The Right Way to Write Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are important. Not only are they the primary method of attracting talent to apply for your open positions, but job descriptions are also important for establishing the finer points of an employee’s duties once they’ve become a part of your team. Depending on what company you work for, it could be the people in HR that are in charge of every aspect of the job descriptions that get pushed out to job boards, from the wording to the skill requirements to the responsibilities that the job entails. While this structure of ownership may work, it’s important to remember that the people in HR aren’t in the departments that they’re hiring for. Often times, because of this distance from the day-to-day of a particular department, this job description can be out of date or out of touch with the real demands of the position. In order to make sure that the job descriptions of the workers at your company match up with the work that they’re doing, it might be in your organization’s best interest to turn over ownership of these job descriptions to the employees that hold those jobs.

“But why is the job description so important?” you might be asking, “What’s wrong with doing things the way we always have?” Well, the answer to that is nothing, as long as nothing has ever been wrong with the job descriptions that you’ve written. Though your software developer job description might have been on the cutting edge when you first wrote it, a lot has probably changed since then, both in your company and your industry. What might have been a great job description a few years ago could be lacking responsibilities or skill requirements that have become core to success in that position.

Because job descriptions are used to establish performance and development goals for employees, it’s very important to verify that they don’t  contain errors. One way to accomplish this is to turn over ownership of your job descriptions to the people who hold those jobs. Instead of having someone who has little knowledge of what a particular position might entail, you get someone (the employee) who lives and breathes the requirements of that job on a daily basis. Though there must still be oversight over this employee owned model of job descriptions, chances are that they’ll be able to paint a much more complete picture of the position and keep that description up to date as conditions change in your company or industry.

If you aren’t interested in turning over job description ownership to the employees that hold those jobs, then it’s up to you to make sure that your job descriptions are an accurate reflection of the jobs that they describe. The best way to go about doing this is to consult with people in the position that you’re trying to describe. Who better to ask about what skills are vital for a successful Java developer than one of your Java developers? It’s okay if you don’t know the first thing about the job that you’re trying to describe, but it’s not okay to press on as if it isn’t an issue. Seek out employees with the same or a similar job title and get their opinion on what core responsibilities and skill requirements they encounter in their job. This way, you can put together accurate job descriptions that can be used to fairly evaluate the progress of any new hires that you make as well as your current staff.

Blog