Writing a good job description isn't a major challenge - but it is important, and it's a good idea to update job descriptions as they change with the shifting nature of your business.
Job descriptions are useful to have on hand during interviews, and they should always be attached to employee manuals, so that employees have a clear idea about what is expected of them. You may also find job descriptions useful during periodic reviews, as they can be used to establish a benchmark for comparison and a springboard for discussion.
To write a strong job description:
Talk to the person doing the job. If possible, talk to the person who is already doing the job. Ask him or her to come up with a list of tasks regularly performed as part of the job. You may also want to consult the employee's supervisor, if applicable, and make sure to ask about what isn't part of the job in the view of the employee.
You may find it helpful to simply ask the employee to write a brief job description; you can use this as a starting point for your own formal job description.
Think about what you expect from a person serving in the position you are trying to describe. Even after getting someone to talk about what she or he does on the job, you probably have a few ideas of your own. Jot down a list of things you associate with the position, and if you have received a job description from the employee actively in the position, compare his ideas of what his job entails with your own.
When coming up with a list of tasks, think about anything and everything someone in that position might be asked to do. You may also come up with a list of things that are outside the scope of that position in the company.
Organize your ideas by importance. Obviously, not every task is of equal importance. You should be able to come up with three to six things which are crucial; if you're writing a job description for a secretary, for example, you might include answering phones, preparing business correspondence, making copies, and assisting visitors to your business on a list of crucial job-related tasks.
Divide your list into tasks that are integral, tasks that are commonly performed, and incidental tasks. If the employee already in the position has written up a job description or list of duties, you may want to ask him or her to note which tasks are most important or performed most frequently.
Write the actual job description. With your organized lists, this should be a snap. You want to keep the job description brief, so as not to be overwhelming, but also accurate. Some jobs require more detailed descriptions than others, but a job description should ideally never exceed a page. Some positions may require only a brief explanation; a clerk at an ice cream shop, for example, has a much less complex job than the head of human resources.
If there are specific legal issues associated with the job, be sure to spell those out in a job description, with a note that a full discussion of the employee's legal rights and responsibilities can be found in the employee handbook.
Keep your job descriptions current. Keep all of the job positions for your company in one location, making it easy to update them quickly. When an employee leaves your company, ask him to review the latest version of his job description as part of the exit interview, to see if there are any changes that should be made. During the exit interview, also be sure to ask if there was anything about the position that the employee wish had been made clearer when he or she started.
A good job description makes employees feel more confident and secure, and it can also clarify someone's function in an office. Make sure that all employees have current job descriptions, and that supervisors have copies of the job descriptions for the people they oversee, so that they understand what you are expecting from all of your employees. You can get tips on how to write and implement business plans with a good online business management course.
s.e. smith is a connoisseur of literature, adventures, and fine food who loves sharing knowledge with others and putting her otherwise marginally useful liberal arts degree to good use.