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How to Develop a Job Description

Job Descriptions Provide Clear Direction and Legal Protection

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Woman in job centre
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Develop job descriptions to help you articulate the most important outcomes you need from an employee performing a particular job. Job descriptions are a communication tool to tell coworkers where their job leaves off and the job of another employee starts.

They tell an employee where their job fits within the overall department and the overall company. They help employees from other departments, who must work with the person hired, understand the boundaries of the person's responsibilities. Finally, job descriptions are an integral piece of the performance development planning process.

Your goal in hiring is to find the brightest, most competent, flexible, reliable, multifaceted employees you can find. A job description, if not viewed as a straight jacket, helps your successful recruiting in several ways. A job description:

  • causes the manager of the position and any other employees already performing the job to agree on the responsibilities and scope of the position,

  • helps Human Resources know the knowledge, skills, education, experience, and capabilities you seek in your new employee, so an effective recruiting plan is formulated,

  • informs candidates about the duties and responsibilities of the position for which they are applying,

  • informs employees who are assisting with the interview process about the questions to ask candidates and what you seek in the new employee, and

  • may protect you legally when you can demonstrate why the candidate selected for a position was your most qualified and culturally suited applicant.

Steps in Developing Job Descriptions

Use these steps to develop your job descriptions.

  • Gather the appropriate people for the task. The manager to whom the position will report takes the lead in developing a job description, but other employees who are performing similar jobs can contribute to its development, too. Additionally, if the position is new and will relieve current employees of work load, they should be part of the discussion. A first position? The manager or company owner can develop the job description on his or her own.

  • Perform a job analysis. You need as much data as possible to develop a job description. The job analysis may include:
    • the job responsibilities of current employees,
  • Internet research and sample job descriptions online or offline highlighting similar jobs,

  • an analysis of the work duties, tasks, and responsibilities that need to be accomplished by the employee filling the position,

  • research and sharing with other companies that have similar jobs, and

  • articulation of the most important outcomes or contributions needed from the position.

The more information you can gather, the easier the actual task of developing the job description will be.

  • Write the job description. Your company may have a format for job descriptions so check with Human Resources. Often, however, all HR expects is a list of the responsibilities and they prefer to develop the final format congruent with other job descriptions across the company.

    These are the normal components of the job description:

    • Overall position description with general areas of responsibility listed,

    • Essential functions of the job described with a couple of examples of each,

    • Required knowledge, skills, and abilities,

    • Required education and experience,

    • A description of the physical demands, and

    • A description of the work environment.

    Your company and your process may vary, but these components give the employee clear direction.

    • Review the job description periodically to make sure it acurately reflects what the employee is doing and your expectations of results from the employee.

    • Use the job description as a basis for the employee development plan (PDP) An employee's job description is integral in the development of his or her quarterly employee development plan.

    An effective job description establishes a base so that an employee can clearly understand what they need to develop personally, and contribute within your organization. Develop job descriptions to provide employees with a compass and clear direction.

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