How to Write a Great Job Description
Let’s face it — writing a job description is probably not what you want to be doing right now. But we also know that they are absolutely important and if done properly, can set the tone and foundation for the entire organization.
Job descriptions aren’t just used to recruit and hire top talent, they also define the job and document the work to be performed. The job description helps employees and the entire organization understand exactly what the job is and how it is to be accomplished.
The key to writing a great job description is to have both the employer and ideal employee in mind while you write.
This guide to writing great job descriptions isn’t just for new job descriptions, it can also be used to review old, outdated ones. In addition to becoming out-of-date, job descriptions can also be used against you. Your job descriptions should help your company avoid discrimination claims by adhering to labor and employment laws.
What Job Descriptions Should Do
Job descriptions should:
Help management improve organization structure. Incumbent employees and immediate management should take part in the process of writing job descriptions. Writing job descriptions will help management understand who is responsible for what and identify opportunities for a more effective structure.
Clearly describe the responsibilities of the employee. One of the main complaints from employees is not knowing exactly what is expected of them. Vague descriptions not only harm employee satisfaction, they also contribute to productivity problems. A good job description will tell the employee what they are responsible for, who they should report to, and how they fit into the organization as a whole. Job descriptions also serve as an extremely useful resource for performance reviews and evaluations.
Tell candidates what you are looking for. Include the skills, knowledge, and behavior characteristics necessary for proper performance of the job. Be realistic about the expectations to make sure your job description reaches and recruits the right candidates.
Cover your legal requirements for compliance purposes. Make sure you cover the essential functions of the position, either with or without accommodations. The description of physical requirements should be accurate to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, a person is qualified for a job if he or she can perform the essential job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Here are some of the major fair employment laws to be aware of:
- Civil Rights Acts (Title VII)
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Equal Pay Act (EPA)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
- Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Executive Order 11246
We highly recommend consulting a lawyer and/or Professional Employer Organization (PEO) to avoid potential lawsuits regarding your job descriptions.
Watch our Interviewing & Hiring Webinar for more information on best nondiscriminatory hiring practices.
Job Description Format
Your job description should have these basics, in this order:
- Job Title
- General Information
- Position Number
- Department or Office
- FLSA Status
- Reports To
- Introduction to the Organization (Position Summary/Job Brief)
- Essential Responsibilities (Role Details)
- Requirements (Minimum Requirements)
- Preferences (Non-Essential, Nice-To-Have Qualities)
- Why Your Company? (Culture, Benefits, and Perks)
- Call-To-Action (How-To-Apply Instructions)
Don’t forget to include instructions on how to apply. If you have an Apply Now button, consider putting it at the top and bottom of the job description. Ideally, there should be a single how-to-apply flow.
Job Description Do’s
Make it unique
Potential candidates will be looking reasons to apply to your organization. While pay grade matters, culture, perks, and job specifics, are arguably more important.
Be specific when spelling out the position’s routine tasks. Avoid vague statements like “Oversees marketing initiatives.” Setting specific and realistic expectations from the start will help you attract and retain the right person.
At the same time, avoid excessive detail. You don’t have to list out every single task. Aim for around 8-16 bullet points. Put the most important tasks at the top.
Accurately describe the culture
Use adjectives that accurately describe the workplace environment, for instance “fast-paced,” “deadline-driven,” “supportive,” “open,” “diverse,” etc. Not every company is “fun and friendly,” so don’t misrepresent the culture.
What is the work environment like? Is it fast-paced or more laid-back? Is it casual or formal? Provide a realistic preview of what it will be like working for the company. For help describing the culture, you may want to have a brainstorm session with some of the employees.
Make it flexible
In order to allow for flexibility in assigning additional tasks and duties, many organizations include a statement similar to this one:
This brief job profile is to give a general idea of the job and in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to be performed by the employee in this position. He or she will be required to follow any other instructions and to perform any other duties requested by his or her supervisor.
Keep it current
Make sure you keep your job descriptions up-to-date. We recommend reviewing and updating your job descriptions at least once a year.
Who Should Write the Job Description?
Normally, Human Resources is tasked with writing job descriptions, but there is a more strategic way of writing great job descriptions.
If you have a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) on your side, they can use their experience and expertise to craft a great job description for you. Contact Resourcing Edge for help developing great job descriptions that are both compliant and compelling.
At the same time, you may want a more hands-on approach, choosing to have your PEO edit the document rather than create it from scratch. Many times, the best person to write the job description is the incumbent employee. Make sure you ask the person with first-hand knowledge of the job for assistance writing the job description. The first draft should then get passed on to the immediate manager. If there is no incumbent employee, get the immediate manager to write the first draft.
After the incumbent employee and immediate manager finish with the first draft, ask a copywriter to edit the document to make it more enticing. If you don’t have a copywriter, find the best writer on your team to edit the document.
The draft should then be given to Human Resources. After Human Resources has made their edits, hand the document to another writer for one last read-through. This might be an editor, CEO, or someone with an eye for detail.
When you are all done, we highly recommend sending the final draft to a lawyer and/or Professional Employer Organization, such as Resourcing Edge.
Job Description Checklist
- Use straightforward job descriptions — don’t use eccentric titles like “Marketing Ninja” or “Customer Service Superstar.”
- Be succinct — use short paragraphs, bullets, and subheadings.
- Showcase benefits, workplace culture, and perks.
- Describe role details, including exciting or challenging projects.
- Consider linking to videos and team pages to describe the department or company.
- Make sure you include “how to apply” instructions.
Research Similar Job Descriptions
Instead of finding a generic job description template, research the specific job you are writing a description for. One of the best ways to get inspiration for writing your job description is by googling the job title and seeing how others have fine-tuned their job descriptions.
You should be researching your competition anyway, but by looking up their job descriptions, you can get a better sense of how they are putting together and promoting their company and culture.
Learn more tips for creating effective job postings.
Learn how to recruit and hire top talent for your organization.
A great job description will avoid discrimination claims, target top talent, reduce turnover, and make interviews and performance reviews a snap.
Write better job descriptions. Contact Resourcing Edge for help. As a Professional Employer Organization, we are always developing great job descriptions for our clients.