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Job description contents - Everything about the job description
In the battle for top talent, every word counts in job descriptions. Here you can find out exactly what you should pay attention to when writing.
Almost everyone who runs a company or works in human resources planning has probably had to write a job description at some point. In times when a real war for talent has broken out in some industries, every word counts. The wrong wording can quickly lead to a promising talent being hired by the competition.
Find out exactly what you should pay attention to when writing a job description and which contents should not be missing under any circumstances in our guide on the topic.
What is a job description?
A job description is a detailed description of a vacant position. It describes the tasks, duties, necessary competencies and goals to be achieved in the respective job.
With its help, a job is delimited from or related to other jobs. This enables a clear definition of the areas of responsibility of all job holders and their classification in the corporate structure. It is also important that a job description is always formulated in a person-neutral way.
Job description and job posting - don't confuse them!
As mentioned before, a job description is not a job advertisement. A clear distinction must be made here. Where a job description is an instrument for defining a position, a job posting is an instrument for promoting a vacancy in the company.
It is true that the contents of job descriptions are used in job postings, but usually in a significantly slimmed-down version. In this way, company internals do not become public and interested job seekers are not overwhelmed with too many details.
What are the duties of the job description?
Even if the concept of job description sounds abstract at first and is often regarded as a tedious paperwork by those responsible, it has great practical benefits for companies.
Useful tool for managers
For example, a company's managers regularly refer to job descriptions to define the goals and tasks of their employees. If there are differences between two employees, for example about responsibilities in the company, the job descriptions can be used for arbitration.
Use for promotion and training
Job descriptions also have a right to exist in terms of personnel development. If there is a position to be filled, they can be used to draw conclusions about the competencies, functions and powers of a job holder. In this way, an employee can be specifically promoted and trained to take over a vacant position.
Ensure clarity with the employee
Every now and then, it happens that employees are unsure about their areas of responsibility. This is a normal occurrence, especially in times of change in companies, for example after relocations, restructuring or management changes.
Clear job descriptions can make a big difference in such situations, as they set out an employee's tasks and duties in black and white and clearly formulated.
Support for process planning
Chaos can quickly break out when planning large projects or complex processes. Clear job descriptions ensure that the powers, competencies and functions of employees in the company are clearly delineated. In this way, each job holder can be assigned suitable tasks within the framework of a project or process.
Facilitated personnel work
Job descriptions also, and especially, make life easier for staff planning employees.
Help with writing a job advertisement
When writing a job advertisement, the respective job description is almost always used as a template. After all, it contains all the information that the HR employee needs to create a job posting.
Simplify applicant selection
The job description often describes the competencies, duties and tasks of a position. This documentation helps HR staff to select suitable applicants. The job description in particular plays an important role here, as HR employees are often not experts in the field for which they have to select a suitable one for the position in the company from among many applicants.
Create work contracts faster
Thanks to the job descriptions, it is also much easier to create employment contracts after candidate selection, as information regarding tasks, specifications and authority can be used for this as well.
New employees usually need to be trained before they can fully take on the tasks intended for them and make their contribution. To ensure that this happens as quickly as possible, contact persons within the company can be contacted who have been noted in the job description.
Help with personnel planning
When creating substitute schedules and vacation schedules, job descriptions are a great help because they often note people with similar skills to the job holder.
Evaluation of employee performance
With the help of a job's objectives defined in the job description, the job holder can be better evaluated during regular internal performance evaluations. Even in advance, HR staff can create evaluation forms based on this data.
Preparation of job references
Even when the employer and employee part ways again, a job description can still be useful. Thanks to the job description, the reference for the departing employee can be prepared more easily and quickly. The employer can also use this situation to put the job description through its paces and, if necessary, revise the content.
What belongs in a good job description?
But let's finally get to the point. What does a good job description actually contain? A good job description must contain several points. How detailed these are dealt with is something that every company approaches differently. In any case, the following points should be included in every job description:
The job title should describe the position in question briefly and concisely, preferably in one word. So instead of "Manager responsible for coordinating projects", it is better to write "Project manager" as the job title.
Department, area and location
Here, the position is placed in the higher-level structure of the company.
In large companies, employees often have numbers that are assigned according to a certain pattern and facilitate assignment.
If the position has already been filled, the name of the job holder should also be mentioned.
Main tasks of the position holder
Here follows a brief description of the main tasks to be performed by the job holder. For example, the project manager is to lead a restructuring of the warehouse. Then the job description could look something like this: "Planning and coordinating the restructuring of our logistics center".
