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Writing JDs That Really Work Job descriptions can be helpful tools for both every day and legal reasons

By Khalil Zafar

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Well-written and well-defined job descriptions (JDs) can assist your company as a management tool for ascertaining, categorizing and assigning work-related responsibilities. It also helps in the organization and division of work along with prevention of replication of employees' efforts. That is why extra attention and carefulness should be maintained while drafting job descriptions for your company that are bespoke to the precise elements required for each position.

A great JD defines and highlights the most vital elements of an employee's position. It starts with a careful analysis of the main job facts (purpose, main duties and responsibilities, reporting relationships, work culture and physical demands and the skills/qualifications needed for the job).

Managers/supervisors should be responsible for developing basic drafts or making changes to existing job descriptions. The human resource department should assist in providing formats, samples and information gathering; however, for best outcomes, supervisors should always interact with employees in developing or reviewing JDs for accuracy and transparency.

Elements of a Great JD

Brief information: The exact title, JDs effective date and department of the employee must be clearly mentioned. This should be made short and unpretentious yet as descriptive as possible.

Purpose: This should be a brief one or two sentence statement incorporating the basic purpose and intentions of the position so the employee can comprehend at a glimpse the key motives why the job exists. It should empower anyone realistically acquainted with the company and its work to understand the main purpose of the required position. Any restraints, specific importance or shared responsibility can also be mentioned here.

For example, finance assistant.

"Contribute to the scheduling, improvement and implementation of financial and accounting policy that will make sure that all entries are correct and up to date."

For example, HR Manager.

"Manage the human resources of the organization proficiently and effectually to achieve result oriented employment performance outcomes."

* Notice each begins with an action-verb followed by specific details of what is done and why it is done.

Main duties and responsibilities: This is the most important section of the JD which should briefly yet clearly define the main job duties and responsibilities in a process oriented manner. Try to incorporate various descriptive terms related to the main aspect of a certain function rather than to specify merely what is done. It is also crucial to note particular deliverables for a task.

For example, the statement: "Supervises all staffs that process client's orders for shipment and billing."

Could be better stated as follows: "Supervises sales executives in taking online orders from clients and finalizing them for speedy shipment and billing within 15 hours of order placement."

It is highly recommended that all the job descriptions contain no more than a maximum of 10 duties/responsibilities; ideally five or six duties is considered appropriate in order to make the description easier to comprehend, adopt, understand implement and monitor. Similar tasks or actions can be merged together to define what is to be achieved. Usually, the director or managerial level jobs use much broader duty statements.

Organizational Relationships

This part should define the reporting relationships between this position and other key positions including supervisors and positions supervised. Organizational relationships should also cover the basic requirements for coordination with other positions or departments.

For example, Director Operations.

"Directly accountable to the Managing Director for effectively performing all responsibilities. Provides reports on all aspects of company performance as requested by the MD/Board. Directly supervises the managers of the company".

Skills and qualifications required: Some HR experts refer this section to as Job Specifications or simply JS. This covers the minimum requirements necessary to be able to fill the position in terms of qualification and skill. This is also used as a selection criterion for new applicants. It is thus crucial to develop JS that will noticeably and precisely describe the knowledge, skills, abilities and qualifications required to perform the job successfully.

For example, GM For Training Institute.

A bachelor degree is required with a major in business administration; an MBA is highly preferred.

  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to work well with people is essential
  • Demonstrated leadership skills are required since this job requires managing and leading various departments and teams
  • Understanding of vocational training, learning and development and HR issues is crucial
  • Must possess 10+ years of experience in a senior management position in education/training sector along with knowledge of labor laws.

Work environment and culture: Describe the environment of the position in which job is to be performed. Briefly explain any unusual conditions evolving the physical area that may be vital. Is it load and noisy, stressing, dirty, dangerous, hot or cold, indoors, outdoors, an office or a factory?

For example, Finance Manager.

"The job is performed indoors in a traditional office setting. Activities include extended periods of sitting and extensive work at a computer monitor and/or calculator. Occasional travel by airplane and automobile in conducting meetings is necessary. Company follows the value of "Speed' so finishing work on time and managing deadlines is a key performance indictor".

Job descriptions can be helpful tools for both every day and legal reasons. Remember, drafting a job description is just the beginning. A company can only prosper if all its activities are linked to the overall mission, vision, values and goals – the same should be reflected in your company's job descriptions. With a little truthful effort, you can craft just the right job description to bring a wide range of highly talented personnel into your pipeline.

Khalil Zafar

Senior HR and management consultant


Khalil has over 10 years of rich and progressive international experience in strategic HR, training, leadership development, talent acquisition, organizational renewal, business process automation, performance management and organizational/strategy development.

Currently he is working as senior manager HR/ Partner-Organizational Renewal at Straxecute Consulting (UAE & Pakistan). He is also a professional trainer/instructor who has not only delivered trainings to corporate clients, but has also taught students at higher education level to help them develop their management knowledge and skills.

 Khalil has completed a M.Sc. in Organizational Psychology/HRM, along with a master's degree in mass communication. He is also an IRCA certified internal auditor for quality management systems.

He has taught people from different nationalities including India, Pakistan, Philippines, Lebanon, Jordan, Cameron, China, Scotland and Canada.  

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