HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  Hiring and onboarding

Job Descriptions: 'What Should I Include?' And Other FAQs

A job description serves as a useful resource, not only during the hiring process, but throughout the employment lifecycle. But what information should you include? To help you draft effective job descriptions, here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

Q: Why should my company have job descriptions?

A: Job descriptions serve multiple functions. For hiring purposes, employers use them to identify the essential functions of the job and the qualifications needed for the role. Job descriptions also help set clear expectations for employees. Additionally, employers can refer to job descriptions to assess performance, make compensation decisions, and identify training needs.

Q: Do job descriptions need to be updated?

A: Since job duties can evolve over time, review and update job descriptions regularly. This is especially important since job descriptions are used for a variety of HR functions. For example, an up-to-date list of job responsibilities will help determine whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. Additionally, if an employee requests a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an up-to-date list of essential functions is critical for determining whether the employee can perform those functions with or without an accommodation.

Q: What types of information should job descriptions include?

A: Job descriptions should include basic details of the job, such as the job title, reporting structure, exempt vs. non-exempt status, and a job summary. Job descriptions should also list the essential functions, necessary qualifications, and skills required. Additionally, include a statement that your company reserves the right to change job duties at any time and that the job description is not designed to cover every requirement of the job.

Q: How should I write the job summary?

A: The summary is generally a brief (one or two sentences) synopsis of the job. Consider defining the essential functions of the job before creating the job summary. The summary should include the most important functions of the role.

Q: What are "essential functions"?

A: Essential functions are the job duties that an employee must be able to perform with or without a reasonable accommodation. Consider:

  • Whether the job was created to perform that function;
  • How often and for how much time the employee is expected to perform the function;
  • The number of other employees available to perform the function; and
  • The degree of expertise or skill required.

Q: Should I also include non-essential functions?

A: If there are additional marginal functions, include them in your job description. It’s a best practice to list these responsibilities separately from the essential functions.

Q: What types of information should I list in the job qualifications section?

A: Job qualifications include the training, education, certification(s), and years of experience needed to perform the job. Differentiate between required qualifications and preferred qualifications. For example, "three years of industry experience is required; five years is preferred."

Q: Should job descriptions include the physical demands and work environment?

A: If the physical demands and/or work environment are essential to the job, include them in your job description. If you include physical demands, focus on the task that needs to be done, rather than how it should be done. For example, say that the position requires "moving" 50 pounds, instead of "lifting" 50 pounds, or "traversing" the length of the warehouse instead of "walking" the length of the warehouse. Employees with disabilities may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with accommodation, such as using a cart, dolly, or mobility aid. If the job involves work in hazardous or adverse conditions, or a particular work environment (outdoors, extreme heat or cold), include that information in your job description as well.

Q: Is a job advertisement the same as a job description?

A: A job ad is typically different from the job description. Job ads generally include certain elements of the job description, such as the essential functions and qualifications, as well as additional information to attract qualified candidates. Include a brief description of the job, company culture, and benefits when drafting a job ad.

Q: Is my company required to include an equal opportunity statement in my job advertisement or job description?

A: It’s a best practice to include an equal opportunity statement to demonstrate that you do not discriminate on the basis of any characteristics protected by law. In certain circumstances, such as if you contract with the government, you must include a statement that you are an equal opportunity employer (EOE), and there are specific rules on what must be included in your EOE statement.


Job descriptions play an important role in hiring, training, performance, and compensation decisions.

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