Small Business: Writing An Effective Job Description

What you should include in a job description, and a sample description.

Writing an effective job description is a very important skill to have if you are a small business owner. It can save you time and money, both when you're looking for employees and if any problems over tasks come up.

First, sit down with a pen and paper, and write down everything you want your proposed employee to do. This is a brain storming session, so it doesn't have to be organized. In this list, you should include any duties your employee will have, any deadlines your employee will face regularly, any education or experience that you will require, and what type of work you consider unacceptable. Basically, write what your ideal employee would do, credentials he would have, and etc.

Take a look at what you've written. Is it too much for one employee to handle? Do you need to hire a second employee to do all of the same things, or do you need to split the job into two different ones? If you've written, for example, that your employee should write copy for your website on a regular basis, take care of all basic filing, and do proofreading, you may want to think about putting that into two or three different jobs. Don't expect your employee to do any more work than you do. In fact, typically, your employees will do far less (the only exception is if you take on a partner who invests in your business; then the workload should be fairly equal).

Once you have gotten your ideas down on paper, it's time to write out your job description. Start out with the basics: how are you selecting this person? Write out the experience and education you require of the person who will fill this position. Don't hesitate to be detailed. If you want person with five or more years of experience in the field, and with extra experience is a particular part of the field (say, five years of experience as a professional writer, with extra emphasis on advice and counseling type writing, put that in your description). When you start reading resumes, and then interviewing people, you don't want to have a question whether the person is adequately experienced to fill the position you're looking for. Being unsure about your future employee's credentials can lead to problems down the road. (Make sure you include any specific skills your employee will need to complete any tasks you'll require.) You should also include salary or wage in this section (and it's okay to base it on experience).

Then, what exactly will your employee be required to do on a day-to-day basis? List all of the tasks your employee is required to perform, and write down about how often they are required (should the employee file papers daily? Should he make phone calls weekly?). Write down EVERYTHING you can think of, even if your employee will only have to do it every now and then (for example, if you have clients in, will your employee be required to order lunch or serve coffee?). That way, when/if the situation comes up, your employee will know what his duties are.

After this, include a section about deadlines. Is your employee required to have a report of the week's work on your desk by 5 pm on Friday? Must he have 10 new articles/sections of content on your website by the end of the month? Does he need to turn in messages and other important papers at the end of everyday? In this section, you'll also want to include the hours you want your employee to work. How many hours, what days of the week, and from what time in the morning to what time in the afternoon do you need him? If the time is flexible (based, say, more on the work completed than hours put in), then write down how much work you require from him each week or month. Perhaps he must complete one section of your website on his own time each week.

Finally, include a section about unacceptable behavior and consequences. What happens when your employee is tardy? If he doesn't finish his reports? If his reports are not thoroughly done or are poorly written? Write in exactly what circumstances you find inappropriate, and how you intend to handle each of them. Perhaps you will give your employee two days to fix his report the first couple of times he messes it up. If he messes it up three times in a row, maybe he gets fired. Think about what YOU need in this business, and make sure you write in these guidelines to help smooth your way.

Make sure your job description is organized. Use roman numerals to begin each section, and then letters to organize the different points (and maybe numbers, if needed, to explain sub-points). Put the most important parts of this into your job advertisement, and compare the resumes you receive against your description. Compare the interview against your description, too.

Once you've chosen someone (or maybe narrowed it down to a few people) you want to hire, give him a copy of the detailed job description and ask him to read it over and sign it. This way, there are no problems with what he's supposed to do and how he's supposed to do it. Invite questions.



Below is a sample job description. It was written for a staff writer for a teen sexuality and dating website.

Writer's Description

I. Staff Writers

A. Staff writers, with the exception of journal writers, must be at least 18 years old.

B. Staff writers must commit to at least one (1) article per week, barring exceptions

1. Exceptions include illness

2. Vacation

3. Unavoidable work/school circumstances

4. Personal conflicts

C. Experience as a writer is a plus but is not necessary

D. Staff writers must provide their name (as they wish it to appear in their byline), age, relevant experience, and topics of interest or expertise when applying for a job

E. Staff writing is currently an unpaid position; we hope to be able to pay in the future

F. All staff writers will receive bylines

G. Staff writers must be able to write well, and demonstrate their ability in their query letters

H. Staff writers will receive an email at the beginning of each week, outlining the following week's theme, which they MUST respond to ASAP

I. Staff writers must select one proposed topic from the list, or suggest their own

J. All deadlines are on Saturday night before the newsletter goes out, unless otherwise stated

K. "Late" deadlines are Sunday morning by 10:30, if there is an extenuating circumstance.

© High Speed Ventures 2011