We all know what job descriptions are, but how much importance do we actually give them? In addition to providing a road map for potential and current employees, job descriptions are indispensable for both employers and employees.

The Human Resources Focus

Job descriptions are used for different purposes by the employee and the Human Resources (HR) department. A HR office uses job descriptions for the following purposes.

  • As a definition of the functions and responsibilities of a job
  • As a mechanism for recruitment
  • For employee training and development (establishing and updating performance standards)
  • For succession planning or organizational development (for example, what additional tasks can be applied for the growth of the organization as a whole)
  • For assigning jobs
  • To benchmark the company’s positions against those described in salary surveys.

Used as a Mechanism for RecruitmenT

Starting a recruitment campaign with a comprehensive job description means the recruiter can develop selection criteria and use it as a benchmark to identify candidates. When areas of a job description are well thought out (key objectives; tasks & responsibilities), the recruiter can identify the best applicants against these criteria.

The Employee Focus

When looking for a job, a candidate can request a copy of the job description at the interview. The candidate can then do research to benchmark the position against its placement in the market, in order to participate in an informed negotiation process. At the very least, a new employee should receive a copy of the job description within the first week on the job.

An employee’s job description should be reviewed at performance review time to make sure it accurately reflects the employee’s current job responsibilities. It should be used by both the employee and manager as a tool for establishing development goals.

The Basic Elements of a Job Description

A job is a collection of tasks, duties, or responsibilities assigned to an individual. A job exists regardless of who performs the functions. Even when no one occupies the job, it still exists.

A job description simply describes the job. It should not have language or technical jargon that is difficult to understand. Every job description should include the following.

  • The job title
  • The location of the job
  • A position summary describing the purpose of the job
  • Major responsibilities, describing the job as it currently exists and including the essential duties. These are tasks for which the employee is evaluated.
  • Job qualifications, describing the minimum education, experience, and skills necessary to perform the job. Working conditions, describing work-related hazards and environmental conditions that occur while performing the job.

The job description is not meant to include any judgments. It should not state what is expected in the future, and it should not discuss how well the job is being performed. It may be used as a tool for measuring and establishing further career development, but this should be addressed in the employee’s performance management plan.

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