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How To Construct A Job Description

It’s a legal need to have a job description for every position in your organization. This must be presented to the employee as part of their employment contract. Apart from this legal need, it makes excellent business sense for all parties to have a clear, written picture, of what is required to be successful within the function and the organization in general.

As organizational psychologists we field many questions from managers seeking assistance on psychometric profiling and recommended tests to apply. The first question we ask is, “Can you forward us the job description?” This gives us a clear image of what it takes to be successful in the function, what needs to be evaluated and on what basis do we develop our suggestions once we get test results.


You’d be shocked at the amount of firms, small and large, that have not done a job analysis and have not developed a job description. Many are also employing papers that are woefully outdated. People change, jobs change.


Job descriptions – frequently referred to as a position description – come in many shapes and sizes. One advice I want to stress is to make them simple and brief. I’ve seen job descriptions that stretch eight pages! Too much information may add to the syndrome of, “That’s not my job, that work is not specified in my job description”.


Analyzing the job


How can a hiring manager select the correct individual for the post if they don’t know what they are searching for? This is like going grocery shopping without a list:


o You don’t receive everything you need


o You receive items you don’t really need


o You spend more money than you planned


o Spend more time than you planned


o You have to go back and do it again


Before putting pen to paper to design the recruitment advertisement, undertake a job analysis. This might be as simple or detailed as the project requires. There are various techniques to determine a job’s performance characteristics. The following are some instances that can be used alone, or in combination:


o Interview current jobholders.


· Consult specialists in the particular employment field.


o Observe the existing workforce.


o Start with a master list of performance factors (competencies) and ask all stakeholders to rate the significance of each to the role.


o Use the AssessSystems Job Description Survey


Another important piece of advice while compiling a job description it to question yourself:


o What does it take to be successful in this position?


o Why have people failed in this position?


o What distinguishes exceptional from the average?


Developing your job description


Once you have decided what a person requires (knowledge, skill and experience) and possesses (the matching personality, mental capacity, motivation and values) to accomplish the job it then becomes an easy process to write up the job description. As you are doing this, bear in mind these three crucial thoughts:


o What do you want them to do?


o How well do you want them to do it?


o When/how will they know (feedback) (feedback)


Once again, keep it basic, keep it brief. I advise you to build a template for your organization. From here you may just fill in the spaces for each role as indicated by your job analysis.


Some concept starters for a job description template.


Summary Of Position – Title, purpose, goals and objectives


Reporting Relationship


Duties and Responsibilities


Key Technical Skills, Knowledge, and Qualifications


Physical (do they have to lift huge weights?)


. Mental Abilities (must do simple math or carry out complex written instructions etc) (must do simple math or carry out complex written instructions etc)


Key Performance Factors (Sometimes referred to as competences) – from 5 and 10 depending on the degree of the function. Examples could be, planning and arranging, managing people, written communication, coaching and developing, negotiating abilities etc.


Performance Measures – How will they know how they are going? Feedback mechanisms.


Working Conditions – Works in cold temperatures, exposure to chemicals, works outdoors etc.


Challenges – How will this person make a positive contribution to this post, beyond past job holders


I trust this article gives you some good ideas to help you construct a job description that is not just a “laundry list” that never gets read or referred to, but becomes a working document that is constantly referred to by managers and staff when selecting, developing and/or managing employee performance.


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