Write a Good Job Description

By the end of reading our guide on how to write a good job description; you will understand that excellent job description’s don’t just act as an attractive job advertisement but rather act as a vital blueprint of a role.

Job descriptions – Keeping up with remote work and technology.Write a good job description
A good job description is a written description of a job that includes information regarding the general nature of the work to be performed, specific responsibilities and duties, and the employee characteristics required to perform the job. If you’re looking to write a good job description, excellent job descriptions document the general nature of the work to be performed. They include general responsibilities and duties as well as the employee characteristics required. When you leave home in the morning what are the 5 most important things you need to deliver that day? If you don’t know, chances are good your job description is not serving its intended purpose.

Why Write A Good Job Description?
Good job descriptions are the foundation of most HR management processes & decision making. Often, the importance and correct application of a well-crafted Job Description in the organisation is overlooked and not truly appreciated. Seen as an administrative inconvenience imposed by Human Resources Management on operational functions, many managers view job descriptions as a waste of time and energy, robbing them of valuable production time.

Well-written and up-to-date job descriptions are important for:

  • Recruitment – Good job descriptions are used to develop an effective job advertisement that clearly articulates the duties to be performed and qualifications required by the organisation for a position
  • Selection – Good Hiring Process – Interview questions, hiring criteria and the screening process are based on the duties and qualification outlined in the job profile.
  • Orientation – The job profile helps the employee understand their role, and how their position relates to other positions in the organisation
  • Training & skills – The job profile can be used to identify areas where the employee does not adequately meet the qualifications/skills requirements of the position & therefore needs training.
  • Supervision – The job profile can be used by the employee and the supervisor to help establish a work plan;
  • Job evaluation – Job description are the basis for career evaluation experts to conduct good job descriptions evaluation. We are looking for the essential functions of the role. The content listed must show what is performed, explain how it is performed and provide enough information for a job to be evaluated. As the primary input into the Job Evaluation process, an evaluator will be searching for references to the levels of complexity, impact and problem solving involved in the tasks being performed
  • Remuneration/Compensation – Job descriptions are used to develop a consistent and fair salary structure, which is based on relative level of duties to be performed, responsibility and qualifications of each position.
  • Performance Management – The job profile and the work plan are used to monitor performance; and

Legal defense – If an employee is terminated for poor performance, an accurate, complete, and up-to-date job description will help the organisation defend its decision

  • Good Practice to Write A Good Job Description
  • Focus solely on the job. The fact that and employee may have a master’s degree in an unrelated discipline is probably interesting but of little benefit regarding his job performance.
  •  Avoid including a “wish list” of skills or personality traits;
  • Focus on the work, not on the person;
  • Use action verbs;
  • Use clear, concise, and easily understood language. Do not use ambiguous terms.
  • Consider future department/organisation needs.
  • List job tasks by priority;
  • Be specific;
  • Avoid any reference to prejudicial language.
  • Have reasonable expectations;
  • Be consistent;
  • Obtain input from other sources including experts; and
  • Include a miscellaneous clause regarding ad-hoc work that may be required from time to time.
    Many of these apply to good practice in Job Evaluation as well

How To Write A Good Job Description

Avoid including a “wish list” of skills or personality traits.
Individuals bring their own “flavour” to the roles they perform. Do not be overly influenced by opinions expressed – focus on the job. Distinguish between behavioural competencies required to perform the role competently and “nice to have” or “exceptional” behaviours. There is nothing wrong with an individual adding more to a position however these would be more appropriate to a higher or more complex role. Avoid statements like “in the future we are going to add these additional tasks”, “from next year one of the direct reports will fall away”.

Focus on the work, not on the person.
The golden rule: “the job description describes the requirements of the job, not the activities that an individual may be performing over and above”. Avoid “padding” and embellishments. This is not a job interview where the incumbent must sell themselves

We must be clear on the exact minimum outcomes that the company expects from the position.

Understand how a competent individual who meets the required performance standards for the post would perform the role in a “normal environment”.

Use clear, concise and easily understood language.
When looking to write a good job description, it must be clear, there should be no ambiguity around the task or action being described. In some cases, the use of grandiose vocabulary is used to accentuate the importance or level of the work being performed.

Be wary of the effects of confusing a formal audience, such as a Job Evaluation Committee or the CCMA for that matter! A well understood Job Description will improve communication and benefit the management of staff.

Consider future organisation needs
Keep in mind the changing needs of the department/organisation to help identify gaps in workforce.
It is important to understand that in general we do not want to have to update a Job Description every time technology, work parameters or performance targets change. Using statements like “restrict number of errors in line with target” does not have to be adjusted every time the target is changed.

Be specific
Write a good job description by making specific statements. The reader must be able to see and comprehend exactly what is being performed.

Obtain input from other sources
There are many sources of information that can be tapped into when populating/confirming details of a Job Description. These would include other employees, managers/supervisors, clients & suppliers.

Old description, performance management system, work instructions and training guides are all useful inputs and references available to the job writer.

This is particularly important when considering the impact of new and future technology or remote working and hybrid working. 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today.

Job performance and competency criteria
A comprehensive list of functions would provide what is being performed, how it is carried out and the output defined. KPA’s (Key Performance Areas) will show the focus of clusters of tasks and operations. KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) will detail what outputs will be measured. The average person can remember 5 to 7 outputs they need to perform daily. These are the ideal number of KPAs.

One can then take the KPA/KPI information and add required output criteria for a performance contract.
This is particularly important for remote and hybrid workforces as visual contact is not always possible to establish task completion.

The importance of identifying competencies required to write a good job description is often overlooked. Managers should identify which competencies are essential for an incumbent to successfully perform the job.