December 1, 2022

How to Write a Job Description

Every position in your city should have a job description that establishes the main points and essential qualifications. Employers should update job descriptions any time there is a change to the position or if it has been a while since they reviewed descriptions. Annual performance reviews, if given, are a great time to have the employee and manager review for any changes.

When writing a new description or updating an existing one, follow the five steps below.

Step 1. Perform a job analysis by gathering, examining, and reviewing information about the job tasks and duties. Performing a job analysis includes the following steps:

  • Discuss the specifics of the position with employees.
  • Observe how they perform the job.
  • Have employees fill out a position questionnaire (request sample from KLC Municipal Law Department).
  • Collect data on jobs from other resources such as other cities, KLC Municipal Law Department, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The results should be documented and reviewed by the employee who is currently in the position — and their supervisor — for any changes regarding the knowledge, skills, abilities, physical characteristics, environmental factors, and credentials/experience of the position.

  • Knowledge — comprehension of a body of information acquired by experience or study
  • Skill — a present, observable competence to perform a learned activity
  • Ability — competence to perform an observable behavior or a behavior that results in an observable product
  • Physical characteristics — the attributes an employee must have to perform the job duties with or without reasonable accommodation
  • Environmental factors — working conditions (inside or outside the office)
  • Credentials/experience — the minimum level of education, experience, and certifications acceptable for the position

Step 2: Establish the Essential Functions

An employer must define the position’s essential functions once they establish the standard for a particular job. This will provide a better avenue for evaluating Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation requests. Defining essential functions encompasses the following steps:

  • Ensure that tasks, as part of the job function, are necessary or required to perform the job.
  • Determine the frequency at which an employee performs the task or how much time they spend performing a task.
  • Determine the consequences of not performing the task and whether this would be detrimental to the employer’s operation or result in severe consequences.
  • Determine if the tasks can be redesigned or performed in another manner.
  • Determine if you can reassign the tasks to another employee.

The employer can decide whether the functions are essential or marginal once essential functions are defined. The term “essential function” should be part of the job description, and it should explicitly state how an individual is to perform the job. This will provide guidance as to whether an employee can perform the job with or without accommodation.

Step 3: Organize the Data Concisely

The job description structure may vary from city to city; however, all job descriptions within the organization should be standard to have the same appearance.

The following topics should be included:

  • Job title — name of the position
  • Classification — exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Kentucky law
  • Salary grade/level/family/range — compensation levels, groups into which jobs of the same or similar worth are placed, and/or range of pay rates, including minimum and maximum pay bands.
  • Reports to — title of the position this job reports
  • Date — when the job description was written or last reviewed
  • Summary/objective — summary and overall objectives of the job
  • Essential functions — how an individual is to perform tasks and the frequency at which they perform the tasks; the tasks must be part of the job function and necessary or required to perform the job
  • Competency — knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Supervisory responsibilities — direct reports, if any, and the level of supervision
  • Work environment — temperature, noise level, inside or outside, or other factors that affect the person’s working conditions while performing the job
  • Physical demands — the job’s physical demands, including bending, sitting, lifting, and driving ‒ and pre-employment medical exam requirements
  • Position type and expected hours of work — full-time or part-time, typical work hours and shifts, days of the week, and whether overtime is expected. Is this an essential position during inclement weather or a natural disaster?
  • Travel — the percentage of travel time expected for the position, where the travel occurs ‒ such as local or in specific countries or states ‒ and whether the travel is overnight
  • Required education and experience — based on requirements that are job-related and consistent with business necessity
  • Preferred education and experience — based on requirements that are job-related, and consistent with business necessity
  • Additional eligibility qualifications — certifications, industry-specific experience, pre-employment drug testing, and experience working with certain equipment. In addition, if they are subject to random drug screens
  • Equal opportunity employer statement.
  • Other duties — disclaimer, see Step 4

Step 4: Add the Disclaimer

Employers should add a statement that indicates the job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties, or responsibilities required of the employee. Other duties, responsibilities, and activities may change or be assigned at any time with or without notice.

Step 5: Add the Signature Lines

Signatures are an important part of validating the job description. They show who approved the job description and that the employee understands the requirements, essential functions, and duties of the position. Signatures should include those of the supervisor and employee.

A job description draft should be presented to upper management and the position supervisor for review and approval. A draft allows a chance to review, add, or subtract any detail before the final job description is approved.

Employers should keep final job descriptions in employee personnel files and use them for job postings, interviews, accommodation requests, compensation reviews, and performance appraisals. Employers may also wish to post them on their intranet.

For questions on creating job descriptions, sample job descriptions, or other personnel matters, contact Personnel Services Managing Attorney Chris Johnson.