How to Write a Job Description

Learn how to write a job description that attracts the right job candidates for the position you have open. Job descriptions are also important for helping employees understand their responsibilities and evaluating employees’ performance. Here’s what to include and how to write it.

A compelling job description is essential to attract the right job candidates to apply for your small business job opening. Your job posting will be competing with many others, so you need to take care to write the job description in a way that it will be found by suitable job candidates who are searching for positions like you have available.

What Is a Job Description?

A job description is a short explanation of what the job you seek to fill requires.  It describes what responsibilities are associated with the job along with activities and specific skills that will be needed. The job specifications you include will be used not only to post a job opening, but also to help employees understand their responsibilities and to evaluate job performance.

What Should Be Included in the Job Description?

To some extent, what goes into the description depends on the nature of the work, job level, and size of the company. A large corporation looking to fill a top-level IT position in a major city is likely to want to include more details to woo the right candidate than a small boutique that looking for a sales clerk. In general, however, here’s what to consider including:

  • Job Title
  • Department (if the business is big enough to have departments)
  • Major responsibilities
  • Qualifications needed to perform the job satisfactorily
  • Who (ie, head of sales, Senior VP, warehouse manager) the employee will report to
  • Whether the work is full-time, part-time or temporary
  • Hours of work – especially if they are non-standard
  • Salary range
  • Location
  • Benefits
  • Other terms of employment

Writing the Job Description

Before you attempt to write a job description, you should do a thorough job analysis.  Doing so will let you focus on the needs of the job you want to fill, rather than the type of person you think you want to hire.

When you write the job description, you’ll  want to briefly summarize the key responsibilities, tasks, and necessary qualifications for the job you’ve listed on your Job Analysis. You should include any special needs such as that the job involves shift work, lifting, the ability to create videos for social media, etc. If competition for the type of employee you are seeking is stiff, you may want to include information about the benefits of working in your facility such as flexible hours, vacation time, etc.  

If you’re a small local business that competes against bigger businesses for talent, include any benefits that you might be able to provide that bigger businesses might not such as flexible working hours, or the possibility of telecommuting some of all of the time.

You will be using the job description to create the text of job postings at online job sites. Therefore, the description and the job title should be written using words a job seeker with the right qualifications would use to search for a job.  For instance, if you need an administrative assistant to help in Purchasing, you will want to include “administrative assistant” and “purchasing” in the description and the job title.

Don’t try to be clever or funny when you write the description. It should be written so that you and anyone else involved in the recruiting and hiring process will have a good understanding of the job specifications and expectations. It should also help job seekers understand if they are qualified to do the work, and how the job might stack up against their own expectations.

If you are replacing an employee rather than hiring for a new position and already have a job description you have on file, be sure the old description still describes the type of person you need to fill the job.

When you write the job description, pay close attention to the job qualifications you list. To avoid the discrimination charges, make sure the qualifications you list are really needed to perform the job you describe. Remember, it is illegal in the US to discriminate on the basis of race, nationality/country of birth, sex, age, religion, and physical or mental disability.

In addition to being used to recruit job candidates, a good job description helps you remain on track in the hiring process. Will the web developer you hire need to be able to plan, design, and program a storefront for an auto parts store? Will they need to be proficient in specific programming languages such as C#, VB.Net, and SQL? Will they need to do the work with little supervision or help from you? Or, will they be responsible for less intensive tasks that require only basic HTML and CSS skills? Will they need to interact extensively with customers on the telephone or in person? Or will they be working with a supervisor or project manager who will be the go-between with the customer?

Does the stock room position you have open require prolonged standing? Will they need to be able to operate any special type of equipment? Read and write in English? Be expected to lift heavy items?

No matter what the job opening, go back and look at your Job Analysis to be sure the key skills and capabilities you’ve listed wind up as part of your written job description.

When the hiring process moves to the interview stage, the job description will become even more helpful. It will serve to keep the interview focused on the tasks to be done and on getting responses that enable you to make decisions about which applicant best fits your real needs. It helps to corral wandering and keeps the all-important interview on course.

In summary

A job candidate with an infectious smile who shares your passion for sailing, might be very likable and fun to talk with at lunch, but is he or she really the right person for the job? Comparing their skills and experience to the requirements spelled out in the job description will help you make the right decision. 

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