The job description is one of the most important products of human resources management. Resulting from a job analysis, the job description typically includes the job title, a list of duties and responsibilities, job specifications, and standards of performance.
However, despite its importance, many organizations still have positions with poor job descriptions, and even positions with no job description at all!
Before we get into how to write a job description, I think its crucial that we emphasize its importance! How? By telling you why it’s important:
NO! The information found in the job description forms the basis of nearly all HR functions. Recruitment, selection, legal issues, training and development, performance reviews, and compensation all need job descriptions in order to be performed adequately.
It’s easy to see how job descriptions are essential for recruitment and selection. When you know who and what you’re looking for; when you have a clearly defined list of the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the job to be done successfully, it will be easy for you to compare potential candidates to your prescribed requirements.
The job description also helps organizations steer clear of legal issues; mainly discrimination. In the past, and even still today, organizations have job specifications that discriminate against members of certain designated groups. Whether you realize it or not, you could also be discriminating against some individuals. Having a written job description helps organization choose their job specifications objectively and without discrimination.
In terms of training and development, performance reviews, and compensations, job descriptions provide you with a standard by which to measure your employees. For example, if you wanted to promote an employee to a position whose job description requires excellent use of word processors, then you can easily identify their need for a training program in word processing!
If you have done your job description properly, then it should include clearly defined standards of performance. It is with this outlined standard that you can review your employees; freeing the evaluation of any unfairness and/or bias.
Lastly, job descriptions include a list of the knowledge, skills, certifications, training, etc. that are required for the position. It is these factors that determine how much that employee should be compensated. It also helps ensure that positions throughout the company are being compensated fairly; with equal work getting equal pay!
So we have determined that a job description is a crucial base for all HR functions; but how do you actually go about writing one?
To gather all the information that is usually in the job description, you need to analyse the position and job. It is important that you understand the job, identify key behaviors, knowledge, skills, and capabilities, identify tasks and duties, and determine the target performance level.
There are a few ways for you to gather this information:
Observing the job means exactly what you think it means; just observing! It helps you understand the job in terms of the tasks and everyday duties that it entails. With observation, you can see what they do, how they do it, and when it’s getting done.
However, if you are not an expert in a particular field, it could be very difficult for you to understand what the job entails, even with observation. This is why questionnaires can be quite handy! Give the questionnaire to the employees currently occupying the job and to their immediate supervisors to gain a better understanding about the ins and outs of the position. This allows for a more concise job descriptions.
Assessments are what differentiate a good job description from an excellent one. Thinking that a job description as something that just “describes a job” is quite single-minded. The ultimate purpose of a job description is really to determine who the best person to occupy the position is. These characteristics do not only include their knowledge and skills, but also other attributes that make them exceptional performers.
So what are these “assessments” that I’m talking about? Psychometrics, of course! The Atman test is a scientifically validated psychometric test that evaluates numerous dimensions of personality. Measuring thinking structure, motivation, leadership, sociability, and resistance to stress, the Atman test tells you who the person is, what their strengths are, and what their natural reflexes will be in certain situations.
So how do we use this Atman test when writing a job description? Just follow these simple steps:
Here’s an example of how the process would work. Assume you are looking to write a job description to one of the most occupied positions in your organization; Customer Service Representatives. The first thing you would do is conduct a job analysis; observe the day-to-day activities of these employees and identify what knowledge and skills they need to possess (e.g. computer skills, CRM, etc.).
Then, you give the employees and their supervisors questionnaires to go into more depth; are there special projects that don’t occur everyday, do they feel like they are well-trained, and what is the standard used to evaluate performance? After that, you should analyze input from performance reviews and supervisors on who the top performers are.
You then give the top performers the Atman test to see what traits they have in common; which are considered to be success factors. When you see that 80% of top performers are results-oriented, extroverted, assertive individuals who are highly resistant to stress; then you can be sure that these are crucial characteristics for the successful performance of the job!
After you’ve done all of your analysis and testing; all that is left it putting it into simple, concise words that include the job title, a description of the duties and responsibilities, the knowledge and skills required, the performance standards, and “other attributes” to ensure top performance.
And there you have it! Remember to always keep your job descriptions up-to-date, and don’t be afraid of using external assessments to make your job descriptions the best they can be. After all, if you’re going to do something; do it right!