February 11, 2011
Key Elements for a Job Title and Job Description

Do your supervisors know the key elements to a good job description? Do they know how to create an appropriate and effective job title? Below is some information to convey to your supervisors.

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An effective job description must have five key elements:

  1. The job description must clearly identify the job by including information such as the job title, department, and immediate supervisor.
  2. The job summary is a brief description of the job that highlights its general characteristics. The job summary should describe the purpose of the job -- why the job exists. It is especially useful to anyone who wants to obtain a quick overview of the job.
  3. In many ways the essential functions section is the most important part of a job description because it outlines the job functions that absolutely must be performed. Nonessential functions and marginal duties are often described in a separate section titled "Additional Responsibilities."
  4. The accountabilities section not only describes the end results achieved when job duties are performed satisfactorily, but it also mentions specific standards for measuring performance.
  5. Job specifications describe the specific job requirements in terms of compensable factors. Job specifications are used primarily for rating jobs in the evaluation process and assigning a wage rate or salary level.

The most important item in this section is the job title. A job title identifies the job accurately and precisely. A good job title:

  • Tells, in a word or two, what the job consists of -- for example, "Forklift Operator," "Administrative Assistant," or "Computer Programmer"
  • Indicates the job's specific field of activity
  • Reflects job's content, purpose, and scope of responsibility
  • Indicates skill level or supervisory level
  • Sets the job apart from other jobs
  • The job code refers to the unique combination of numbers or letters that we assign to each job
  • Other job identification information may include the department and facility in which the employee works, the job's Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status -- exempt or nonexempt -- supervisor's name, and the names of the person who wrote the job description and the person who approved it

An excellent source of job titles and brief job descriptions is the Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles, or DOT for short. Each one of the thousands of listings in this book contains a job title, job code, industry designation, alternate titles, and a brief definition of the job.

The above information comes from BLR's presentation "Job Descriptions: How to Write Them Effectively." For more information on all the training courses BLR has to offer, go to our Employee and Manager Training page.

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