How to write a job description
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, job descriptions should always be clear, practical and accurate to effectively communicate what you're looking for and who should apply.
Based on the SBA's recommendations, job descriptions should include:
- Job title
- Job objective or purpose statement
- Summary of the position
- Description of broad functions and scope of the position
- List of duties or tasks performed for optimal success
- Key functions and responsibilities
- Description of the relationship of roles in the company, i.e., who the potential candidate will report to and other departments or positions he or she will regularly interact with
Avoiding internal jargon is important. While some candidates might be familiar with your company, you don't want to alienate talented or skilled individuals who might not be familiar.
The SBA also recommends using present tense verbs and avoiding adverbs or adjectives that could be misinterpreted. Well-written job descriptions are key in helping you find the best candidates possible.
What good job descriptions can help you avoid
Misinterpretation in job descriptions is a major factor for employers and job seekers. To help avoid confusion, make sure you have a clear vision for what the position requires and include it-concisely-in the job description.
As mentioned previously, some words can be open for interpretation and cause confusion to candidates interested in applying. Because being concise is so important when writing your job description, keep a few things in mind:
- Keep ambiguous words out. Avoid words like 'several' or 'complex' to describe duties.
- Don't include anything that could be deemed as prejudicial. Job descriptions should avoid singling out race, gender and religious backgrounds, or any other alleged prejudicial comments or requirements that could be misinterpreted.
- Be clear and concise. The University of Illinois at Chicago warns that unclear or poorly written job descriptions can be used against you. Making job descriptions too detailed can mislead the employee if another duty that wasn't mentioned comes up. Being too broad can also lead to misinterpretation of expected job duties.
- Stick to the present tense. Make sure you avoid talking about what the position might be in the future or what plans lie ahead. The here are and now are what's important to candidates, and they'll better reflect on their experiences and education based on what you're currently seeking.
Using our job posting template can get you started on creating a comprehensive but easy-to-understand job description to attract talented candidates.
Remember, too, that in an ever-changing employment environment, keeping your job descriptions updated is vital to the candidates who will apply.
Why updating your job description is important
As your company grows and changes team members, the University of Illinois at Chicago recommends updating job descriptions regularly. Why? Because in today's fast-paced environment, job duties and titles can change quickly.
It will also help you, the employer, be prepared for interviewing selected candidates. After all, who wants to interview candidates who are applying for job duties that are five years outdated? Using office tools, such as employee appraisals or evaluations, can help you and your management team recognize the changing currents of various positions.
The bottom line: Be clear, concise and conscientious
You want to attract skilled candidates. Your goal is to have a great pool of people to choose from. It's important to the candidates-and to your business-that you know exactly what you're looking for and what will be expected.
Remember the Three Cs: Clear, Concise and Conscientious. Keep jargon to a minimum. Make sure your job descriptions stay updated as your duties and business needs change. And be kind to the range of people your job description will hopefully be attracting.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.