HR Glossary: Whar is Job Description

A job description (JD) serves as a critical document in the organizational landscape, providing a narrative that outlines the tasks, duties, and responsibilities associated with a specific position. Let’s dive deeper into the intricacies of job descriptions, their development, and the key role they play in talent management.

Understanding Job Descriptions

A job description typically includes:

  1. Reporting Structure: Specifies the functionary to whom the position reports.
  2. Qualifications and Skills: Details the necessary qualifications or skills required for the role.
  3. Work Environment: Describes the working conditions, physical demands, and tools used.
  4. Salary Range: Provides information about the potential salary associated with the position.

Job descriptions are often developed through a comprehensive job analysis, examining tasks, skills, and abilities required for the job. This involves steps such as collecting job information, ensuring accuracy, and updating details periodically.

Key Characteristics of Job Descriptions

Roles and Responsibilities:

A JD may outline relationships within the organization, including supervisory levels, managerial requirements, and interactions with colleagues.

Development Goals:

It can extend beyond the current situation, setting goals for future achievements, promotions, and working conditions.

Benefits and Limitations


  • Clarity of Role: Ensures clarity on why the role exists.
  • Expectation Setting: Provides expectations for employees and aids candidates in assessing their suitability.
  • Legal Basis: Assists in forming a legally binding contract of employment.
  • Performance Evaluation: Facilitates the evaluation of job performance.


  • Prescriptive Nature: May hinder senior managers who require freedom for initiative.
  • Inflexibility: Could be too rigid in rapidly changing organizations.
  • Outdated Content: May become obsolete due to changes in job content.
  • Suboptimal Processes: The process of creating JDs may not always be optimal.

Job Description Management

Job description management involves the creation and maintenance of job descriptions within an organization. Accurate and up-to-date JDs are crucial for various HR functions, including recruitment, training, performance management, and legal compliance. The advent of information technology has transformed job description management, with cloud-based talent management systems offering efficient solutions for storage, collaboration, and accessibility.

Job Description Development

Before creating a JD, a job analysis is conducted, involving the gathering and analysis of important job facets. Once complete, the JD, along with a job specification, is developed. The former describes activities, while the latter lists knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the job.

Job Description Manipulation

Job description manipulation is a concerning practice involving the deliberate modification of JDs to favor specific candidates or groups. This unethical practice can distort qualifications, responsibilities, or requirements to meet certain hiring preferences. It often violates anti-discrimination laws and equal employment opportunity regulations, perpetuating biases within recruitment processes.

Legality of Job Descriptions

Well-organized and up-to-date JDs are crucial for legal and regulatory compliance. In the U.S., guidelines such as the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures and acts like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandate the linkage of HR requirements with job-related factors. Healthcare organizations, subject to additional regulations, must comply with guidelines from accrediting bodies like The Joint Commission.

In conclusion, job descriptions are not merely documents; they are strategic tools shaping HR processes and organizational culture. Crafting and managing them with precision ensures alignment with legal standards, fosters transparency, and contributes to a fair and inclusive recruitment environment.

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