Writing Position Descriptions


A position description is a final product of a process of thinking about what you really want from this position.


Task Review

Sometimes the tasks associated with the position you are recruiting to are very clear cut, such as a pastry chef, a machinist, a carpenter/joiner. However, in many businesses it is not so clear. And you may be recruiting to ease the pressure on other positions. A task review at this stage will help you to produce a clear position description.

Look at what work needs to be done in your business in relation to the position you want to recruit for. Is it a clear cut job of work (such as a machinist or baker)? Do you want to bring several groups of tasks together in one role (as is common with receptionist positions)?

If the position is a new position in the business, use the Tasks Review form to list what needs to be delegated. If the position is an existing one, take the opportunity to review the position description and use the Tasks Review form to consider whether you want to restructure the role in any way. The Tasks Review form in this guide is based on what could be delegated to a typical administrative support role. Edit it to suit your business.


Position Analysis and Description

Once you know what tasks you want the role to perform, think about other requirements. Undertake a position analysis outlining the areas of responsibility. Be detailed and allow for growth.

Your position analysis identifies your resource requirements (whether the person is likely to be full- or part-time), major areas of responsibility and characteristics of the role.

Are qualifications necessary? A driver’s licence? Is the role full-time or part-time, and if part-time could it be done in one or two days a week or do you really want a person to come in for a couple of hours every day?

If a specific skill at a specific level of competency is required, think about how you can test for this and whether external skills testing will be necessary when you are ready to interview shortlisted applicants. For instance, external agencies can test applicants for skills and level of competence in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other programmes for a moderate rate in return for a detailed report on applicants’ test performance.

The position analysis gives you the scope of the position. It allows you to distinguish the essential criteria for selection from the desirable criteria, i.e. ‘needs’ vs ‘wants’. On that basis you can then draft the position description. The position analysis and position description will become the basis for your recruitment process — writing the ad, shortlisting, and devising interview questions.

Complete the position description. Specify to whom the position reports. List the key tasks in order of importance, or grouped logically according to the main responsibilities of the role. Start each point with a verb to make it clear what action you want the position to undertake with each task, e.g., ‘make’, ‘prepare’, ‘organise’, ‘liaise’.