HR Support on Writing Job Descriptions

Editor's Note: Good job descriptions avoid ambiguity.

David B. WeisenfeldOverview: Clarity is the key when it comes to job descriptions. The employer should not mislead potential job applicants or employees, not to mention managers, with unclear or inaccurate job descriptions.

A job description ideally should be a summary and have enough pertinent information about the work to reveal the essential functions of the job. The minimum qualifications required to do the job; desired licenses or certifications if any; the job title; exempt vs. nonexempt status for overtime pay; and the working conditions also are among the factors that usually are included.

As is the case with other areas of job analysis, employers should review all job descriptions on a regular basis. At a minimum, descriptions should be reviewed whenever a job is filled since recruitment is an ideal time for managers to assess organizational needs and rework job duties if a modification is needed.

Employers also should ensure that job descriptions exclude nonessential functions so that otherwise qualified applicants are not discouraged from applying for open positions. For instance, a lifting requirement that is minor or nonessential might deter individuals with disabilities from applying and could create liability under the ADA as a result.

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor

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