Write Job Descriptions That Actually Help Somebody

By Mike Shapiro - November 10, 2016

Most job descriptions give little or no guidance to the associate or the manager about the job. That's because, for all their wordiness, they focus mainly on the experience and qualifications applicants are expected to bring with them, and the activities he or she will engage in once they get the job.
Despite the dramatic increase in the use of outside resources -- contractors, vendors, consultants -- and the use of agreements with specific expectations about results and time, not much of that experience has been ported over to be of any help in setting the specs for work done by employees. Now, more than ever, it's critical to use every opportunity to be clear about what's expected of each position in your organization.

Using a list like the one below will help you think more clearly about why you're filling the position in the first place, and help everyone get clarity about the results expected:


  • Your work is directly connected to the following Company goals and objectives. The only reason the job exists is to further some Company goal or objective, right? So say it -- right in the job description.
  • Results/outcomes we expect from you. Work is not so much about activities, but results. This is the place to set clear expectations about what they are for this position.
  • How your work will be measured. The biggest disagreements during after-action analyses of any project are not about whether the employee was busy doing what he or she was supposed to be doing, or even whether some results were obtained. They're about whether the desired results were achieved and how the results were measured. So make sure expectations are clear right up front.
  • Activities you’ll engage in. Ok. NOW's the time to talk about what the work will look like. Most job descriptions already do some of this. But try for as much clarity as possible about the purpose and objectives of these activities.
  • Competencies you will need to demonstrate. No employee or manager should have to wait till performance appraisal time to consider the competencies he or she was supposed to have demonstrated. Spell them out up front.
  • Examples of the people and organizations with whom you will interact. Don't just list names or titles, but include the purpose and expected outcomes of these interactions. Why are these connections important to this job?
  • Experience and credentials you’re expected to bring with you. Most job descriptions already include this category. But also tell why these requirements are critical to success in the job.
  • Education. In today's economy, people are doing their own cost/benefit analyses of the value of a college education, and some prospective candidates may have opted for alternative educational opportunities. Here's a chance to think about the education that's really important for this job, and why. Don't just think degree programs, but look for other types of training like that offered by the military and tech schools, that might be just as applicable for your position.
  • How your work in this position can benefit you in the future. This is one that almost everyone misses, which is strange, given all the emphasis on concepts like "You, Inc." and "developing a personal brand," which point to the need for each person to take personal responsibility for building his or her career, and to view every position as an opportunity to build skills that can be applied to the next job. How will the performance of the duties of this job prepare the associate for his or her own future.

Just as the rules and nature of work have changed, job descriptions have to be brought up-to-date to set and manage expectations of the associate and management in the new economy.
This is a guest post from Michael R. Shapiro, President and Founder of Insights Consulting and Coaching. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs navigate through the chaos to create a smooth-running operation. Click here to visit the On The Spot Insights website. 





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