Employers should develop job descriptions that clearly define the essential functions of every job before advertising the job or interviewing applicants. A job description should have clear, concise, non-technical language, and avoid unnecessary words. The job description should focus on words that have a single meaning with detailed explanations for words that may be interpreted differently. Each sentence should begin with an active verb and use the present tense. Examples of job functions should be provided. The desired outcome of the work should be described, rather than one method for accomplishing that outcome. For example, instead of "writes down notes during meetings" put "records notes during weekly meetings." Writers should avoid using gender-specific language, jargon, technical language, proprietary names (Xerox), and ambiguity.
Additionally, job descriptions are handy for both employees and managers: after hiring, both can refer back to the responsibilities and other information to gauge how well they’re doing their job and whether they’re matching expectations.
According to Torrington, a job description is usually developed by conducting a job analysis, which includes examining the tasks and sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job. The analysis considers the areas of knowledge and skills needed for the job. A job usually includes several roles. According to Hall, the job description might be broadened to form a person specification or may be known as "terms of reference". The person/job specification can be presented as a stand-alone document, but in practice it is usually included within the job description. A job description is often used by employers in the recruitment process.
Developing job descriptions is an issue that many employers deliberate. Initially, some employers may be daunted by what they perceive to be a lengthy and complicated process. Yet, with constructive tools such as job analysis, sample job descriptions, and on-line resources like Career Onestop from the U.S. Department of Labor, informed employers are able to obtain valuable information about their organizations. This publication addresses relevant background information, which includes the role of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in developing job descriptions, how to formulate job descriptions, special features of Career Onestop that assist with the development process, and relationship to the accommodation process.
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