Guidelines for writing a good job description

A best practice in Human Resources is to have job descriptions for all staff positions. Job descriptions serve as the basis for a number of functions, including recruiting, selection, training, career planning, performance evaluation, promotions, transfers, job evaluation and legal purposes. Job descriptions also provide a standardized format of job duties and qualifications for each position. In addition, job descriptions help those interested in other positions to know what qualifications and experience are needed to advance to that position.

A job description enables someone who knows little or nothing about the job to read the description and quickly understand the nature, scope and requirement of the job as well as how the job impacts GVSU. As you write the description, describe the job in general terms and describe the job as it exists now, not how it may change in the future. Describe only permanent responsibilities, not occasional or temporary duties. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms. Write the description so that someone unfamiliar with the department can understand it. This job description indicates in general the nature and levels of work, knowledge, skills, abilities and other essential functions expected. It's not designed to contain a comprehensive list of responsibilities or initiate a title and/or salary change request. In designing the description, the staff member must refrain from overstating or inflating responsibilities.

Essential Functions  A job function is essential when performance of the function is the REASON the job exists. List the functions in order of importance. Functions can include a grouping of tasks that constitute one major, distinct set of activities. Essential functions are those that the incumbent must be able to perform. You can tell if the responsibilities are essential if they meet the following criteria:

  • The job exists primarily to perform the responsibilities
  • If the responsibilities are not done, the results for the university will be serious
  • The time spent performing the responsibilities is significant (more than 10%).

Use brief and concise sentences or phrases. Readers should be able to understand each responsibility without further clarification. Begin each sentence with a present tense action verb such as Develops, Monitors, Negotiates, Supervises, Manages, Leads, Responsible for

Non-Essential Functions  A non-essential function is not mandatory to the existence of the job.

Required Education  The minimum formal education, certifications and licenses required to perform the job functions.

Preferred Education - Education beyond the required education which would be desirous but not required to perform the job functions.

Required Experience  The minimum work related experience required to perform the job.

Preferred Experience  Work related experience above the required experience that would be desirous but not required to perform the job functions.

Online Resources
There are many online resources that provide sample job descriptions. Here are two you may find useful:

O*Net

Monster