Key Elements of Job Descriptions

All About Job Descriptions Part II

The first part of our mini-series about job descriptions showed the tangible value they create for any company. The obvious next question is what job descriptions should look like in order to guarantee the prospected value. Here are the key elements that you should integrate into any job description.


First, the job description must cover all tasks typically part of a role. Keep it real. If you are unsure about covering all tasks, involve the employees working in that specific role. Validate your assumptions. For the role of a Junior Accountant, for example, it could look like this:  ”Tracks payments to internal and external stakeholders and clarifies related accounts.”


Skills and competencies can and should be associated with specific jobs or roles. Use both behavioral and technical skills. They are closely related to your success measures for the job as someone who has required higher levels of necessary skills is more likely to be successful in a role. For our Junior Accountant, it could sound like the following:  “Ability to perform elementary mathematical operations” or “Experience in operating the XYZ finance module is mandatory”.


Most jobs require some related experience. This should be mentioned in a job description. Usually, the experience needed for an employee being successful in a role increases with the seniority level.  In the case of the Junior Accountant, the required level of experience could be for example an internship in an accounting company, or previous experience with bookkeeping as a side job.


For many roles, a certain level of formal qualification is required. Typical qualifications are diplomas, language certificates, or accreditations of a professional association. In our example of the Junior Accountant, it might be sufficient to hold a BSc in Accounting, Finance, or a similar relevant degree. Typically, the more senior the role, the more certificates are required, such as a CPA or CMA for accounting.


All jobs in a company are being evaluated in terms of contribution to the business objectives. This process is called grading, and as an outcome, every role receives a job grade and a pay level. The foundation for the process is the job description. It, therefore, should include the level of autonomy, complexity of work, scope of decision-making, and accountability for managing personnel (the latter ones only for management positions). If the job grade itself should be part of the job description, it is up for debate. The decision depends on the legal aspects of a country, company culture and values, and the habits of local management and worker councils.


Another important information are the interfaces a role has with other jobs in the company. Is it part of the role of coordinating a team? Or does the role support a more senior position? Does it differ between tasks? For our Junior Accountant, a referring statement could look like this: “The Junior Accountant will support Senior Accountants in preparing the budget forecast and in processing tax payments and returns. Further, the Junior Accountant will overlook the work of an Intern and will be responsible for their training.”

Success Measures

Success measures can be quantitative or qualitative. Choose and mention the metrics that best reflect the work processes that determine if an employee gets the job done. An example for the Junior Accountant: “Provides the company with accurate quantitative information on financial position, liquidity and cash flows of the business, while ensuring compliance with all tax regulations”. Now, there is a clear message: that the accuracy of work will be monitored and is indeed a valid measure of success for the job. If a position comes with variable pay, those success measures will also be useful for performance appraisal.

All these elements of a job description focus on the organization’s internal goals. It is not a traditional task list. It highlights specific outcomes and the competencies that are essential to success in the respective role. Focusing on internal goals makes it easier to link a job to an organization’s strategic objectives and highlight the specific contribution of each role. This is where job descriptions create strategic and operative value for the organization.

However, design the job descriptions with enough built-in flexibility. They should be specific but not too detailed. A company strategy usually changes quicker than you can update the job descriptions. They should remain largely valid even if the company strategy changes. This way, they will be able to manage and deliver value in any situation more easily. In the third part of our mini-series, we look at how to write job descriptions.