The external job description is the one you post for potential applicants. It lists the title and essential functions of the job, outlines duties and responsibilities and may include administrative information such as the responsibilities of the overall department and the position of the job’s supervisor. It should also list necessary qualifications, including skills, education and experience. Most external job descriptions indicate the salary and benefits offered for the position. Though they need to be brief, they should also be specific so that you’re not inundated with applications from people who are unqualified.
A generic or general job description describes the job in broad terms. Depending on the size of the organization and the number of similar job positions within it, the generic description may be used as a template for department heads to craft more specific descriptions for jobs under their purview. However, the Poindexter Consulting Group warns that generic job descriptions can open a company to problems with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act mandates that employers not discriminate against qualified disabled people who are able to fulfill the “essential functions” of jobs. If a generic description doesn’t detail what the essential functions are, you could create the appearance of discrimination.
Moreover, the government uses job descriptions to determine that employers are following legal guidelines regarding equal pay and opportunities for overtime. Generic descriptions that don’t specify wages and hours won’t protect you if your organization comes under government scrutiny.
The internal job description contains the same information as the external one but goes into more precise detail, according to the Grand Roads Executive Search firm. The administrative information, for example, may include the name and job title of the position’s supervisor. Internal descriptions of higher level jobs may list metrics such as how much revenue the jobholder is expected to generate, how many clients or accounts she will oversee or service or how many employees she will supervise. A well-written, thorough job description ensures everyone knows what your expectations of the position are so that Human Resources can hire the right person, the person hired understands what to do and you’re legally protected if the new hire doesn’t meet those expectations.
How to Write a Job Description – Step 2 – Overview
Next you write the general overview of the job position. This is the 1-minute elevator pitch. Don’t go overboard here. The rest of the written job description will break down the details. This is where you summarize the nature and overall purpose of the job.
How to Write a Job Description – Step 3 – Essential Functions and Responsibilities
This is the job description section that explains the day-to-day of the job. You start by listing out the essential functions of the position. Essential job functions are responsibilities that are 5% or greater of the employee’s workload. All the essential functions should add up to 100% of the job position. They should be listed in order of importance. I like to add at the end of this section “other duties as assigned” as a catchall for special projects that may come up.
How to Write a Job Description – Step 4 – Job Qualifications
This is where you list out the minimum requirements of the job position. Be sure to write the qualifications for the position you need, not the person who may currently be in the position. If a job requirement is listed then those candidates not meeting the minimum standards are not viable candidates for the position.
This job qualifications area can be broken down into the further sections listed below. I’ve included some examples of functional job descriptions:
If the job position requires a degree or certification list it here. Are you willing to substitute years of experience for education? If so, specifically communicate how many years of related experience is an acceptable substitute for a degree or certification. Job description example: 4 years of software development experience with .Net may be substituted for a 4-year degree in computer science.
List the amount of industry experience or directly related job experience required. Job description example: 5 years of project management experience in the financial services industry.
3. Supervisory experience
If supervisory experience is required, list how many years of supervisory experience are required along with how many employees supervised. Job description example: 5 years experience supervising 10 or more employees.
4. Technical proficiencies
This is where you list what technical or software skills are needed to perform the essential functions of the job. Job description example: Must be able to type 80 wpm in MS Word.
5. Communication skills
In most jobs, having good communication skills is essential. Maybe you need someone who has excellent written communication skills if you are hiring a technical writer. You may need someone with public speaking experience if you are hiring for your training department. You may need someone who is an exceptional oral communicator for the receptionist position or negotiation skills if they are in sales. These are all examples of communication skills that are required to perform the essential functions of the job. Some job positions may require multiple communications skills in order to perform the work.
6. Decision making
Being a good decision maker isn’t something reserved for management. Some jobs require the person to work independently and to make on-the-spot decisions that affect their work and the company. This is where you specify how much freedom the position has to make decisions regarding responsibilities of the job.
7. Other competencies or skills
Other competencies or skills necessary to perform the job may be the ability to meet deadlines or work more than 40 hours, as needed. You may need someone who has the ability to work on teams. This is the section where you add these kinds of details.
8. Background checks or licensing requirements
Most companies require some sort of background check before hiring a candidate. This is the section where you will include a statement about any background checks or other requirements candidates must pass in order to qualify for the position. Job description example:
• Criminal background check
• Reference checks
• Education verification
• Drug test
• Physical exam
• Driver’s license and proof of insurance
Everything in the requirements section of the job description is a minimum job requirement except for this section. In this section you are telling candidates that it would be very helpful if they had particular skills or abilities but it’s not required. Job description example: Experience with MS Visio is highly desired.
How to Write a Job Description – Step 5 – Physical Requirements
When most people read this section of the job description they don’t pay much attention. They think that this is just legalese. I can understand that unless you are someone who has physical limitations.
Potential job candidates need to know what they physically have to do in the job and in what environment. If they are scared of heights but the job requires them to work several hundred feet off the ground in a warehouse this would not be a good fit and the candidate can self-select out of applying for the job position.
Another reason this section is needed is because of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). This is a topic that requires a lot of attention and would sidetrack this article so I’ll summarize to stay on topic. Employers need to list the physical requirements so those with disabilities or physical limitations can judge whether they can perform the job as-is or with reasonable accommodation. For example, someone hard of hearing may be able to perform a call center job if they have a device that amplifies voices on the phone so they can hear customers. Additionally, your current employees’ health may change over time and they may struggle to physically perform their jobs. They may need reasonable accommodations, as well.