What is a job description?

A job description is a written explanation that outlines the essential responsibilities and requirements for a vacant position. Job descriptions should be thorough, clear, and concise and include:

  • A brief introduction to the company and its mission.
  • An overview of the job responsibilities. 
  • The necessary skills, competence levels, knowledge, and qualifications relevant candidates should have.
  • Testing that the company may require.
  • Working conditions and location. It should also cover whether the role is office-based, remote, or hybrid.
  • Environmental factors or strenuous components of the job.
  • The type of employment—full-time, part-time, or independent contractor.

What are the main objectives of a job description?

A job description’s main objective is to clearly present all aspects of a job role to the applicant. Effective job descriptions help employers attract relevant candidates to apply for the proposed job role.

For employers, the primary aims of a job description are to:

  • Clearly define the job role and set clear expectations
  • Attract applicants with the right qualifications and levels of experience
  • Discourage unsuitable candidates from applying 
  • Provide a reference point for managers and HR to evaluate a new joiner’s performance compared to the responsibilities outlined in the job description

For applicants, job descriptions should:

  • Indicate whether the job in question aligns with their interests, skill set, goals, and morals.
  • Demonstrate company expectations, allowing the applicant to judge if their qualifications are sufficient.
  • Help prepare for the interview process. Job descriptions should provide candidates with a basic idea of the questions interviewers may ask about their experience, qualifications, and work philosophy.
  • Candidates can check salary ranges—if included in a job description—to compare multiple roles within a given industry and decide which ones to apply for.

Why are job descriptions important?

Job descriptions are an indispensable tool. A crystal-clear job description enables HR to:

  • Define the job and identify the type of candidate they’d like to hire
  • Attract internal candidates and engage in effective succession planning
  • Recruit and hire suitable candidates
  • When job descriptions include salary ranges, HR can compare the salary proposed for a role against those offered by similar organizations in their industry

Up-to-date and accurate job descriptions can also help employers avoid unforeseen legal complications and employment claims down the line.

Furthermore, job descriptions enable applicants to determine whether a job may be a good fit for them. Communicating duties and obligations is crucial if employers want new hires to fulfill work expectations. Candidates with disabilities, in particular, need to know the demands of a position so they can determine if the job could be suitable.

How can HR leaders write high-quality job descriptions?

These five tips can help HR professionals build job descriptions that attract suitable candidates:

  • Include essential information in separate sections.  A company overview, job summary, and an explanation of required responsibilities, skills, and qualifications help candidates determine if the position is appropriate for them. Specify the job’s benefits and perks as well—it can tip the scales for curious candidates.
  • Make sure your descriptions are well-written. The quality of the job description reflects directly on the company ethos. An engaging, comprehensive, and concise job description demonstrates professionalism and trustworthiness.
  • Make it concise.  Ensure that the description is short—around 300 words—and to the point, as candidates will probably skip over a long-winded job description.
  • Keep your target audience in mind. Remember that the job description is intended for a living, breathing, thinking person. Use conversational, engaging language that aligns with the company brand. Depict the job accurately by including the expected duties and necessary soft skills, and perhaps explain what a day on the job entails. 
  • Update your job descriptions regularly. Periodically review job descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the role. If a position changes to include more responsibilities, update it. Proper job descriptions are essential for HR processes to function smoothly.

What are job responsibilities?

Job responsibilities are the day-to-day duties a person must perform to succeed in their position. The different facets of our jobs—such as title, interests, and direct reporting—can prove distracting.

The most important function someone performs for their organization will always be the fulfillment of their role. Companies use job descriptions to outline their expectations for potential candidates. This helps avoid hiring anyone unqualified for the position.

Job descriptions vs. job responsibilities

Job descriptions and job responsibilities are both vital to the recruitment process.

A job description is an employer document that describes an open role at the company. It’s often included in job ads to give prospective candidates a clear idea of a role’s scope and what skills and experience are required to succeed in it. It also typically includes a summary of the position, job title, and information about the company culture and benefits.

On the other hand, job responsibilities are what a company outlines as the specific tasks and duties people in each role are accountable for. These can change over time as a role evolves with the company and changes in business needs.

Recommended For Further Reading

How do employers use job descriptions?

Job descriptions are a vital resource for employers, aiding not only each step of the employment process but the entirety of the employee lifecycle, from recruitment to offboarding.

Job descriptions help organizations:

  • Provide a basis with which to create employee evaluations. Companies can use job descriptions to understand how new joiners are adjusting to their responsibilities and performing in their roles.
  • Facilitate collaboration between team members and supervisors to create and develop long-term career goals and development plans.
  • Determine what training programs to invest in based on the needs of different roles across the company.

Why should creating high-quality job descriptions be a part of modern HR strategy?

Job descriptions aren’t just a supplementary component of the HR strategy. Modern HR strategy must incorporate accurate and effective job descriptions to succeed in today’s world of work. Complete, well-written job descriptions enable HR to build a plan that drives successful employee recruitment, engagement, and retention.