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A job description or JD is a written narrative that describes the general tasks, or other related duties, and responsibilities of a position. It may specify the functionary to whom the position reports, specifications such as the qualifications or skills needed by the person in the job, information about the equipment, tools and work aids used, working conditions, physical demands, and a salary range. Job descriptions are usually narrative,[1] but some may comprise a simple list of competencies; for instance, strategic human resource planning methodologies may be used to develop a competency architecture for an organization, from which job descriptions are built as a shortlist of competencies.[2][not specific enough to verify]

According to Torrington, a job description is usually developed by conducting a job analysis, which includes examining the tasks and sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job. The analysis considers the areas of knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform the job. Job analysis generally involves the following steps: collecting and recording job information; checking the job information for accuracy; writing job descriptions based on the information; using the information to determine what skills, abilities, and knowledge are required to perform the job; updating the information from time to time.[3] A job usually includes several roles. According to Hall, the job description might be broadened to form a person specification or may be known as "terms of reference". The person/job specification can be presented as a stand-alone document, but in practice it is usually included within the job description. A job description is often used by employers in the recruitment process.[4]

Key characteristics

Roles and responsibilities

A job description may include relationships with other people in the organization: Supervisory level, managerial requirements, and relationships with other colleagues.

Development goals

A job description need not be limited to explaining the current situation, or work that is currently expected; it may also set out goals for what might be achieved in the future, such as possible promotions routes and conditions.

Benefits and limitations


A job description is essential to ensure clarity of why the role exists. It can be used:


Prescriptive job descriptions may be seen as a hindrance in certain circumstances:[5]

Job description management

Job description management is the creation and maintenance of job descriptions within an organization. A job description is a document listing the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of a specific job. Having up-to-date, accurate and professionally written job descriptions is critical to an organization's ability to attract qualified candidates, orient & train employees, establish job performance standards, develop compensation programs, conduct performance reviews, set goals and meet legal requirements. Job description management, as well as other facets of talent management, has been improved by the expansion of information technology. Today, there are variety of internet-based human resource solutions available to human resource departments. One such example is the cloud-based talent management systems that allow businesses to easily store HR information, collaborate with other departments, and access files from any device with Internet access.

Job description development

Prior to the development of the job description, a job analysis must be conducted. Job analysis, an integral part of HR management, is the gathering, analysis and documentation of the important facets of a job including what the employee does, the context of the job, and the requirements of the job.

Once the job analysis is complete, the job description including the job specification can be developed. A job description describes the activities to be performed and a job specification lists the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform the job. A job description contains several sections including an identification section, a general summary, essential functions and duties, job specifications, and disclaimers and approvals.

Job descriptions are then used to develop effective EEO/ADA, HR planning, recruiting, and selection initiatives; to maintain clear continuity between compensation planning, training efforts, and performance management; and to identify job factors that may contribute to workplace safety and health and employee/labor relations.

Job description manipulation

Job description manipulation is a widely practiced bad faith practice that is referred to the deliberate modification of job descriptions with the intent of favoring specific candidates or groups of candidates, often to meet certain hiring preferences or objectives. This manipulation can involve altering the stated qualifications, responsibilities, or requirements of a job posting in a way that may not necessarily align with the actual needs of the position.[6]

This even involves the manipulation of Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs). BFOQs are legitimate job requirements that are considered essential for the effective performance of a particular role. However, in cases of job description manipulation, these qualifications may be adjusted or exaggerated to either include or exclude certain candidates. This is done by emphasizing or de-emphasizing specific skills, stipulating a vehicle requirement for a desk job, imposing language requirements, requesting parallel and uncommon certifications, specifying experience levels, or specifying educational backgrounds that may not directly relate to the job's core functions, and so on.[6]

Ultimately, it is driven by various factors, including organizational biases, personal preferences, and for maintaining the appearance of inclusivity. Job description manipulation serves as an exclusionary function within the recruitment processes for dissuading racialized applicants from applying or depriving them of meaningful participation in career advancement opportunities. It violates anti-discrimination laws and equal employment opportunity regulations. This racial bias in hiring practices thrives in countries and settings where there are no independent audits and reviews mandated for organization's hiring practices.[6]


Well organized and up-to-date job descriptions assist in legal and regulatory compliance. In the United States, for example, the 1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedure was developed in order to standardize the employee selection process and makes it clear that HR requirements must be linked with job-related factors. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires organizations to identify essential job functions and document the steps taken to identify job responsibilities while Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires HR managers to determine if a job is to be classified as exempt or non-exempt, which is to determine whether an employee would be eligible for overtime pay or if they would be considered salaried and exempt from overtime regulations.

Healthcare organizations not only have to comply with labor laws but also have to comply with healthcare laws and accreditation agencies. The Joint Commission (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) accredits and certifies thousands of healthcare organizations around the United States. To meet Joint Commission guidelines, healthcare organizations must maintain up-to-date, accurate, complete and properly written job descriptions.

The above regulations require businesses to keep clear records of their job descriptions. Having a well-organized automated system helps eliminate some of the panic associated with a compliance audit.

See also


  1. ^ Torrington & Hall (1987). Personnel Management: A New Approach. Prentice Hall International. p. 205. ISBN 0-13-658501-9.
  2. ^ "Definition of 'Job Description'". The Economic Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  3. ^ Human Resource Management; Fisher, Schoenfeldt & Shaw; Boston, MA, 1996
  4. ^ "The Job Description and Hiring Process".
  5. ^ Ungerson, 1983
  6. ^ a b c Colella, Adrienne; King, Eden (2018). The Oxford Handbook of Workplace Discrimination. Oxford University Press. pp. 25+. ISBN 978-0-19-936364-3.