A job description is a document intended to provide job applicants with an outline of the main duties and responsibilities of the role for which they are applying. The description is usually drawn up by the individual in the organisation responsible for overseeing the selection process for the role, often with the help of the company’s HR department and/or an external recruiter.
Why is a job description important?
A job description is an essential part of the job application process as, with the right information, it should help applicants to determine whether the role is in line with their skill set and whether it is a job they actually want to do.
From the organisation’s perspective, the job description is vital in ensuring that the applications received for the position closely match the needs of the role itself. It helps HR departments and external recruiters to streamline the selection process and receive a high concentration of candidates who are suitable for interview or further selection.
A job description helps to streamline the selection process.
What are the main uses of a job description?
There are many benefits to an effective job description. Here are just some of its key uses:
To provide the employee with the expectations that are required of them in the role
To provide enough detail to help the candidate assess if they are suitable for the position
To support the recruitment team during the selection process
To help formulate questions for the interview process
To allow the prospective employee to determine their role or standing within the structure of the organisation
To assist in forming a legally binding contract of employment
To help set goals and target for the employee upon joining
To aid in the evaluation of the employee’s job performance
To help formulate training and development plans
What is typically included in a job description?
A well rounded job description should clearly identify the purpose of the role as well as the key tasks to be performed and the main accountabilities of the position. The document will also usually also include a brief background and overview of the organisation, as well as the name or position of the employee the successful candidate will be reporting to.
In addition, you can also expect to find an explanation of the kind of candidate the organisation is looking for. This might include their professional experience and achievements, skill set, educational background and qualifications, as well as any desired personality traits.
The description will also include practical information, such as where the job is based, whether it’s full or part-time and, in most cases, the intended salary.
The key points that would normally be included in a job description include:
- Title and summary of the role
- List of duties
- Desired professional experience
- Education level and desired qualifications
- Core skills required for the position
- Necessary certificates, licences and registrations
- Who the prospective employee will directly report to
- Whether the employee has any subordinates reporting to them
- Physical requirements (if needed)
- Work environment
- Employment conditions
What is the typical structure of a job description?
A job description should follow a simply laid out, accurate format that clearly defines the needs of the role. While the actual structure will typically vary between roles and organisations, a well-rounded job description will normally be loosely structured as follows:
- Job Title
- Reports to
- Job Purpose (a brief line or two)
- Responsibilities/duties (detailed)
- Essential and desirable criteria
- Company/ team overview
- Application information
What are the limitations of a job description?
It can be very difficult to capture what a job will really entail within a few short paragraphs. Furthermore, some positions within an organisation may be newly created roles and, when creating the job description, it may not always be possible to fully foresee the way the role will develop and be adapted over time.