Job Descriptions: Essential Elements Explained

Job descriptions are the building blocks of your organization. Here are the building blocks you need in a job description.

One way HR professionals get information from BLR is through Google™ and other search engines. They search for what they need to know and, if we’ve got it, the search engine will tell them so.

One term often searched is “job descriptions.”

After 30 years of dealing with the profession, we think we know why. These basic organizational building blocks are absolutely vital, detailing who does what for whom in the company. Taken together, the descriptions form the architectural plan of your business.

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The descriptions also form the basis of both your hiring and performance management. Your employment ads are basically job descriptions, dressed up to attract talent. And your performance appraisals measure achievement on the job as it was originally described.

What makes job descriptions a problem? If you’ve ever done one, you know. Job descriptions are a bear to write. What should, and should not, be included? How do you keep them concise, effective, and legal? Inquiring Googlers want to know.

That’s why we were attracted to a recent feature on the website, offering suggestions on the key elements that need to be in any good job description. With a nod to the folks there, let us condense and amplify a bit on what they say every description needs to include:

–Identifier. The description should list the job title, location, department, and to whom the employee reports.

–Key responsibilities. This is just what it sounds like …what the employee will actually be doing (or if a management job, who and what will be managed.) To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), essential responsibilities must be listed separately, so that a person with disabilities can qualify for the job (with or without a reasonable accommodation) even if he or she can’t do other, lesser tasks.

–Qualifications. The description should include the skills, experience, and/or education required or requested. Experts say, to widen the candidate pool, focus this section on what you actually need. If the person doesn’t need a degree, don’t demand one. In fact, requiring a degree when it’s not needed may even be seen as discriminatory toward some population groups that generally have low college attendance.

–Terms. This includes work schedule, salary or pay grade, and any special benefits.

–Special requirements, such as the ability to do heavy physical work or the need to spend a lot of time on the road.

–Goals. The description should include what level of performance the employee is expected to achieve, whether it’s moving a process at a certain speed and accuracy or growing a corporation to a certain level of return. The goal tells the worker what’s expected and on what he or she will be measured against in later evaluations.

Legal Review

In this day and age, it’s wise to have your job descriptions legally reviewed. The reason: A rejected candidate can always call them as evidence in a discrimination case.

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Anything in the description that hints at a preconceived desire to eliminate or favor candidates due to race, color, age, gender, religion, national origin or disability would work against you. Avoid gender-oriented job titles such as “Saleswoman” and “Repairman.”

If all this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Fortunately, there’s also a shortcut around it. We’ll tell you about it in tomorrow’s Daily Advisor.

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