How to prepare a job description


Drawing up an accurate job description is a time-consuming but important process that is usually undertaken in connection with performance reviews, training, recruitment and induction. Once a job description has been completed, it requires regular review and updates.

Guidelines for drawing up a job description

  1. Start with a job analysis
    Depending on the importance and complexity of the job, various methods can be used to collect data for analysis. You must decide what method is most appropriate, taking into account the purpose of the analysis and costs involved. For routine jobs it is usually sufficient to draw up a list of tasks and responsibilities. Ideally this is done by the person doing the job over a certain period of time, e.g. one month. Although it is time-consuming, keeping a log of duties performed during this period will give a better insight of what the job is really about than any hypothetical description drawn up by management or Personnel departments.

    The log should include the type of activity, time spend on this activity, interruptions and who else is involved in the activity. What are the criteria on which performing a task relies, e.g. another department has to provide data. What equipment is used? Emphasise the importance of keeping an accurate log; the person keeping the log may be distort the data by exaggerating or, especially with busy employees, complete the log afterwards. Everything is important, from social interaction to technical problems.
  2. Conduct interviews
    Take time to sit down with the person who does the job and relevant team members, managers etc. Discuss their perception and expectations of the role, which may vary from the reality.
  3. Gather documentation
    Get together all documents relevant to the job, including staff policies, old job descriptions, hand-over manuals and - if you have access to them - performance reviews reports. All these documents will provide you with general background information.
  4. Organise your data
    Once you have gathered the above information, start sorting tasks and responsibilities. How often do they occur and how difficult or important are they? What skills and knowledge are required for each of them? Draw up a schedule setting out each tasks and rank the importance of the skills and knowledge from 'essential' to 'non-essential'.
  5. Finalise your analysis
    On a word processor type a document that sets out the result of your analysis. Items to be included are:
    • an accurate job title

    • the job's general purpose, e.g. provide administrative support to the Finance Director

    • level of responsibility, including a detailed specification of any supervisory duties

    • an organisation chart reflecting the job's position in relation to the rest of the structure

    • the location, also in relation to required equipment

    • salary, benefits and promotion procedures

    • working hours

    • tasks performed and their relative importance

    • skills and knowledge required, with their relative importance

    • personal attributes, e.g. accuracy, level-headedness.
  6. Draw up a job description
    On the basis of the job analysis, we can now draft a job description. The two will have similarities, but also differences as there may be items that the organisation does not want to include in the job description for various reasons. What should definitely be included are items such as:
    • Job title

    • Department

    • Location

    • Hours of work

    • Level of seniority

    • Salary

    • Job title of the person to whom the job holder is reporting

    • Job title of staff reporting to job holder

    • General purpose of the role

    • Main tasks and duties with specification, stated in active verbs

    • Any other relevant information, such as ad hoc tasks, opportunities for added responsibility and other optional extras
    • Depeding on the purpose of the job description and the procedures used by the organisation, the job description may also include responsibility for equipment, frequency of the tasks (daily, weekly, monthly etc), training requirements and any other information that is relevant to the person doing the job.
  7. Check accuracy
    Don't forget to provide the relevant staff members (person doing the job, managers and team members) with a copy of your analysis and job description. Ask them to provide you with feedback. Finally, as mentioned at the beginning, don't forget to update your documents at least once a year.

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