Creating best-practice job description templates

Creating best-practice job description templates

To make it easier to create and manage job descriptions that are complete, clear and consistent, it's best to start with a job description template. The number of templates you need will depend on the variety of jobs in your organization, but as with all things — less is more.

But while many HR professionals and managers agree that job description templates are a foundational talent management tool, many struggle with knowing exactly what to include in their templates.

According to industry expert and consultant Gordon Medlock from HRIZONS and other leaders, a best-practice job description template should have:

Job information — that includes things like:

  • Job title
  • Job code
  • Job family
  • Exemption status
  • FLSA status
  • Pay grade (optional)
  • Effective date (optional)

You may also want to include information like:

  • Version number
  • Employer
  • Division
  • Reporting
  • Shift
  • Department
  • Location

Job summary — that frames the essential functions you’ll evaluate in performance appraisals and list in the job requisition. It should answer:

  • What is the job’s purpose?
  • How does the job fit within the organization?
  • What processes does the job support?
  • Why is the job important?
  • What position does this job report to?
  • Where does this job fit in the hierarchy and structure of the organization?
  • What is the span of control of the role?
  • What are the main challenges facing this role?

Qualifications — including requirements for:

  • Education
  • Certification
  • Experience
  • General skills (basic skills needed for the position)

Working conditions (if needed) — here you can include information, like:

  • Hours worked
  • Start time
  • Requirements for overtime
  • Specifications for breaks/lunch
  • Pace of work
  • Noise level
  • Temperature
  • Number of distractions
  • Deadline pressures
  • Demands for thoroughness or accuracy
  • etc.

You may also want to break out specific physical requirements (e.g. lifting, standing for long periods of time), health or safety hazards (e.g. working with dangerous material), working in unusual conditions (e.g. underground, isolated locations), travel requirements, etc.

General requirements (if needed) — this is often listed as “Performs other duties as required.”

Job responsibilities/essential functions/competencies — this section should list 3-7 items that the person in this role will be accountable for and that will be assessed as part of their performance appraisal. The purpose of this section is to define the high priority/high frequency work that needs to be performed in the role, not provide an exhaustive list of every task the employee will perform.

You may want to include instructions or provide space on your template to capture:

  • A name or label that identifies the job responsibility/essential function/competency
  • A summary description that includes:
    • The summary tasks and/or behaviors that the person is accountable to perform
    • The results or outcomes that the person is accountable to deliver
    • The internal or external customer to whom the person is accountable
  • A list of the specific measurable tasks and/or behaviors that define successful performance of the competency

General requirements not specific to this job — other requirements that are part of the job but are not specific to the job (e.g., core competencies).

Leverage libraries and pick lists

To keep things consistent, wherever possible, make sure you create pick lists for common items, as well as a central library of competencies. When you create your job description templates, it's often easy to spot the sections that can benefit from these. Having libraries and pick lists not only keep job description content more consistent, it makes it faster and easier to create and update job descriptions.

Read how others are using job description templates to their advantage

At the Bank of Oakridge every role in their organization now has a job description that reflects the competencies needed to succeed in the role and that is mapped to their performance and learning management processes.

At Methodist Hospitals, they've dramatically decreased the administrative burden and associated costs of performance reviews and maintaining job descriptions, and made job descriptions more consistent.

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