Job Descriptions: Best Practices

By Sonal Shah, JD, Senior Employment Law Counsel
Published July 11, 2017

Although not legally required, it is a best practice for employers to maintain job descriptions for all employees. When done properly, job descriptions are an important tool for properly managing employees and protecting the organization in case of legal claims.  When crafting a job description, employers should:

Analyze the job. Gather information about the exact duties and responsibilities being performed by employees in the job. This can be accomplished by:

  • observing employees as they perform their jobs;
  • interviewing the employees and their supervisors; and/or
  • referencing outside sources, such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook (see U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook).

Describe the job, including essential functions. In the written job description, describe accurately the job's:

  • duties;
  • responsibilities;
  • qualifications; and
  • skills.

Include pertinent details. Ensure the job description includes relevant details about the position, such as:

  • job title;
  • whether the position is exempt or nonexempt;
  • whether the job requires travel, and if so, how much;
  • physical demands of the job;
  • whether the job requires physical presence in the office or allows telecommuting;
  • working environment, for example, whether it is an office or warehouse setting; and
  • date when the job description was drafted or last revised.

Include a disclaimer. Consider adding a disclaimer in the job description stating that:

  • the duties and responsibilities described are not a comprehensive list and that additional tasks may be assigned to the employee from time to time; or
  • the scope of the job may change as necessitated by business demands.

Consider any collective bargaining agreements. Review whether the employer has a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that may apply to any of the jobs being analyzed to ensure the job descriptions are consistent with how the jobs are identified or described in the CBA. 

Have the job description reviewed by the employee in the position and the employee’s supervisor. The draft job description should be reviewed by the employee performing the job to confirm or clarify any duties and responsibilities. The employee’s supervisor should also review the draft to ensure it contains an accurate statement of the position’s duties, responsibilities, qualifications and skills.

Conduct periodic reviews. Written job descriptions should be reviewed on a regular basis, typically at least annually to ensure they continue to accurately describe the actual jobs as they are being performed.

Update the job description as needed. Some changes to a job are so significant that the job description should be updated before the annual review time. If the scope of a job changes, any duties or responsibilities that are no longer applicable should be removed and updated as the change occurs.

Need a sample job description? Management Association members can start with our online samples or contact our compensation services department through the HR Hotline at 800-448-4584. Want to learn more about how to draft a good job description? Register for our upcoming training program.

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