e.: financial services, manufacturing background or role specific, i.e.: SEC reporting or Compensation experience
  • Qualifications or Educational background
  • Dimensions/Territory/Scope/Scale indicators — the areas to which responsibilities extend and the scale of responsibilities — staff, customers, territory, products, equipment, premises, etc)
  • Compensation, benefits
  • Date and other relevant internal references