Contracts of Employment

Ilse Pauw


A good job description is the cornerstone to any employment decision. Sadly, many managers fail to spend the time on this task. In most cases, this is because they do not understand the value of it or because they have compiled one incorrectly in the past.

Job descriptions should accurately describe the duties and responsibilities of a position. It is extremely useful in recruiting and hiring the right person, in designing and restructuring jobs, in identifying training and development needs, to decide on the right compensation for the position and as a means to review job performance accurately, objectively and fairly.

If both employer and employee are on the same page and clearly understand what is expected, one can avoid much of the complaints, legal issues and unhappiness that can result from uncertainty.

Job analysis – the first step

The first step in drawing up a job description is to do a thorough job analysis. This is an in-depth study of a job. The job analysis examines all the tasks and sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job. It also looks at the knowledge and skills needed for the position.

Gather information about a job by interviewing employees, observing performance of certain tasks, interviewing the relevant supervisor or manager and, where appropriate, collecting information about a job from sources outside of your business.

When collecting information from an employee, make it clear that the job analysis will not have any negative consequences for him or her, such as a reduction in salary or demotion. It is useful to ask the employee and supervisor to think carefully about all aspects of the job beforehand. The key is not to get side-tracked by other issues, such as interpersonal relations and office politics. They should also try to be as objective as possible and therefore not overstate or understate duties, skills and abilities.

Once the information has been collected, the job analyst draws up a draft job analysis and asks the employee and supervisor to review it. A final job analysis is then drawn up and sent to the parties for approval.

Job description

The recruiter or employer uses the job analysis to draw up a job description. These descriptions should be as clear and to the point as possible. 

A job description should include the following:

Duties and responsibilities:

This obviously depends on the job concerned. Be as specific as possible, making sure that you include all the main functions of the job.

For example, the job description of a receptionist could list duties such as sorting mail, answering phone calls, taking messages, assisting the office manager and greeting visitors.

Knowledge, skills and abilities

Ask yourself: what skills are required to perform the above duties and responsibilities? Common skills for a secretarial position, for example, include PC literacy and knowledge of certain software packages, minimum typing speed, ability to work with people, ability to work independently and ability to write letters, minutes and memoranda.

Credentials and experience

If the job description is used for recruitment purposes, it is important to specify the minimum acceptable level of education, experience and certifications necessary to be able to do the job efficiently. 

Special requirements

This could include a willingness to work overtime or to travel.

For recruitment purposes, a salary range, application requirements (for example CV, contactable references and covering letter) and closing date should also be included.

If the job description is used as a tool to evaluate performance, it is necessary to update and review it with the employee every six months. 

It is important for employees to view the job description as a benefit and not as a tool for the manager to check up on them. The involvement and cooperation of the employee is therefore of vital importance every step of the way. 

  • Written by Ilse Pauw
  • Our appreciation to for permission to publish this article.
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