Writing job descriptions is one of those tasks managers tend to put off or handle half-heartedly. The temptation is to continue using outdated descriptions or grab a generic template off the Internet. In the crush of day-to-day deadlines and emergencies, it can be hard to find the time for what might appear to be an exercise in paperwork. But carefully drafted job descriptions aren't just pieces of paper: They are the cornerstone to hiring effectively, communicating expectations to new employees, evaluating performance, terminating employees who can't meet your job requirements, and much more -- all while keeping you and your company out of legal trouble.
The process of creating a job description also offers a rare opportunity to examine your team and your company as a whole, and consider what human resources you will need to succeed. Where are you now? Where would you like to be in the future? And what kinds of skills and abilities will your people need to help get your company from here to there? A carefully drafted job description positions and prepares your group for the future.
A job description is simply a clear, concise depiction of a job's duties and requirements. Job descriptions can take many forms, but they typically have at least four parts:
A well-crafted job description provides you and the employees who report to you with a blueprint for success. It's the basic tool you use to hire, measure, and manage the performance of each employee, and of your team as a whole. Taking the time to create an accurate description will help you in almost every role you play as a manager:
The first step in writing a job description is to analyze and define the job. What are you expecting of the person in this position? What do others in your company expect of this position? What would success look like for the person who holds this job? And what big picture factors -- such as the current economy, what your competitors are doing, and your company's plans for the future -- might influence what you want this position to accomplish? These questions will help you start brainstorming about the requirements and functions of the job.
For detailed instructions on how to create and use job descriptions, including tips, exercises, and examples that will help you through each step of the process, from brainstorming to final product, see The Job Description Handbook, by Margie Mader-Clark (Nolo).