In Writing a Solid Job Description Part I, you had the opportunity to explore a breakdown of the basics. Here, you can explore the remaining basic concepts and how they can apply in your business.

Step #5: Name Essential Duties

Organization and word choice are key when it comes to writing the essential functions section of a job description, so be sure to:

  • arrange duties and responsibilities sequentially by listing the more predominant duties before those of lesser importance;
  • differentiate between essential and non-essential duties, especially in light of the ADA;
  • provide detailed explanations for words with multiple meanings;
  • avoid abbreviations, technical terms, and company-specific jargon;
  • use the present tense and begin each statement with an action verb; and
  • use quantitative terms (e.g., “daily,” “weekly,” “monthly”) where possible.

Here are some specific items you may wish to address in this section.

1. Demands of the job.  Include physical demands, levels of responsibility, and interpersonal skill levels.

Heads up #1: Be careful not to specify a specific method for performing duties.  A job description should be an accurate reflection of what must be performed, as opposed to how it should be performed.  Being too specific on how to perform an essential task can lead to problems with ADA accommodation requests, for example, if an employee is able to accomplish a task but just not in the manner specified.

Heads up #2: A common assumption is that if the job doesn’t involve heavy lifting or other strenuous activity, physical requirements are always non-essential.  The reality, however, is that plenty of sedentary jobs demand employees possess certain physical capabilities, such as the ability to work in confined spaces, in excessively noisy environments, in extreme temperatures, etc.

2. Frequency of job tasks.  Consider the time spent performing each task.  For tasks performed infrequently, determine their importance.  There are plenty of essential functions that are performed on an infrequent basis or that don’t consume large chunks of work hours.

3. Scheduling particulars.  Note the hours, shift, and other scheduling details of the job.

4. Exclusivity of job tasks.  How many other employees are able to perform the function?  Can the function be distributed among other employees?

5. Reporting relationships.  Indicate to whom the employee must report and who reports to the employee.

Step #6: Outline Performance Expectations

Identify the qualitative and quantitative expectations of each function.  Added bonus: These expectations will come in handy when it’s time to review an employee’s performance.

Step # 7: Determine Exempt Or Non-Exempt Status

To qualify for exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA, employees must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week.  Important: Job titles do not determine exempt status.  In order for an executive, administrative, professional, computer employee, or outside sales exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet certain test requirements as laid out by U.S. Department of Labor regulations.

Step #8: Keep It Open-Ended

Contrary to what employees may think, there is nothing illegal about assigning them tasks that are not listed in their job descriptions.  To prevent your managers from ever having to hear a chorus of “it’s not my job,” communicate to employees that the list of duties in the job description is not exhaustive.

You can keep it short and sweet and include a phrase like: “other duties assigned.”  Or you can go a step further and state: “This job description in no way implies that the duties listed here are the only ones the employee can be required to perform.  The employee is expected to perform other tasks as dictated by their manager or supervisor.”

Step #9: Keep It Current

Review job descriptions annually and when a new employee fills an opening in your department to ensure they reflect any changes in the position, department, or company as a whole.


Dan Nowalk

Dan Nowalk has had extensive human resource experience in various manufacturing industries within the St. Joseph area, including the pharmaceutical and animal health pharmaceutical industry, automotive industry, and banking industry.