Importance of a Job Description
A job description can serve many purposes within an organization. It can be used as the basis for recruitment and selection efforts, training programs, compensation decisions, job evaluations, organizational change initiatives, and employee performance appraisals. However, a company should only use a job description to make organizational decisions if it is well-written and effectively summarizes the position. Therefore, to maximize organizational and departmental benefit, this article identifies how to write a job description by identifying the components of an effective job description and how to gather the information necessary to populate each identified element.
Components of a Well-Written Job Description
Take a look at any major job search website for examples of how to write a job description. There are ample examples of effective and ineffective job descriptions, which are presented in different formats, lengths, emphasis, and organization. Although the visual appearance of a job description is important for clarity and ease of informational access, choosing which components to include is even more important for prospective employees and organizational leaders. The following list summarizes the minimum required elements of an effective job description.
- Job title and summary
- Categorized task and work activities
- List of commonly used tools and equipment
- Job environment and context
- Job specifications and competencies
- Outline of standards of work performance
- Total compensation information
Conducting a Job Analysis
To know how to write a job description is fairly simple, but understanding what content to include is more difficult. To ensure managers and HR professionals can adequately complete all components of a job description, an evaluation must be conducted. The foundation of any well-written job description is a thorough and unbiased job analysis that is conducted by a knowledgeable and objective professional.
A job analysis is a detailed process used to gather, analyze, and structure information about a specific job or role within an organization. It is commonly known as the process used to identify a job’s activities and requirements necessary for selecting qualified job applicants, but many people are unaware that there are numerous other uses for the results of a job analysis.
First, and foremost, the results of a job analysis are used to write a job description. Other uses include identifying training gaps, developing internal training curriculums, developing role-based performance appraisal forms, designing departmental and organizational hierarchy structures, and legal job classification mandates, such as exempt or non-exempt FLSA status.
Because a job analysis is the focal point for many organizational activities, it is critical to conduct the analysis thoroughly and objectively. There are three main phases in a job analysis: gathering information, evaluating tasks, and identifying the necessary skills and competencies.
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Phase 1: Gather Job Specific Information
The first phase of a job analysis involves gathering all of the information possible about the job or role in question. This includes identifying the tasks and activities performed, tools and equipment used, and other job-specific conditions. When completing this phase’s activities, it is important to remember that the goal is to obtain information about the job itself not the person currently doing the job.
Phase one is typically the most time consuming, but it is the most rewarding considering the depth and degree of information that can gathered. The following activities are highly recommended for each job analysis. However, depending on available resources and time, a selected mixture of at least two activities can be performed to adequately gather enough information.
- Gather information that has already been obtained and compiled about the job. This can come from internal sources, such as an employee handbook, performance review forms, and procedural handbooks, or external sources including market data on comparable positions and industry websites.
- Interview relevant subject matter experts (SMEs) such as incumbents, supervisors, customers, or upper-level management. The key is to talk with those individuals most knowledgeable about and experienced with the position, necessary requirements, and degrees of responsibility.
- Observe incumbent to obtain information that the individual might have overlooked or forgotten to mention during the interview.
- Participate in the job activities first-hand to gain a different perspective.
Phase 2: Evaluate the Importance of Tasks
The next phase involves writing task statements and asking SMEs to review and evaluate each one. The following list identifies the appropriate steps necessary to complete phase two of a job analysis.
Use information gathered during the first phase to write an individual task statement for each action a job incumbent is to perform. Identify the action to be performed, the tools and equipment to be used, any involved coworkers, and the level of authority or autonomy.
Evaluate each task statement for clarity, grammar, and informative content. Task statements should be written in active voice and present tense.
Identify members (SMEs) to participate in a task analysis group, reserve a meeting space, and send invitations.
Ask SMEs to confirm the accuracy of each task statement (that each statement accurately identifies a job responsibility) and to rate each task statement in terms of frequency and importance.
Organize the task statements according to frequency and importance, while trying to keep a logical grouping of related tasks.
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Phase 3: Identify the Required KSAOs
The final stage of a job analysis is to create a list of required knowledge, skills, abilities, and other competencies (KSAOs) necessary for a person to successfully perform a job. This is done by creating four separate lists using the task statements created in phase two.
Putting It All Together
The results of any job analysis include a breadth of information about a specific job, task statements verified and evaluated by subject matter experts, and categorized lists about the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, and other competencies needed to excel in the position. This information can be used in a variety of ways when writing a job description, but the following list serves as a guideline when transferring information from a job analysis to a job description.
- Information gathered during phase one can be used to write about the job environment, special context considerations, and compensation information based on gathered market salary research and company benefit statements or policies.
- Information gathered during the second phase can be used to develop a job title and summary, list related tasks and activities, list any tools and equipment that will be used, and identify the standards of performance and conduct.
- The information gathered during the final stage is directly related to the job specifications and competencies component of a job description.
Please be sure to check out the other tips and strategies found in Bright Hub’s HR Guide for Recruiting and Retaining Employees.