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Five Essential Elements of a Good Description

Most companies of any significant size have, and should have, written job descriptions for each of its employment positions.  The process of crafting these descriptions should start before the hiring process begins to fill positions, for good job descriptions are essential to identifying the various employee attributes needed by an employer. However, job descriptions historically are also one of the most widely used pieces of evidence in employment claims by plaintiffs.  For this reason job descriptions need to be well written and carefully crafted to mitigate the risk of creating a document that can be used against an employer later in court.

As a general rule, there are five essential elements of a job description that should be given great consideration when crating this important document.

1)  Identify the job and its need within the company with a listing of the title, location and department under which the job will operate.

2)  Define the terms of employment such as hours, salary or hourly wage, and benefits.

3)  Develop key responsibilities based on the need for the position. These core responsibilities are the duties the employee will actually focus on a daily basis. One way of organizing responsibilities is to make a list of daily tasks, organize them into groups and identify each group as a key responsibility.

4)  Identify the qualifications necessary to do the job well.  The question should be asked, what experience and education is essential for a successful candidate?

5)  Outline the conditions and special requirements of the position. Does the position require physical capabilities? Is there lifting, carrying or walking requirements? Does the position require travel? Outline the amount of time, distance and travel expectations.

All five elements of the description build a strong foundation that will serve the employer well in the hiring process, and will provide both employer and employee clearly defined parameters of the position. Beyond the basic description, an employee can protect the integrity of a position with well-defined job requirements.  Requirements set forth within the body of the description comprise the true details of the job and illuminate the qualification, soft skills and daily demands of a position.  These could prove vital in the event of future litigation by any employee.

Additionally, requirements do not need to simply detail manual labor or educational requirements.  Elements such as language skills, computer proficiency, etc., are all part of defining the responsibilities. The requirements take a description one step further by defining for a candidate or employee the daily expectations of activities that are unique to that particular position. They also incorporate the culture of a company. Finally, it is always advisable to have an attorney review your job descriptions and requirements as well as shore up your HR policies and procedures in the hiring process. For example, in many cases the job description will dictate whether an employee will be hourly or salary.

Check back on Friday, when we delve deeper into the differences between the basic job description and job requirements, in Particulars of the Jobs: Description vs. Requirements.

Luke A. Wingfield is an associate with McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. Mr. Wingfield concentrates his practice in employment law, insurance defense, litigation and administrative law. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at lwingfield@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780.

This article is intended as a summary of newly enacted federal law and does not constitute legal advice.

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