Writing Job Descriptions

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Identify the Goal

Do you, as a manager, dread writing job descriptions? Keeping focused on their goal--communication--will simplify the process. Job descriptions don't just communicate required duties to your employees; they also clarify your organization's purpose and its effectiveness.

Study the Job

As the first step in writing a job description, you need to study the job itself. This process--job analysis--gives an overview of your organization's functions. A job analysis determines the essential functions of a job. What are its key assignments? You can perform a job analysis by looking at similar job descriptions within other similar companies. Interviewing those who do the job, though, results in the most specific data.

Learn Legal Constraints

You are not, in most cases, mandated by law to create job descriptions for your employees. If you do have job descriptions, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires you to use only non-prejudicial language within them (see link in Resources). On a more positive note, job descriptions, once in place, have the force of law. They are treated as legal documents, providing grounds for removing employees who do not meet written expectations.

Categorize

Once you have an understanding of the job and its place in your organization, you can start the writing process by placing the job functions into categories. Categories common to job descriptions include position title, department name, supervisor's name, job objectives, essential functions and experience or skills required. Some job descriptions even include salary.

Write

These categorizations provide a ready-made outline for your job description. In writing this document, concentrate on your use of language. As indicated earlier, you want to avoid words that suggest racial, gender, age or physical prejudice. Be especially careful in describing qualifications. Don't write that an employee must be "able-bodied" or "a recent college graduate." Use active rather than passive voice throughout the document as well. Your receptionist "answers" the phone; it's not "answered by" your receptionist. Also provide specific duties rather than general ones. Instead of writing that your secretary "produces documentation," list the types of documents produced and their purpose.

Review

So now you have finally finished writing your job description. Now, pass it on to someone else to review it, ideally someone who has performed the job involved. Most organizations will also require further review as the job description is forwarded up the organizational ladder.

Revise

You should immediately incorporate valid feedback into the job description. Since jobs, like everything else, constantly evolve, you can expect to be making periodic changes to the job description in the future as well. Writing job descriptions provides frequent opportunities for you to expand your understanding of your employees and your organization.

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