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Creating an Effective Job Description

March 30th, 2012

A “job description” is a common term that actually has a specific legal meaning. When an employee steps into a new position, it’s better for her and better for the company if she knows exactly what she’s there to do. So her position, and every position, should have a corresponding description on file that lists all relevant duties, the role the position fills within the larger company, and how the person who occupies the position will generally be evaluated.

Job descriptions should be multifunctional. If a question ever arises about how to word a posting, how to review an employee, or how to determine if it’s time for a change to either the position or the employee who occupies it, the first step should involve reaching for the file that holds the job description. A great description can (and should) be referenced often for all kinds of reasons.

In addition to being multifunctional, great job descriptions should be clear, unambiguous, and legal.

Elements of a First Rate Job Description

Required Skills

This part of the job description will help hiring managers as they staff the position, especially if this is happening for the first time. In this section, List the knowledge and skills that the position will require, beginning with the skills that are indispensable, followed by those that are optional or will be used only occasionally.

Stay brief and focused. Instead of listing twenty different clerical tasks and corresponding software programs, it might suffice to say “working/ expert knowledge of the entire Microsoft office suite, specifically Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.” Instead of listing every aspect of interpersonal communication, list “the ability to network and build new accounts by engaging socially with clients,” or “The ability to manage a large team with different working styles and frequently conflicting goals.”

How the Job is Actually Performed

In this section, describe the function of the job within the larger company. If this employee will face a broad, overarching task that supports the enterprise as a whole, discuss that task here. For example: “Employee will support the International Business Development team in the effort to build client contacts overseas,”  or “employee will assist the General Manager with daily tasks related to staff scheduling,” or “employee will review all outgoing mass communication materials for tone, content, grammar and accuracy.”

This section will also briefly describe how these tasks are carried out. If the material to be reviewed will come in from the Communications Department and will be handed off to the Printing Department when complete, include that information here.

How the Employee Will be Evaluated

This section will help prevent potential conflict and confusion during the annual performance review process. It can also help mangers determine when employees are ready for promotions and pay raises, and it can guide mentors as they work to understand mentee strengths and areas in need of improvement.

All aspects of a good job description should be in compliance with legal guidelines; otherwise they may expose a company to lawsuits and accusations of discrimination or employee mismanagement. If you aren’t sure you understand the legal implications of a given job description, talk to an attorney before staffing the position.

For additional help with staffing, hiring, or general HR guidelines, contact a local staffing firm in CT at Merritt Staffing and arrange a consultation.

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