Secondary duties of the job holder
Most of the time, the employee is expected to perform other secondary tasks in addition to his or her primary task. Here, follow the same pattern as above. A description in short, concise wording is quite sufficient.
Targets of the job holder
This is followed by a description of the job holder's goals, also in concise language. For example: "Increase goods turnover by 45% in 2022".
Area of responsibility of the job holder
The responsibilities of the job holder are described here. For example: "Sole responsibility over the restructuring of our logistics center with ongoing cooperation with other units".
Duties of the job holder
Here are briefly described all the duties of the job holder.
Rights and authorities
This defines what the job holder is allowed to get away with. Is he not even allowed to drive a forklift, or is he allowed to shut down the company's main server if necessary?
Work equipment available
Which work and auxiliary materials provided by the company may the job holder use? Keys, cell phones and company cars, for example, are listed here.
If the job is a management position, this indicates who is subordinate to the job holder.
Supervisor of the job holder
This specifies to whom the job holder is to report and from whom he/she is to receive instructions. Example: "Area Manager Logistics
Deputy of the job holder
In the event of a failure, the employer must be able to react quickly. Therefore, a substitute for each position should be provided for right from the start. In our example, for example, an experienced foreman could temporarily take over the tasks of the project manager.
Interfaces and cooperation
Frequent contacts of the job holder should be listed here. This facilitates the establishment of communication channels.
Answer other important questions
In addition to these main points, you can also address other important questions regarding the position in the job description. What these are depends largely on the position. Examples:
- Are there routine tasks?
- What is the budget available to the job holder?
- Full-time or part-time?
- Evaluation criteria
What doesn't belong in a good job description?
Now that we know what belongs in a good job description, let's take a look at what information should definitely not be found there.
This includes in particular all information that rather belongs in the job advertisement for the position. Requirement profiles and expected qualifications should not be included in the job description, nor should information about the company itself. Ultimately, however, every organization handles its job descriptions differently.
For more information on the content and preparation of a job description, you can take a closer look at our article on "What to look for in a job description".
Advantages and disadvantages of a job description
Job descriptions offer many advantages to both employees in human resources management and the managers of a company. Nevertheless, the creation and maintenance of job descriptions definitely entail a lot of effort and high costs.
For most companies, the advantages of job descriptions outweigh the disadvantages they bring.
- They serve as a source document for job advertisements. Human resources employees can extract information from them about the requirements and tasks of a position.
- Cooperation within the company is structured and simplified by them.
- Targets can be agreed with the employee on the basis of them.
- On their basis, further training measures can be planned for the personnel.
- They can motivate employees because they provide them with a clear goal.
- New job holders can be trained and prepared for tasks more easily thanks to them.
- Overlapping competencies can be avoided.
- Managers can delegate tasks on their basis.
- Thanks to job descriptions, personnel requirements can be planned better and applicants can be sorted out more easily.
- Transparency within the company is increased.
Despite all the advantages that job descriptions offer, they also bring with them some disadvantages.
- If job descriptions are created from scratch, this involves a great deal of effort.
They restrict the freedom of the job holders, which in the worst case can reduce motivation.
- Over-organization can reduce productivity.
- All job descriptions must be constantly updated, which also requires a lot of effort.
- The modern working world is becoming increasingly dynamic. Job descriptions can get in the way of this.
Procedure for creating a job description
By now it should be clear that a job description can be an extremely useful tool. Accordingly, its creation should also be well thought out and planned.
First, a template should be created based on the job to be described. Then, it is determined where it will be filed and who will have access to it in the future. It should also be directly determined who will be responsible for ongoing updates.
After that, it's down to the details. If the job has existed for some time, the current job holder can be interviewed. Based on this information, a job description can then be created, which should then be cross-checked by a supervisor.
If the job is a completely new position, the job description can be developed with reference to company goals and information provided by senior management.
Once all the necessary information has been gathered, the next step is to formulate the job description. This should be independent of the person, clearly understandable and structured. Once completed, the job description is usually approved by a supervisor.
Caution: A job description must be updated again and again. This can be done on certain occasions to keep the effort as low as possible. For example, when the job holder leaves the company, when the company is restructured, when new products or projects are introduced, or when new goals are agreed with a job holder.
Job descriptions involve a lot of effort. Ultimately, each entrepreneur must decide for himself whether their existence is worthwhile. In our opinion, this depends heavily on the industry. In more traditionally structured companies with clear hierarchies, job descriptions definitely make more sense than in modern companies focused on the freedom and creativity of employees with a laissez-faire approach.
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