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Writing an Effective Job Description – the First Step to Making a Successful Hire

Posted by: Karen Booher on May 7th, 2024

Job descriptions are an important tool that explains the tasks, duties, functions, and responsibilities of a position, in addition to the requirements (experience, education, skills, physical characteristics) of the role. They are not instruction manuals on how to perform a job.

Job descriptions are used for a variety of reasons, including determining salary levels, conducting performance reviews, clarifying missions, establishing titles and pay ranges/grades, and creating reasonable accommodation controls. For recruiting purposes, a good job description is an essential tool. It’s a road map to get you successfully to your final destination of making a good hire.

As recruiters, when we engage with a client to assist them with a search, if they do not have a job description developed, that is the first step that must be completed before the search can begin.

So, how do you put together an effective job description? The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends the following steps.

Step 1: Perform a Job Analysis

The process of gathering, examining, and interpreting data about the job’s tasks will supply accurate information about the job. Performing a job analysis includes doing the following:

The results should be documented and reviewed by the employee who is currently in the position – and their supervisor – for any changes regarding the following:

Step 2:  Establish the Essential Functions

Once the performance standard for a particular job has been made, essential functions of the position must be defined. This step will also provide a better avenue for evaluating Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation requests. Defining the essential functions encompasses the following steps:

Once the essential functions are defined, the employer can make a determination as to whether the functions are essential or marginal. The use of the term “essential function” should be part of the job description, and it should explicitly state how an individual is to perform the job. This will provide future guidance as to whether the job can be performed with or without an accommodation.

Step 3:  Organize the Data Concisely

The structure of the job description may vary from company to company; however, all the job descriptions within an organization should be standardized so that they have the same format. The following topics should be included:

Step 4:  Add a Disclaimer

It is a good idea to add a statement that indicates that the job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties, or responsibilities that are required of the employee. Duties, responsibilities, and activities may change or new ones may be assigned at any time with or without notice.

Step 5:  Add Signature Lines

Signatures are an important part of validating the job description. They show that the job description has been approved and that the employee understands the requirements, essential functions, and duties of the position. Signatures should include those of the supervisor and of the employee in the role.

Step 6:  Finalize

A draft of the job description should be presented to upper management and the position supervisor for review and approval. A draft allows a chance to review, add or subtract any detail before the final job description is approved.

The final job descriptions should be kept in a secure location, and copies should be used for job postings, interviews, accommodation requests, compensation reviews and performance appraisals. Employers may also wish to post them on their intranet.


SHRM, How-To-Guide, “How to Write an Effective Job Description”.

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