Job Descriptions

In a previous article “Job Analysis” I wrote of one of the most common reasons for engaging in such a process was in order to obtain the critical data needed to create a job description.

Job descriptions are regarded by some as vague descriptions of functions the incumbent may perform or a list of daily tasks.  If this truly was the nature of a properly constructed job description would that not bare to mind the question, “What’s the point?” If it doesn’t, then it should.

This article will discuss job descriptions and how a well crafted job description can assist an organization.

A properly written job description doesn’t just provide a vague context of job function, it is meant as a tool from which we as human resource professionals and managers are able to derive meaningful information such as:

The job identity

  • Job Title
  • Location
  • Job grade
  • Union Status

The function of the job within the organization

  • A brief summary of the job and its purpose
  • The impact the job has in relation to the organization (internal and external)

The specific knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) the incumbent will need to perform the role

The level of compensation to be expected for performing the job

While job descriptions are being created it’s important to recognize that as jobs become more accountable to the strategic aspects of the organization the description will become broader in nature. This however does not mean vague. It is still possible to indicate specific accountabilities in a broad sense.

Another aspect commonly misunderstood in job descriptions is that a job description is not meant to outline the daily tasks an incumbent will undertake while performing the job. We want to be specific regarding the nature of the job and the KSAs required performing the job. For instance if in the job analysis it is discovered that a person performing the job frequently tracks payables and receivables on the computer we may want to list the following specific KSAs:

  • Demonstrated accounting knowledge of accounts receivable and payable.
  • Demonstrated ability to input data into [specific software] to track accounts.
  • Demonstrated ability to create reports using [specific software].

It’s important to be as specific as possible when outlining the KSAs needed to perform the job for a few reasons.

  • The competencies or KSAs you list should coincide with the evaluation of the job criteria used to determine the compensation for the job.
  • The job description is going to set the expectations of what KSAs will be used to evaluate the performance of the incumbent on the job. The more specific the job description is, the easier it is to create a fair performance analysis tool with clear and measurable expectations.
  • The job description will also assist in creating a job posting for the purposes of recruiting candidates for the position. A more specific job description will assist in creating a specific job posting attracting the most qualified candidates with the specific KSAs that are desired. For instance when creating a job posting for an administrative assistant in a retail chain some managers may feel inclined to list “experience in retail” as a requirement. Is it fair to assume that someone who stocked shelves in a retail chain would make a better administrative assistant than someone who has never worked in retail? No it isn’t, because stocking shelves has nothing to do with acting as an administrative assistant. Instead be specific about the KSAs that would be derived from working in retail as often people are able to learn transferable skills in multiple industries that could be applied. For instance perhaps the administrative assistant in this case also provides basic support for the POS systems within the retail stores. Thus, listing “Demonstrated working knowledge of POS systems” or “Ability to provide technical support for POS systems” might provide a better understanding of the KSAs being sought.
  • A well crafted job description will also provide insight in to the training and development needs of the position as well. If there are proprietary systems or knowledge needed for the role, then training should be designed and provided to ensure that the incumbent is “set for success”.

Have I provided you with some more insight into job descriptions? Can you think of any other reasons why one might want to ensure a proper job description is created?

This entry was posted in Human Resources, Job Design, Recruitment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Job Descriptions

  1. Pingback: Job Analysis | Colin Finlay, CHRP

  2. Pingback: Job Postings | Colin Finlay, CHRP

  3. Pingback: Screening Your Applicants | Colin Finlay, CHRP

  4. Pingback: Interviewing a Candidate | Colin Finlay, CHRP

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