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Job Description Do’s and Don’ts

by Jeannine Hohman, HR Strategist, TriStarr Staffing

Job Description Do’s and Don’ts
In addition to defining the essential functions of a position, job descriptions can be helpful to us in various ways. They enable us to distinguish positions; determine exempt vs. non-exempt classification for FLSA purposes; determine pay rate; establish performance requirements and assist in recruitment efforts.

That sounds great, right? But what if you don’t have written job descriptions or they haven’t been updated? Below are some tips on the do’s and don’ts of preparing a job description:

DO talk with the supervisor or hiring manager
Creating a job description should be a joint effort between the supervisor or hiring manager and Human Resources. The supervisor of a department knows what is expected and can give specifics of the position.

DON’T start from scratch
Whether you are creating a brand new job description or updating an existing one, there is no need to start with a blank piece of paper. Starting with a good example can get you started on your way. Networking contacts and business associates may be a resource or various online sites can serve as a useful tool.

DO be specific
When it comes to defining the key responsibilities or essential functions of a position, it is important to be specific. For example, rather than just stating that a Human Resources Manager “is responsible for the day to day operations of the Human Resources Department”, it would be better to spell out some of the position’s essential functions. This may include “Plan, organize and facilitate all activities of the department” or “implement and annually update compensation programs”.

DON’T use Acronyms or Jargon
A job description should be clear employees and applicants. Acronyms or jargon that is specific to your organization can be confusing to others, especially in recruiting individuals who could come from a multitude of business backgrounds.

DO use accurate adjectives and action verbs
Be specific and use adjectives that reflect the position and duties accurately. For example, describe the pace of work or the work place environment by stating, “fast-paced” or “team-oriented environment”. Use action verbs in the present tense, such as “facilitates, develops or prepares”.

DON’T use words that may be interpreted as discriminatory
Avoid any language in a job description that could be considered discriminatory in any way. For example, do not use words that indicate gender or age such as “her position” or “his work station” or “young and able-bodied”.

Job descriptions are basically summaries or guidelines for a particular position. The document is not intended to list every detail of the position, mainly because business today is not static, but changing and developing each day. Job descriptions should provide a baseline, but not be so broad that they confuse or mislead managers, employees or job seekers.

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