How to develop practical job descriptions

There are quite a few schools of thought when it comes to what constitutes a really strong job description. We have been working in the business of producing them for over 20 years and have altered our approach to job descriptions and tweaked the way we do things many times but in essence we have come up with some key features that we believe must be considered to write a good job description.

The first thing to remember is that you are using this document to manage a person’s overall progress in a job role. Just as we discuss in good interviewing practices, you need to consider not just the technical aspects of what someone will be doing in their role but also what you are expecting of them in terms of upholding the values and culture of the company. Considering the key behaviours that are critical to the role and the company also need to be factored in.

However, there is a way of going about this that many organisations get terribly wrong.

A really good job description will have a series of tasks listed that inform a person of what the fundamentals of the role are. This will tell a person what they will be doing on a daily basis. This is particularly necessary when recruiting a new person. Everyone wants to know what they will be doing from one week to the next. For example, ‘development of policies and procedures’ doesn’t tell me how they will be doing this or how you would assess their success in completing this task.

A good job description will outline the tasks at the bottom of the document, almost as a secondary concern. Far too often though, the task list is the job description and this is a very narrow view and too short sighted.

What you really need a job description to convey is the bigger picture of the behaviours and accountability areas someone will have in their role, not just the day to day tasks.

If we use the example of ‘development of policies and procedures’ it could look something like this:

Delivering the HR suite of offerings and information

– Information supplied is current, up to date and meets client needs and expectations

– Information is researched regularly to ensure that new trends are assessed and discussed, and all legal requirements are covered

– New ideas are presented with client outcomes in mind

You will note from this that the development of policies and procedures are not mentioned. This is where it gets interesting.

Let’s say that someone is making typos in the policy documents they are tasked with developing and as a manager you are needing to manage this issue. There may not be a KPI (key performance indicator) that this would fit under in the example above. Therefore, the task of ‘development of policies and procedures’ is an example of the above area of accountability and associated KPI.

The tasks can then be nicely listed at the bottom leaving the areas accountability (heading in our example) and KPIs (dot points). Evidence of how well someone is carrying out their accountability is more a discussion piece which can be tied into performance appraisals.

Performance appraisals are terribly boring when all that there is to discuss is a list of tasks!

An important point that we mentioned at the beginning of this article was relating to values and culture. Treat them no differently to the technical aspects of a role. Ask yourself what the area of accountability is and how you would know how well someone was meeting the expectation that the business has. This applies to values, culture and technical aspects that all make up the role that someone is performing in your business.


We hop this article has helped you to consider the bigger picture of job descriptions. If you would like any assistance in developing job descriptions for your team, arrange a consultation with the Coaching Combinations team by calling (08) 6188 7502 or emailing us here.

Speak Your Mind