Job Descriptions

Job descriptions act as the framework for the relationship between the employer and employee. It is the starting point for the human resources officer in addressing proper matching of needs and resources. If properly written, the description acts as reference material for recruiting the best candidate, gauges job performance, identifies the career path and reduces risk of discrimination and unfair labor practices.

This article will explain the minimum description, expand into job performance issues and explain clauses that should be inserted to reduce risk.

Minimum Requirements in the Job Description

The goals of a job description is to identify duties of the position; list the associated responsibilities and tasks; identify the equipment and supplies used in performance of the job; and documenting the minimum skills, education and experience needed to fully execute the position. List the duties in order of most important to the least. Be sure to word the statements in such a way to avoid the ‘Not my Job’ mentality. Below is an example for a retail cashier.


Retail Cashier Duties:

  1. Expeditiously check out customers
  2. Bag or tag items ‘Paid’ for by customers in accordance with store procedures
  3. Maintain a clean area and belt system at the register
  4. Provide information and directions to customers in a courteous and professional manner
  5. Perform housekeeping duties as assigned if need arises
  6. Assist other cashiers with bagging when appropriate
  7. Separate store and manufacturing coupons upon closing the register

Responsibilities and Minor Tasks

Another function of the minimum requirements in the job description is to identify the responsibilities associated with the duties. To illustrate, let’s continue with the example of the retail cashier:

Responsibilities and Minor Tasks:

As a cashier you are responsible to greet the customer at check-out, scan all groceries as quickly as possible, address discrepancies in price by utilizing the lead cashier, ensure customer coupons are legitimate and address any customer inquiries in a professional manner. At the end of each transaction thank the customer for their patronage.

At the end of each shift turn in the register’s till and sorted coupons to the accounting department for reconciliation. Address any overages or shortages with accounting immediately.

Minor tasks include:

  • Responsible to verify identification for credit card and check transactions;
  • Responsible to put back any non purchased items especially frozen and fresh foods (immediately) prior to break or the end of your shift;
  • Explain sales programs including BOGO and extra buys as appropriate;
  • Use only authorized sanitation products to clean belts and register area, follow-up with a warm water wipe-down of surface areas; AND
  • Notify management of any discrepancies or issues that arise during the work shift.

Equipment and Supplies

A third minimum requirement of the job description identifies types of equipment and associated supplies used in carrying out the duties and responsibilities.

As an example continuing with the cashier:

Equipment and Supplies

The cashier will use the following types of equipment and supplies to carry out their respective responsibilities and duties:

  • A Grocer-Mart T-2002 check out computer with 270 degree scan field;
  • NOVUS credit/debit card card reader and pin pad system;
  • Automatic belt conveyor and bag turnstile;
  • Box cutter, knife, scissors and ink stampers;
  • Mild cleaning agents; caution: some agents contain ammonia;
  • Rags and paper towels.

Required Skills, Education and Experience

The last minimum requirement of the job description is documenting necessary skills, education and experience. Some positions in organizations place more emphasis on this area of the job description as this function is often the minimum threshold to apply for the job. Think of nursing or other medical staff jobs. Many organizations require certifications or licenses to apply. But for most small businesses, the emphasis is on the duties first. Therefore required skills, experience and education can be identified later in the job description.

Continuing with our cashier example above,

Required Skills, Education and Experience:

  • Must be proficient in identifying memorizing locations of UPC codes on products;
  • Mathematically inclined to identify discrepancies in price of products;
  • Minimum of a high school diploma or GED;
  • Experience in retail especially cashier systems is preferred.

Pertinent Information

An additional paragraph should include the expected work hours, days of the week and the store’s location. Other valuable information can include:

  1. Maximum amount of weight the employee is expected to move (lift, pull or push);
  2. Required training and time frames;
  3. List any irregular physical activities such as extended exposure to sunlight, heat or cold or climbing requirements (stairs, ladders etc.);
  4. Identify duration and frequency of travel;
  5. If contact is going to happen with sick, diseased or injured humans or animals, describe the conditions; a separate letter of understanding is signed explaining this or other dangerous high risk positions (heights, exposure to sharp blades or heat/fire, risk of getting hit by cars or moving objects etc.).

Job Performance Standards

A secondary goal of a job description is establishing job performance standards and minimum requirements to advance. As an example using the cashier job description from above, this section may state:

Advancement to lead cashier requires a minimum of 1,400 hours as a cashier with at least an average throughput of $1,050 per hour over the most recent 400 hours of work.

Existing standards of performance may include:

  • Expected levels of production
  • Acceptable customer surveys related to your service
  • Monetary or quantity of maximum number of errors

Ultimately the job performance standards identify the minimum performance to advance within the organization.

Career Path

A well written job description provides a short paragraph identifying the career path available from this existing position.  It should include any additional educational certification and licensing requirements.  This allows the employee to understand the current position and the course of action required to move upward within the organization.

Other Suggestions

The job description serves as both a tool for recruiting qualified candidates and as a basis of understanding between the employer and employee. I encourage you to do the following as the human resources officer:

  1. Sign two copies of the job description and have the hired candidate sign and return one copy; this is placed in the employee’s file along with other information and documents. This serves as accepted notification of job understanding.
  2. At a minimum of once a year, review the job description with the respected manager and make appropriate changes. As in number one above notify the employee in verbal and written form and require written and signed acceptance of the changes.
  3. Job descriptions should be detailed and accurate to reduce or eliminate subjective interpretation.
  4. Review the jobs description with the appropriate supervisor prior to any employee evaluation.

Summary – Job Descriptions

The job description has several purposes. The primary purpose is to describe the minimum requirements including:

  1. List of Duties
  2. Identify Responsibilities and Tasks
  3. Identify Equipment and Supplies used to Carry out the Duties
  4. Document Required Skills, Education and Experience

In addition any pertinent information associated with this job should be included especially high risk safety related issues. The final purpose of the job description is to establish standards of performance and provide information related to the expected career path. Act on Knowledge.

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