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Why is it Important for Everyone to Have a Well-Written Job Description?

Why is it Important for Everyone to Have a Well-Written Job Description?

A job description is a “snapshot” of a job. An effective job description therefore needs to communicate clearly and concisely what responsibilities and tasks the job entails and to indicate, as well, the key qualifications of the job – the basic requirements (specific credentials or skills) – and, if possible, the attributes that underlie superior performance. In this sense, writing (or updating) a job description is not a relatively passive and administrative task, but one that helps to really clarify what the job does and the person in it is supposed to achieve.

Although there are many ways that a job description can be written, the following provides an overall checklist for what should ideally be covered:

A well-written job-description:

  • clarifies employer expectations for employee in the job
  • provides a basis of measuring job performance
  • provides a clear description of the role to be performed for job candidates/occupants
  • provides a structure and discipline for an organization to understand and structure all jobs and ensure necessary activities, duties and responsibilities are covered by one job or another (with well designed separation and a minimum of overlap)
  • provides continuity of role parameters irrespective of a particular manager’s interpretation
  • enables pay and grading systems to be structured fairly and logically
  • prevents the arbitrary interpretation of role content and any arbitrary limits that may be imposed by an employee and/or a manager
  • is an essential reference tool in issues of employee/employer dispute or conflict
  • is an essential reference tool for any possible discipline issues
  • provides an important reference point for training and development areas
  • provides a neutral and objective (as opposed to subjective or arbitrary) reference point for appraisals, performance reviews and any possible coaching and/or counselling
  • enables the formulation of a skill and behavior set in each role
  • enables an organization to structure and manage roles in a uniform way, thus increasing efficiency and effectiveness of recruitment, training and development, organizational structure, work flow and activities, customer service, etc
  • enables a factual view (as opposed to instinctual) to be taken by employees and managers in career progression and succession planning

Because job analysis can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive, standardized job descriptions have been developed that can be adapted to thousands of jobs in organizations across the world. In the U.S., two examples of such databases are the U.S. government’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), which has information on at least 821 occupations, and the Occupational Information Network, which is also known as O*NET, and this site provides job descriptions for thousands of jobs. In the UK, the website www.prospects.ac.uk is the UK’s graduate careers website and contains complete job descriptions for various positions, as do several other sites/sources.

However, a job description is created in the first place (written from scratch or adapted from one provided form an online source), while it may be accurate when it is written, it will quickly become out of date unless it is reviewed on a regular basis. Job descriptions should therefore be treated as a dynamic document that both a job occupant and the occupant’s manager seek to review at least once a year.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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