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How to Write a Job Description

A job description should indicate how the job fits into the line structure of the administrative hierarchy-that is, who the boss is and who the subordinates are, and should indicate, any functional authority and staff linkages to other positions.

Where should you first start when writing a job description? Read more to find out.

The true extent of the usefulness of the job description depends immeasurably on the quality with which it is prepared and the degree to which it fully and accurately depicts the design of the job. Job descriptions must be written clearly. They must cover the right issues and include the right specific bits of information. They need to be properly structured. They need to give an accurate picture of the whole job, which means sufficient detail as well as coverage of all expectations. This article will show the reader how to develop a job description that does nearly everything it ought to--a job description that can be used in each of the areas are specified in this article.
 
Writing quality job descriptions takes time and costs money; keeping them current is an added burden--but the investment is, without question, worthwhile for most types of organizations. Some organizations may be wise to prepare a simpler job description than what is presented here. If the organization is small and the nature of operations is relatively unchanging, the job description is less useful. However, when the organization gets beyond a half dozen or so employees, and faces changing demand, new technologies, and the like, the job description becomes indispensable. When the scope and depth of operations become too large to keep all in your head, the job description is an absolute must.
 
Job description format and content should, in large measure, depend on the uses to be made of the job description. Therefore, those uses should be clarified before efforts are made to prepare job descriptions. For example, if the job description is to be used heavily for determining management salaries, working conditions, asset accountability, and specific supervisory duties should be spelled out in the job description. If, however, the main purpose of the job description is to provide information to prospective employees, these factors may be left out and greater emphasis put on general operative functions.
 
The job description format presented here is generally applicable. It can be adapted to any type or size of organization. It is a format that can easily incorporate adjustments as updating is required. It is not an overly elaborate format. It could include more. It is a workable format-easy to read and concise. If the organization wishes, the format discussed here can easily he simplified while maintaining its greatest strengths.
 
MAJOR SECTIONS OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION
 
A well-written job description incorporates a number of major sections. The sample job description, one drawn from the real world, covers most of the items mentioned below.
 
Job Identification Section
 
The job description should begin with a job identification section, which includes the title of the job and any identifying code numbers. Job titles, contrary to the opinion of many, are important because if properly stated, they can help to clarify the nature of a role.
 
The identification section should label the grade level (useful for pay purposes) of the job if applicable, the department and/or division of the organization in which the job exists, the name of the company, the physical location of the job, the duration of the job, the organizational level of the job, exempt or non-exempt status of the job, and any job families or career ladders of which the job is a part. This section should also indicate the date the job description was prepared, who provided input data for it, who wrote it, and who approved it. Signatures of the incumbent and the supervisor should be in evidence to indicate acceptance.
 
Function Statement
 
After the identification section, an overall function statement or summary statement should be provided, which is like a mission statement for the entire organization. It sums up in a short paragraph the rationale for or the general purpose of the position. The statement attempts to explain why the position exists. Such a statement is extremely valuable because it gives the reader of the job description a concise overview, or big-picture view, of the job. It tells the reader what the main thrust of activity in the position is all about.
 
Often workers get lost in the details of a job and lose sight of their overall function. When this happens one can lose a sense of purpose in the organization and the job may come to lack meaningfulness. Function statements spell out the reason the job is needed and thus help overcome these problems.
 
Accountabilities
 
After the statement of function, the job description should state the major results expected from the job. This section is a good follow-up to the function statement because it makes clear the key outcomes expected. This section, usually referred to as the accountabilities section, is not so much a statement of activity or duties, but rather a description of what the incumbent is supposed to accomplish—the main results expected from their activity. It can aid significantly in evaluating performance, but remember that performance criteria and standards are best left for a separate document--the performance evaluation instrument.
 
This section may also state what organizational assets the incumbent is charged with protecting and using properly--that is, asset accountability. Sometimes when duty statements are categorized by major responsibilities and written properly, this section might better be placed later on in the job description and focus only on assets without depicting expected results.
 
Organizational Relations
 
Next, if not adequately covered in the identification section, the job description should clarify how the job fits into the organization's system of jobs. How does the job relate to others administratively and operationally? A given job can simultaneously have a host of different types of administrative linkages--line authority, staff authority, and functional authority--to other jobs. All these relations should be spelled out to make clear how the position uniquely fits in the administrative system. Typically, job descriptions do not say enough about how jobs are part of the total system. Because of this, making constructive changes in jobs is often a difficult process because the possible repercussions of a given job change cannot easily be traced throughout the organization.
 
See the following articles for more information: