Posted by HR Solutions Blog Team on June 20, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Job descriptions play an important role in the employment lifecycle and serve as a useful tool to help you manage your employees. It’s a best practice to develop and maintain job descriptions for all positions in your company for several reasons:

  • Hiring: Employers can use job descriptions to identify the essential functions of the job and the qualifications needed for the role.
  • Pay & Performance: Accurate job descriptions help set clear expectations for employees, and can help the company evaluate performance, make compensation decisions and identify training needs.
  • Accommodations: Accurate job descriptions can help the company handle requests for reasonable accommodations.
  • Classifications: When job descriptions accurately reflect employees’ current responsibilities, they can help employers make exempt vs. non-exempt classification decisions, which are particularly relevant in light ofnew overtime rules.

Here are six common elements of a job description:

#1: Job Details

Generally, this section is at the top of the job description and includes:

  • Job title: Accurately reflect the job and its status within the organization (e.g., senior project manager).
  • Reporting structure: Provide the title of the reporting supervisor, rather than his or her name.
  • Exempt vs. non-exempt status: Any position may be classified as non-exempt from overtime. However, certain federal and state tests must be satisfied to be considered exempt. Before designating a position as exempt, be sure to carefully apply the appropriate tests.
  • Job summary: A brief (one or two sentences) synopsis of the job that includes the most important functions of the role.
  • Dates and approvals: Include the date the job description was created or last revised as well as who created and approved it.

#2: Essential Functions

Each job description should have a list of essential functions. Essential functions are the job duties that an employee must be able to perform with or without areasonable accommodation. Consider:

  • Whether the job was created to perform that function;
  • How often and for how much time the employee is expected to perform the function;
  • The number of other employees available to perform the function; and
  • The degree of expertise or skill required.

Use brief sentences in the present tense, beginning with an action verb. For example, an essential function for a maintenance technician might read: “Diagnose mechanical problems and determine how to correct them.”

#3: Non-Essential Functions

If there are additional tasks or responsibilities the employee may be required to perform during the course of his or her job, but are not essential to the job, include them here. It’s a best practice to list these responsibilities separately from the essential functions.

#4: Qualifications and Skills

In each job description, include the training, education, certification(s), and years of experience needed to perform the job. Differentiate between required qualifications and preferred qualifications. For example, “three years of industry experience is required; five years is preferred.” In some cases, education may be a substitute for the requisite experience and/or vice versa. If so, indicate that in the job description. Additionally, provide a list of basic, technical, or other skills, knowledge, or abilities, needed for the role.

#5: Physical Demands and Work Environment

If the physical demands and/or work environment are essential to the job, include them in your job description. If you include physical demands, focus on the task that needs to be done, rather than how it should be done. For example, say that the position requires “moving” 50 pounds, instead of “lifting” 50 pounds, or say “traversing” the length of the warehouse instead of “walking” the length of the warehouse. Employees with disabilities may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with an accommodation, such as using a cart, dolly, or mobility aid. If the job involves work in hazardous or adverse conditions, or a particular work environment (outdoors, extreme heat or cold), include that information in your job description as well.

#6: Scope and Changes

Include a statement indicating that the:

  • Job description is not intended to cover every single requirement of the job.
  • The company reserves the right to change job duties at any time.


It is a best practice to maintain a written job description for each position within your company. When developing a job description, seek the input of current employees and their supervisors so that you can accurately determine the job’s requirements. Review job descriptions on a regular basis to ensure that they remain accurate.

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