Top Tips for Writing Better Job Descriptions

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | August-17-11

Job Description


As the demand for highly specialized talent increases in the coming years, it will be increasingly important for companies to recruit the best environmental employees to successfully meet strategic goals and attain long-term profitability.

A well- crafted job description can be an important tool in attracting the right candidates. In order to write a good job description, it is imperative to concisely communicate the key responsibilities of the position, and qualifications or skills required for the job. Doing so will increase the odds of attracting candidates with the right training, experience and skills to fit the position.

In addition to attracting the right candidates, a well -written job description can also help communicate clear employee expectations, determine compensation, identify training and development areas and serve as a tool for employee performance evaluation and management. 

A poorly worded job description can cause numerous problems. For example, the job description might attract applicants lacking the required skill sets, which can result in an employer having to interview more applicants than necessary had they just taken the time to prepare a well -written job description . 

Another typical problem area arises when employers post a job description that is out-of-date or inaccurate. An inaccurate or out-of-date job description can increase the chances of misleading potential candidates, which is quite unfavorable, as hiring a misled applicant can lead to job dissatisfaction and high turnover rates.

Need help writing a quality job description? Alison Growse from Pivitol Post provides the following 8 tips for writing better job descriptions:

1) Be clear and concise. Don’t use ambiguous or elaborate language. The goal is to be literal, not literary.


2) Use non-discriminatory language;

3) Describe only the duties, skills and knowledge required of the position, and avoid describing personal traits – you are writing about a position not a   person;

4) Be accurate about the duties and responsibilities of the position – don’t understate or overstate them;

5) Describe the position as it exists today – not how it was in the past, or how it will be in the future;

6) Avoid technical terms, acronyms or abbreviations. If you must use acronyms or abbreviations, use the full term the first time followed by the acronym or abbreviation in brackets;

7) The skills, knowledge and attributes that you require in the job description should be directly related to the duties and responsibilities performed in the “work performed” section of the job description;

8) Education, certification, specific training or experience should not be stated as requirements of the position, unless you can demonstrate that they are essential to the duties and responsibilities of the position, or unless they are required by law or a relevant licensing body.

A manager should review the job description along with setting goals each year for the incumbents in the position.  Keeping the position and the incumbent separate is important in this process.  Performance reviews are meant to discuss the incumbent’s performance versus the job descriptions.  Along with job duties, make sure to cover areas such as level of skill needed, specialized educational requirements, necessary training and how much experience or responsibility the job requires.  In order to meet Pay Equity requirements the descriptions should also include working conditions.

ECO Canada also suggests keeping the job description flexible. Realistically, various jobs and the functions associated with them are subject to change; for that reason, creating a flexible job description will help steer employees away from the "it's not in my job description" defense.  Additionally, allowing a job description to be open to change fosters employee development and growth.

Do you agree with these tips? Have any other to share? We would love to hear from you!