How to write a job description

how to write a job descriptionTo understand how to write a job description, first you need to understand why have a job description in the first place. The key reasons for having a job description are:

  • The Employment Relations Act 2000 requires an employer to have ‘a description of the work to be performed by the employee’ in their employment agreement
  • Avoid hefty non-compliance fines which can be up to $20,000
  • Provide clear objectives/goals for the employee
  • Helps the employee understand where their position fits in the big picture
  • Provide the employee with an understanding of what is expected of them

Job descriptions define what outcomes are required, and what the person needs personally to be successful in the job i.e. qualifications, skills, personal attributes. To write a job description it usually has 4 sections:

  1. Purpose of the job – Describes WHY you need this job. This is the big picture summary in 1 or 2 sentences
  2. Key Responsibilities – Describes WHAT outcomes the job is responsible for. Usually there are 6-7 responsibilities
  3. Skills and Knowledge – Describes WHAT you need the employee to have skill in. These are the things they have practiced enough to do well. Skills usually come with a body of knowledge. They can also include specific experience or a qualification. Examples include, Microsoft Word – intermediate level, retail experience, degree/diploma in marketing
  4. Personal Attributes – Describes WHO the person needs to be; the personality traits or personal characteristics you need the person to have. These will help them be successful in the job. Examples include accurate, attention to detail, enthusiastic

When writing the job description focus on the WHAT, rather than the HOW. What does this mean?

The ‘WHAT’ in a job description are the outcomes you expect, for example for a:

  • Accounts Administrator: Reconcile bank statements by the 10th of each month
  • Creative Director: High quality, creative media design solutions are produced specific to client brief
  • Distribution Manager: Print work is delivered to Distribution Companies to deadlines, in the most cost effective and appropriate manner

The HOW is the pathway the employee takes to achieve the outcomes, for example as detailed above let the Creative Director decide how they will meet the client’s brief.  This means as the manager you don’t end up with ‘the monkey on your back i.e. having to micro manage or dictate actions or steps for the employee to take to achieve outcomes. The employee learns to think for themselves, and decide on the HOW. Neuroscience has found that this approach is more motivating for the employee. Learn more..

In summary, learning how to write a job description effectively involves having at least 4 sections (purpose of the job, key responsibilities, skills and knowledge, personal attributes). The way you write a job description needs to focus on the WHAT (the outcomes), rather than the HOW (the way the employee will achieve the outcome).