Job Descriptions

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Colleagues drafting a Job Description

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What is a job description?

A job description – often just called a JD – is a documentation of the scope, duties, tasks, responsibilities and accountabilities of a job and also in many cases sets out through a person specification a summary of the skills, experience, competences, attributes and personal qualities etc that the potential job holder should or must have in order to be able to carry out the role effectively.

Is there a statutory requirement for an employee to be given a job description?

No, however, good practice suggests that a JD is an important document because it clarifies expectations between employer and employee. It can be argued that where an employee does not have a JD, effective performance management is more difficult because the employer and employee may have different views on the role and the existence of a JD should ensure that both employer and employee are on “the same page”.

However, the fact that an employee doesn’t have a JD shouldn’t be an excuse for not assessing the performance of an employee and performance development reviews – PDRs – can still take place if there isn’t a JD.

What should be included in a Job Description?

There is no correct format for a Job Description and numerous templates exist but typically, you would expect to see some core information including

  • Job title
  • Who the job reports to
  • The department or where in the organisation the role sits
  • Location – whether the role is office based, home based or flexible working

In addition, you would expect to see a summary statement that sets out the main purpose of the job and then you would set out – often in bullet points the main tasks and duties.

Ideally, it should also set out key responsibilities and accountabilities.

Almost without exception, a JD should also have a clause that makes it clear that the employee is expected to carry out all other reasonable tasks that they may be expected to carry out to meet the needs of the business.

Is there a direct correlation between the job description and salary?

It depends …..

In some businesses, JDs are developed through job analysis (sometimes called job evaluation) and there will be a very close link to pay and grading structures but this is very unlikely in smaller Companies where you need maximum flexibility and don’t want to be restricted by salary or grade

Be careful NOT to over-spec the job because there is a possibility that if you do and you plan to use a recruitment consultancy to source the candidates for the job, the consultant might suggest that the salary is too low for way that the job is described.

Job descriptions are also driven by job title and, all candidates will be more interested in the status of the job title than taking the time to read a JD. People often apply because they like the job title – not because they’ve spent time reading the JD.

What is a person specification?

The person spec is often part of the JD and sets out the skills, experience, attributes, capabilities, competences, qualifications and personal qualities that the candidate should ideally have for the job role.

It may be the case that for senior roles, you need candidates with specific sector experience –  or even international experience – if so, make it clear. Similarly, if the candidate is going to be managing a P & L, it is important that you give some sort of sense of scope of the financial value of the P & L to be managed.

Some person specs actually describe some things as “essential” and others “desirable”. Whilst you cannot be directly discriminatory in your person spec, you are perfectly entitled to set out what qualifications, experience, capabilities etc a person should be able to demonstrate. Often, when recruiting roles, there will be minimum criteria which will preclude the candidates from progressing further.

Similarly, some job roles may need specific qualifications – but qualifications don’t always have to be a pre-requisite. You may be looking for a Management Accountant and insist that the person has a CIMA qualification but there may be excellent candidates on the market who are QBE – qualified by experience.

The person spec should also set out any conditions on which the job is conditional – for instance – DBS clearance. Similarly, make clear if the role involves weekend working, unsocial hours and/or overnight stays because not everyone’s domestic circumstances will be able to deal with this.

You will also see in person specs, generic comments like

  • Ability to communicate at all levels.
  • Excellent inter-personal skills
  • The ability to build a team etc.

In conclusion, the Job Description, incorporating a person spec is an invaluable document and whilst thousands of employees will say they have never had a JD and mange quite successfully without one, HR good practice says they should be seen as a vital document to facilitate effective performance management, and to set out and clarify outputs, expectations and accountabilities.

If you want advice on any of the issues raised, Adrian Berwick gives practical advice and support – either call 07885 714771 or e-mail

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