Job Descriptions

I have never been a huge fan of job descriptions.  They are so often used as a  big stick, either by the employer if duties are not being fulfilled, or by the employee working to rule – ‘if it is not in my job description, I am not doing it’.

Job descriptions, as a result, tend to end up too long, too short or are only ever used by human resources.

So why do we need job descriptions?

There are several reasons why job descriptions are important:

 Regulatory Frequently job descriptions are a requirement by regulatory bodies,   such as the SRA, FSA, to ensure firms document the requirements of the role.
Contractual Although the employment contract only needs to have a job title and main duties, it is good practice to flesh these out using a job description, thereby ensuring that the role is fully scoped before recruiting.
Recruitment Without a clear understanding of the role including duties,   accountabilities, responsibilities, skills, competencies and qualifications needed to carry it out, how can you recruit effectively and fairly?
Diversity and Inclusion When you have a clear job description, measuring competencies,   skills and qualifications in line with the requirements of the job makes it easier for you to demonstrate that you have acted fairly, in an unbiased manner.
Performance Management Whether you are encouraging positive or discouraging negative activities and behaviour, it is difficult to do so without a job description detailing expectations of accountabilities,   responsibilities and activities of the role.
Organisation design Job descriptions set out responsibilities, accountabilities of each role.  In order to achieve a sound organisation design all key activities within the organisation should detail:-            who is responsible for delivering that activity, and

–            who is accountable for ensuring it is completed.

This will enable you to identify gaps, overlaps and duplication and rectify them.

What does a good job description look like?

A good job description outlines

Job Title Describing the job as   closely as possible
Line Manager Who the role reports to – The line manager
Job Purpose The purpose of the role and its key accountabilities
Main duties List of key activities and responsibilities
Person specification Definition of what the ideal candidate should have in terms of qualifications, experience and competence.

Often the best job descriptions are short and to the point with

–   a couple of sentences outlining the purpose of the role

–   a bullet point list of the duties and responsibilities ending with a catch all clause such as ‘any additional duties required by the business’, and

–   a list of essential and desired experience, competencies and qualifications

Ideally the document is about 2 pages of A4, and is meaningful to both the manager and the employee.  A good job description will also help you in writing any recruitment advert as it will include all the key elements that you for recruitment.


  • Writing a job description around a particular individual or a short term need
  • Making the job description too long and detailed
  • Including detail in the person specification that could be discriminatory
  • Being woolly about the responsibilities and accountabilities