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Job Descriptions

    A job description is a tool that describes the tasks, duties, functions, and responsibilities of a job. It paints a clear picture of what work will be done, who does the work, and how it fits within the organization. Job descriptions are not necessarily required by law of any company, but they prove to be especially helpful for legal and organizational purposes. Your organization may find job descriptions useful for job postings, determining salary levels, guiding performance reviews, analyzing compensation, and maintaining compliance with labor laws. 

    SHRM's How-To guide provides simple steps for writing an effective job description.

    1. Perform a job analysis

    While you may have a good picture of what employees do in certain jobs, the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities may change as the company changes. This is why it is also important to periodically perform job analyses to update job descriptions. A job may be analyzed through interviews with employees, observations of work duties, questionnaires filled out by employees, and external research, such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

    Both the individual in charge of HR and the manager share responsibilities in crafting the analysis. HR responsibilities: coordinating the process, crafting the job description for the supervisor to review, periodically reviewing job descriptions, and acting as the job analyst. Manager responsibilities: developing responsibilities for the job, requesting changes to the description, and acting as the subject matter expert on the position.

    The analysis should be able to describe the following categories:

    • Knowledge—comprehension of a body of information acquired by experience or study.
    • Skill—a present, observable competence to perform a learned activity.
    • Ability—competence to perform an observable behavior or a behavior that results in an observable product.
    • Physical characteristics—the physical attributes an employee must have to perform the job duties with or without a reasonable accommodation.
    • Environmental factors—working conditions (inside or outside the office).
    • Credentials/experience—the minimum level of education, experience and certifications acceptable for the position.

    More on Job Analysis

    2. Establish the essential functions

    This section of the job description expresses the basic functions of the job, either with or without reasonable accomodation. It is critical to define these functions prior to employment action such as recruiting, hiring, promoting, or firing, as well as complying with ADA accomodations.

    What to consider:

    1. Whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function,
    2. The number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed, and
    3. The degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.

    Once the essential functions are defined, other functions can be determined to be essential or marginal. Note that the term "essential functions" should be used in the job description and explain how to functions are to be performed.

    More on Essential Functions

    3. Organize the data concisely 

    Job descriptions will look different for each organization, but many will follow a similar template. An example can be viewed at:

    It is important that all job descriptions in an organization follow the same format. In addition to information included in the job analysis and essential functions, the following should be included: Date, Who the position reports to, Summary, Supervisory responsibilities, Expected hours of work, Travel required, Affirmative Action Plan and Equal Employment Opportunity statements.

    4. Add the disclaimer

    While the job description covers much of what a job entails, it is beneficial to have a statement that indicates that the job description is not a comprehensive list of all responsibilities and duties. Express that other duties, responsibilities, and activities may change at any time, with or without notice.

    5. Add the signature lines

    The final section that validates the job description is the signature line. Once the employee reads and understands the document, signatures from both the supervisor and employee should be included at the bottom.

    SHRM Job Descriptions by Title and Function