Overview: Job specifications are a way to describe the knowledge, skills and abilities essential to performing a job well. These specifications come out of an employer's job analysis and should describe the qualifications that the employer is seeking in a job candidate. They also may include physical and mental demands, and should be based on the specific job duties and responsibilities actually performed.
Depending on their level of detail, job specifications can be used to assign work and document work assignments; recruit for vacant positions; assign occupational codes, titles and/or pay levels; and help make decisions on job restructuring to help attain improved productivity.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to job specifications. They may range from the highly specific and detailed to the generic and general. But however they are crafted, job specifications should be clear and provide enough information to be useful to the employer and not be so broad as to confuse or mislead.
It also is a good idea in a job specification to identify exempt or nonexempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), give realistic titles and identify essential job functions.
Trends: The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 made it easier for individuals with disabilities to bring claims by broadening the definition of disability. This makes it even more critical for employers to avoid including nonessential job functions in job specifications that may deter these individuals from applying.
Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect forthcoming FLSA overtime exemption requirements.
HR guidance on preparing effective job specifications.