Job Descriptions

5 Critical Components Every Job Description Must Contain

In a previous Advisor, we featured the California Employment Law Letter’s take on the importance of a good job description. Today, we look at the key components every job description must contain.

The California Employment Law Letter (CELL) is written by Mark I. Schickman, and Cathleen S. Yonahara, both attorneys at the law firm of Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP. In San Francisco.

A job description need not account for every task that might ever be done, says the CELL. Here are the most critical components of a good job description.

  1. Heading information. This should include job title, pay grade or range, reporting relationship (by position, not individual), hours or shifts, and the likelihood of overtime or weekend work.
  2. Summary objective of the job. List the general responsibilities and descriptions of key tasks and their purpose, relationships with customers, coworkers, and others, and the results expected of incumbent employees.
  3. Qualifications. State the education, experience, training, and technical skills necessary for entry into this job.
  4. Special demands. This should include any extraordinary conditions applicable to the job (for example, heavy lifting, exposure to temperature extremes, prolonged standing, or travel).
  5. Job duties and responsibilities. Only two features of job responsibility are important: identifying tasks that comprise about 90 to 95 percent of the work done and listing tasks in order of the time consumed (or, sometimes, in order of importance).
    • The first task listed should be the most important or time-consuming one, and so on.
    • Employers can cover 90 to 95 percent or more of most tasks and responsibilities in a few statements.
    • It’s more important to list what must be performed and accomplished than how, if there is more than one way to do it. Being too specific on how to accomplish a duty could lead to ADA issues when an employee asks for an accommodation.

Bottom Line

Creating and maintaining job descriptions isn’t difficult. In fact, sometimes businesses use the development of job descriptions as a means of opening new lines of communication with employees. Employees want to be heard, and the development of job descriptions is a perfect opportunity to increase employee involvement.

If employers approach the process correctly, it can even be fun! The reward for management is a useful tool that helps guide many critical employment decisions and serves as an important consideration in the defense of administrative actions and lawsuits.

  • Anonymous

    It never hurts to identify the essential job functions as such, either.

  • Anonymous

    All good info on job descriptions, but you need to go the next mile which is to attach to each job description a set of specific and measurable goals for the job that both the employer and the prospective employee, or current employee can understand and agree to. Job descriptions in an of themselves are virtually useless when it comes to an agreement on what needs to be accomplished by the incumbents, how their performance (in the form of goals) will be measured and how they will be used in terms of measuring job performance. By adding goals, you also avoid legal complications such as law suits and actions contesting the understanding of what the employee should be doing. I refer you to my article “Placement by Objectives II” which was published in HR Florida a year or so ago.

  • Anonymous

    Not only these 5 points you should also keep in mind that the data you entered in resume should be real, be honest. Don’t try to fool the recruiters by entering wrong data

  • lauren speacht

    Thank you for the article. Just a reminder to people the importance a current job description.

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  • Lala Mcnerney

    Interesting suggestions . I loved the facts . Does someone know where my assistant could grab a fillable a form copy to use ?

  • Am glad to see these very importanct notes

  • Isuku Able

    The differences between job description and job specification should be made known, qualifications is not job description but job specification