The Humble Position Description

The Position Description, otherwise known as a Job Description, Job Specification, JD, PD or JS is a humble document, often forgotten about altogether or at the very least, under-rated in terms of its value!


Position Descriptions come in many forms - some are short and to-the-point, whereas others can be quite comprehensive and lengthy. Position Descriptions seem to get longer the higher up the ladder you climb as role responsibilities increase, and can sometimes suffer too from a lack of review/updating. One may be written but then not reviewed for several years.

The humble Position Description can be far more useful and powerful than you might think but before we tell you why, let's consider those items that a well written position description should include:


  • Position title, location and/or Business Unit and/or Department
  • Position relationships – which position does it report to and do any positions report to this one?
  • Position Purpose – This should be a brief description, one or two paragraphs about the primary purpose of the position
  • Key responsibilities – this should not be a list of tasks but rather the key responsibilities/accountabilities of the position
  • General expectations – what expectations do you have that apply to all employees within the business? e.g. Working as part of a team, looking for opportunities to improve
  • Position specific expectations – what additional expectations do you have that might apply to this particular position?
  • Skills, Attributes, Experience and Qualifications required – consider dividing these into Essential and Desirable categories. Essentials are just that - without these essential skills, attributes, experience or qualifications, the position holder would not be able to meet the requirements of the position. Desirables are the "nice to haves" - that is, they will assist the position holder's performance in the position but are not essential.
  • Delegations – list any delegated authority the position holder might have, be it financial, employment related, legal or otherwise (e.g. are they able to spend money up to a certain limit, can they roster casual staff on duty, can they accept product returns/refunds?)
  • Physical Demands – these should be listed where the physical demands of the position may exceed what might normally be expected
  • Signatures – space for sign off by the Position holder and the Manager

This may seem like a lot of information but it doesn't have to go on for 10 pages or more. These are the building blocks of an effective Position Description…..which leads us to the next point of why the humble Position Description is such a useful document.

A well written Position Description can be utilised at all stages of the employment life cycle. By way of example, they can help to guide and inform decisions in relation to:

  1. advertising of vacant positions
  2. developing selection criteria and interview questions
  3. inducting staff into their new position
  4. determining any gaps in learning needs for a position
  5. measuring and managing performance

Above all, position descriptions help to make it crystal clear to employees what is expected of them, so they can be left in no doubt as to what they need to do and how their performance will be assessed.

So, while Position Descriptions may be humble documents, they are also pretty important documents in terms of helping you and your business achieve Success through People.

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