A well-crafted job description is a written statement that describes the main objective of a job, its essential and nonessential functions, job qualifications, and other information about the job. A job description may include duties, skills, effort, responsibilities of the job, environmental and working conditions specific to the job, as well as the education and experience required for performing the job. It may also list information on tools and equipment used and relationships with other jobs. A job description describes the job, not the person or persons who hold that job.
Why Are Job Descriptions Important?
Accurate job descriptions provide a basis for job evaluation, wage and salary comparisons, and a fair wage and salary structure. In particular, well-written job descriptions should:
- Clarify who is responsible for what within the company. They also help define relationships between individuals and between departments. By accomplishing this, job descriptions can be used to settle grievances, minimize conflicts, and improve communications.
- Help the job holder understand the responsibilities of the position. This not only enables the employee to assess the relative importance of everything he or she is accountable for but also provides a sense of where the job fits in to the company as a whole.
- Assist job applicants, employees, supervisors, and human resources professionals at every stage in the employment relationship, from recruitment to retirement. Job descriptions provide information about the knowledge, training, education, and skills needed for each job. They prevent misunderstandings by detailing for employees what they need to know about their jobs.
- Help management analyze and improve the company’s structure. They reveal whether all company responsibilities are adequately covered and where responsibilities should be reallocated to achieve a better balance.
- Provide a basis from which to determine whether a disabled applicant is otherwise qualified for the job and, if so, to assist in determining what accommodation would be required for the applicant to be able to perform the essential functions of the position.
While the ADA doesn’t require job descriptions, it does require that applicants and employees are able to perform the “essential functions” of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has said that one of the things the agency will look at when determining essential functions are job descriptions written before an employer advertises to fill an opening. Therefore, most companies—whether they are rewriting old descriptions or developing them for the first time—want them to reflect essential functions, and a generic description is not the best way to do that. In addition to this legal consideration, managers have found problems with generic job descriptions when they are not properly written or if the supervisor chooses to ignore the limitations built into the description.
A job description should begin with the essential functions of the job. The essential functions of a job are the key part of a job description, outlining specific tasks that the job entails. Identifying the essential functions in a job description will help lay the foundation of sound documentation to comply with ADA and EEOC guidelines.
A job description should also include:
- Job Identification: This part of the template includes the job title, name of department, name of supervisor, and date.
- Job Summary: This is a short summary of the job’s basic purpose.
- Accountabilities: The employee is responsible for accomplishing the objectives and responsibilities outlined in the template.
- Job Specifications: Examples of job specifications are experience, education, complexity of duties, and supervision.
Clearly and accurately written position descriptions help in legal compliance. In addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), laws that affect position descriptions include; FLSA, the Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the OSH Act.