The Importance of Having Written Job Descriptions

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Before you begin interviewing for openings at your company, it is critical to have a written job description in place for each unique position. Having a written description accomplishes many important things that protect and help your business and your employees:

  • Serves as a reference guide for determining comparable industry salaries.
  • Helps maximize dollars spent on employee compensation for the position by ensuring the experience and skills needed for the job are detailed and matched to prospective applicants.
  • Functions as a foundation for developing interview questions.
  • Details information about the position that can be incorporated into “help wanted” ads.
  • Discourages employees from refusing to do something because “it is not my job.”
  • Provides a basis for employee reviews, salary increases, setting goals, and growth paths.
  • Serves as legal documentation that can be useful in the event an employee files a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit against the company.

Parts of the Job Description

An effective job description details the primary functions of the job, how the tasks will be carried out, and the necessary skills needed to perform the job. It should anticipate employee growth and potential problems with misunderstanding. That is, a job description is not just an analysis of the position; it should also address potential questions about the position in the future.

A job description should include the following:

Job Title: Clarifies the type of position and rank or level (if applicable) within the company hierarchy.

Salary Range: Lists the starting, midrange, and high (maximum) salary for the position. You should also include information about how employees may be eligible for additional compensation (i.e., sales commissions, performance bonuses, or annual raises).

Statement of Purpose and Objectives: A general statement, summarizing in three or four sentences, the purpose and objectives of the position.

Job Description: A detailed list of specific duties and tasks in their order of significance; the most important duties should appear at the top of the list. This list should cover every activity that will take 5% or more of the employee’s time and include any accountability the employee may have for meeting certain objectives.

Description of Reporting Structure: This section provides a detailed description of any and all roles the employee will hold. It should include their own supervisory roles (if any) as well as who they are subordinate to directly and indirectly. If the employee is to work closely with other employees or departments, include that information as well. If the job requires a lot of interaction with many different people, it may be helpful to include a companywide organizational flow chart.

Experience and Skills: Be as specific as possible when detailing the experience and skills required to perform the job. For example, if the position involves the use of a computer, list the type(s) of software and hardware used to perform the job.

Description of Ideal Candidate: List other skills and experience that an ideal candidate would possess but aren't absolutely necessary to be considered for the job.

Work Location and Schedule: List the physical location of the job and the typical days and hours of the position. Also mention whether the job may require availability outside usual working hours, either often or on occasion, and whether it will require travel and, if so, the percentage of time spent traveling.

'And Other Duties as Assigned'

By including “and other duties as assigned” to a job description, the employer can add new tasks to the position as they are needed and hopefully avoid having the employee balk at being asked to do something different. In some cases, it may be beneficial to clarify beyond the generic “other duties” and be more descriptive—for example, “other clerical duties” or “other duties as assigned by (a particular department or person with a particular title).”