Job descriptions key to evaluations and recruiting

Lukas Burton

I’ve talked to quite a few people who’ve never seen their own job descriptions. Some say they don’t have one. Yet, there are many reason employees and potential employees should know the job description either for the position they  already have or the one for which they’re applying.

Legally, an accurate job description is needed to define the essential functions of a job. A job description also defines expectations so employees can know what  criteria is evaluated for their performance reviews. What’s more, a job description is essential for recruiting and selecting new hires.

The basic structure of a job description includes job title, location of the job, if the job is exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor and Standards Act, a summary of the purpose of the job and the major responsibilities and essential functions of the job. The Web site at offers a great — and free — place to get a job description that can be customized to fit your needs.

Essential job functions are described by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as the basic duties an employee must be able to perform. Essential functions are important when dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act because employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations so employees can perform those functions unless the accommodations constitute an undue hardship on employers. If accurate job descriptions aren’t available, employees won’t know the essential functions for their jobs. If they’re hired and there’s no way they can perform the essential functions, it could be more difficult for employers to fire those individuals without legal complications.

Essential functions are also important in relation to the Family Medical Leave Act. If an employee wants to take a leave of absence, the FMLA requires the employee’s health care provider certify that the employee is unable to perform one or more of the job duties. FMLA might also require that the employee get a return-to-work certificate from a health care provider stating her or she is able to perform all of the duties of the job. An accurate list of essential functions helps health care providers decide whether or not an employee is ready to return to work.

Accurate job descriptions let employees know what’s expected of them. These expectations are the things employees should be judged on during their performance reviews. These are the things that also should also affect the employee’s future with the company as well as compensation.

With an accurate job description at hand, it’s a lot easier for employers to find the employees they want simply because they know what they need and what they should be looking for in applicants. Without an accurate job description, it’s hard to know for sure if you need someone with experience or if it will be easy to train for and what kind of education might be required. A job search could extend too wide and exclude qualified employees. Ultimately, employers could end up with someone in a position who will not work out. It’s also vital that applicants have access to the job descriptions for the positions to which they’re applying to determine if they’re qualified. Otherwise, an employer could waste time interviewing people who don’t constitute a good fit.

In the ideal world of work, employers have written up-to-date job descriptions with which their employees are thoroughly familiar. In the real world, employees who  haven’t yet written job descriptions would be well-advised to do so.