Writing a Job Description

Conveying the Meaning of the Job

Giving people the information they need to do the job well.

© iStockphoto

A good job description gives members of your team a very precise idea of what you expect from them, including making the real meaning of the job clear. 

Much like an organization's vision statement  , a well-written job description expresses the role in terms of its overall purpose. Articulated this way, it is a meaningful framework for managing performance expectations, evaluating people, and giving feedback.

Much more than a simple list of duties, it's a dynamic document that identifies key areas of responsibility, and the associated critical success factors   of a position.

For example, Sally, the receptionist, may answer the phones every day but describing her job as a "phone answerer" in no way reflects the real purpose of her role. It doesn't tell Sally what is expected of her, or why her position is of value to the company. What if an automatic phone system is installed and she no longer has to physically answer calls? How do you describe her position then?

Answering the phone is only one duty; her larger role is to be the primary contact for customers. Using a vision statement approach you might say that "the receptionist's job is to welcome people to the facility and convey a family atmosphere from first contact". This is much more informative and humane, and much more likely to motivate the full set of behaviors that you want. By thinking first about why you have a receptionist, and then working back to list the duties related to that – you'll have a stronger and more meaningful description of the job function.

Do your company's job descriptions focus on individual tasks or on overall roles and functions? It's important to write job descriptions that are relevant and that include the major functions and purpose of each position. If done well, the job description will answer these questions: "Why is this job important?"; "What are my key responsibilities and priorities?"; and "What are my critical success factors?"

Reasons for Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are an essential part of managing the work of any organization. Use them to do the following:

... for the complete article:

Mind Tools Club members, click here.

Join the Mind Tools Club to finish this article AND get 1,000 more resources

Join now for just $1, first month

"When I started using Mind Tools, I was not in a supervisory position. Now I am. Along with that came a 12% increase in salary." – Pat Degan, Houston, USA
Add this article to My Learning Plan

Where to go from here:

Join the Mind Tools Club

Click to join Mind Tools
Printer-friendly version
Return to the top of the page

Create a Login to Save Your Learning Plan

This ensures that you don’t lose your plan.


Connect with…

Or create a Mind Tools login. Existing user? Log in here.
Log in with your existing Mind Tools details
Lost Username or Password
You are now logged in…

Lost username or password?

Please enter your username or email address and we'll send you a reminder.

Thank You!

Your log in details have been sent to the email account you registered with. Please check your email to reset your login details.

Create a Mind Tools Login
Your plan has been created.

While you're here, subscribe to our FREE newsletter?

Learn a new career skill every week, and get our Personal Development Plan workbook (worth $19.99) when you subscribe.


Thank You!

Please check your Inbox, and click on the link in the email from us. We can then send you the newsletter.