8 Tips for Writing Better Job Descriptions

A job description is much more than a list of responsibilities.  It is a true summary of the position requirements not an overview of the skills of the person performing the job.  When written well, it is instrumental in helping to recruit the right candidate, identify and establish training and performance requirements, create succession plans and determine job factors for compensation.  Here are some quick tips in writing a good job description:

  1. Be clear and concise. Don’t use ambiguous or elaborate language. The goal is to be literal, not literary.
  2. Use non-discriminatory language.
  3. Describe only the duties, skills and knowledge required of the position, and avoid describing personal traits – you are writing about a position not a person
  4. Be accurate about the duties and responsibilities of the position – don’t understate or overstate them.
  5. Describe the position as it exists today – not how it was in the past, or how it will be in the future.
  6. Avoid technical terms, acronyms or abbreviations. If you must use acronyms or abbreviations, use the full term the first time followed by the acronym or abbreviation in brackets.
  7. The skills, knowledge and attributes that you require in the job description should be directly related to the duties and responsibilities performed in the “work performed” section of the job description.
  8. Education, certification, specific training or experience should not be stated as requirements of the position, unless you can demonstrate that they are essential to the duties and responsibilities of the position, or unless they are required by law or a relevant licensing body.

A manager should review the job description along with setting goals each year for the incumbents in the position.  Keeping the position and the incumbent separate is important in this process.  Performance reviews are meant to discuss the incumbent’s performance versus the job descriptions.  Along with job duties, make sure to cover areas such as level of skill needed, specialized educational requirements, necessary training and how much experience or responsibility the job requires.  In order to meet Pay Equity requirements the descriptions should also include working conditions.

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