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Job Descriptions


© 2014 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

Chicago, Illinois 60615 (773) 405-5916

A job description is a tool for building a successful workforce.

  

Clear and well-defined job descriptions are essential for creating a high-performing workforce, controlling personnel expenses, and achieving business goals.


Importance of Job Descriptions  


A job description is a guide and documentation of what a position involves. It helps the employee understand his role in the organization and perform the job to the best of his abilities. Poorly written and/or inaccurate job descriptions can confuse employees and cause them to feel misled, resentful, and insecure.


Plus, an inaccurate job description does not inspire confidence in the employer, and it can cause employees to feel unvalued. In fact, it is in the employer's best interest to create job descriptions that credibly explain the duties and qualifications of positions because they form the basis of performance reviews, trainings, promotions, and compensation.2 They also have legal ramifications. For instance, listing the physical requirements of a position is important for meeting standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.3


Components of a Job Description  


According to the Small Business Administration (SBA)4, a job description should be "practical, functional, and current." It should include the following information:

 


Job descriptions might include a number of components such as the following:




"The project manager oversees the Mental Health Capacity Program. Responsibilities include coordinating and performing administrative tasks, monitoring budgets, coordinating project activities, and managing personnel functions."

 

"The project manager ensures that the project operates within state and federal guidelines, operates within budget, and meets financial reporting requirements. The project manager also ensures that project personnel receive proper training, support, and supervision."


  

In the case of the project manager position, key responsibilities might resemble the following list:

 



 

"Reporting directly to the assistant director of the Mental Health Capacity Program, the project manager holds a supervisory position and works with the program's directors to accomplish goals. The project manager supervises sixteen staff members including eight data collectors, two administrative aides, two data entry clerks, one file clerk, one accounting assistant, and two project liaisons."


 

The goal, of course, is to hire individuals with great qualifications.10  But setting the standards too high might discourage individuals who would excel in the position. In contrast, setting the standards too low might attract people who are unqualified for the position or make the position appear less appealing to competent candidates. A list of qualifications that strikes a balance will help minimize these issues.

  

In the case of a project manager, key qualifications might include the following:11

 


Flexibility is a Key Component of an Effective Job Description  


Although a job description should thoroughly describe the position, it should also allow for flexibility to accommodate organizational and technological changes.12  This flexibility allows employers to add responsibilities and tasks to the position. This is probably why so many job descriptions include the familiar phrase: "performs other duties as assigned." Flexibility also enables employees to grow and mature in their positions.


Updating Job Descriptions  


Employers must adapt to accommodate various changes in economic conditions, technology, customers'/clients' needs, and market conditions – among other things. Internally, changes in processes, procedures, personnel, and organizational structure may also occur.

 

Both internal and external changes affect workloads, personnel needs, and job requirements. To remain effective, job descriptions should be updated as needed to reflect changes in the business.


A Tool for Success  


Job descriptions help employers develop more efficient business operations because they allow them to:



They also help employees (a) clearly understand their roles within the company, (b) know what is expected of them, (c) gauge their performance and career growth, and (d) successfully perform the duties and responsibilities of their positions.

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1 UIC Human Resources, Guide to Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.uic.edu/depts/hr/compensation/Guide%20to%20Writing%20Effective%20Job%20Descriptions-combined.pdf

2 SBA, Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.sba.gov/content/writing-effective-job-descriptions

3 UIC Human Resources, Guide to Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.uic.edu/depts/hr/compensation/Guide%20to%20Writing%20Effective%20Job%20Descriptions-combined.pdf

4 SBA, Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.sba.gov/content/writing-effective-job-descriptions

5 Doug Sayed, Write Effective Job Descriptions, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/write-effective-job-descriptions-HA001189474.aspx

6 Best-job-interview.com, Project Manager Position, http://www.best-job-interview.com/project-manager-job-description.html

7 Infolific, Project Manager Job Description, http://infolific.com/technology/careers/project-manager-job-description

8 http://www.realcomm.com/RC07-Placement/Library/Emp/RCPS_job_description_project_manager_1a.pdf

9 UIC Human Resources, Guide to Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.uic.edu/depts/hr/compensation/Guide%20to%20Writing%20Effective%20Job%20Descriptions-combined.pdf

10 UIC Human Resources, Guide to Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.uic.edu/depts/hr/compensation/Guide%20to%20Writing%20Effective%20Job%20Descriptions-combined.pdf

11 Best-job-interview.com, Project Manager Position, http://www.best-job-interview.com/project-manager-job-description.html

12 SBA, Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.sba.gov/content/writing-effective-job-descriptions

13 UIC Human Resources, Guide to Writing Effective Job Descriptions, http://www.uic.edu/depts/hr/compensation/Guide%20to%20Writing%20Effective%20Job%20Descriptions-combined.pdf