Writing Job Descriptions

Starting out right with new employees requires some good planning and documentation. It's important to put your vision on paper to avoid any misunderstandings down the road. You will be amazed at how creating a job description really helps you to learn more about what you want for the future of your business.

The job description is an essential tool for growing your business. In addition to helping you find the employee you need, job descriptions are used for training, evaluation, promotion, and accountability purposes. Be sure to put some thought into this process. You will not be sorry.

Start With A Title...

You need to have a job title for the new position. This is usually just two or three words that define who the person is. The title will be an immediate introduction of your employer to the public and will set the tone for all interactions. Avoid using "Director" unless the person is a high-level decision maker in your business.

Beneath the title, you want to include important information related to the job such as: the status (exempt vs. non-exempt) and to whom the new employee will report.

Job Overview

This is a summary of the job. Make sure that this section is not more than three to four sentences long and explains the level basic nature of this job position. There is no need to get too specific here, since you will be outlining details of the job in the following sections.

An entry level job position providing administrative support to a woman-owned technology business with three employees. Main duties include: scheduling appointments, giving information to callers, and generally relieving staff of clerical work and minor administrative and business detail.

Duties and Responsibilities

Here is where you should be specific. As a matter of fact, put down all the tasks that the new employee will be doing in this position. If someone is already acting in this role, ask him or her to keep a daily log of their tasks. Remember that the job description is the work that you need to be done now and also the work that will need to be done as your business grows. Be flexible in writing the duties and responsibilities to accommodate this growth. In the future, this section will be the reference point for the employee. It is easy to refuse to do work by saying that "the task was never outlined as my responsibility!" Be clear, concise, and complete.

At the bottom of your list, you may consider putting a catch-all: Other related duties as assigned. This will allow you some leeway in the future.

If you are creating a job description for a position that is already filled, you should complete the duties and responsibilities section with your employee. When re-writing the job description in the future, it is a good idea to solicit input from the person who is filling the position for this section.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
These are basic qualities that the new employee should possess. You, as the manager, define these. They could include:

Knowledge of computer software, including: PowerPoint, Excel.
Skilled at performing multiple tasks simultaneously.
Ability to relate to people and make them feel comfortable.

These requirements are the essential ones that are often overlooked when hiring because employers are more task-focused.

Credentials and Experience
Here is where you list the level of educational and professional experience you would like the candidate to have. You may want to be flexible in this area so as not to disqualify potentially good employees. Allow for additional experience to make up for the lack of an educational degree. This may not be possible if you are hiring for a highly technical job that requires specific skills.

Special Requirements
Anything that may not have been covered up until this point should go here. For example:

Frequent travel required
Some use of personal vehicle
Job includes some evening and weekend hours
Ability to lift 15 lbs or more

For new positions, you will want to include this information. It is wise to put a salary range so that if turnover occurs, you are not locked into a specific amount.

After you have completed the job description, set it aside for a day or two. Coming back to it after a few days may allow you to make revisions that you could not have done at the first sitting. It is also a good idea to have someone else look it over and offer input (consider a co-worker familiar with the job responsibilities, a friend, your spouse).

If you are low on time and do not feel confident doing this task on your own, there is software available that can help you create a job description. For more information, click here.

A copy of the Job Description should go into the employee's file, once he or she is hired.

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