An Overview of Job Descriptions

job description

One of the easiest ways to ease your job search journey is by studying the typical job description (JD) of the position you intend to apply for. Just like the school curriculum and learning outcomes help a student to know what to focus on at every point in time, a thorough understanding of job descriptions can also help you to know things to focus on when learning a new skill or you intend to transition to a new career. Most vacancies come with a job description and in this article, we will explore some of the things you should know about job descriptions, its importance, major components, and how you can maximize it for your job search.

What is a Job description?

It can be defined as a comprehensive written statement of a specific job opening that contains the major details and vital information about the job such as the title, duties, roles and responsibilities, the reporting line, remuneration package etc. In most cases, JDs are written in the narrative style and also contain sufficient details to guide on the role. Preparing for an interview requires understanding the specific roles and duties expected of you in an organization, and it is majorly in a JD that you get this detailed information.

Importance of job descriptions for an employee

If you are wondering why you should pay attention to a job description before you apply for the role, these are some reasons you should consider.

  1. Gives clear understanding of roles and responsibilities

There is hardly any other avenue for you to have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities in a job like the JD. While preparing for interviews, it gives you an idea of the questions to expect basic on the skills required to carry out the job. It helps you to decide if you stand a chance of getting a job or not. There is no point applying for a Financial Analyst role when you are a Nurse unless you’ve taken the necessary professional certifications.

  1. Provides a guide on performance expectations and career progression

The importance of JD doesn’t end once you get the job. It is also used by your employer to determine the KPI (Key Performance Indicators) for your role. It means that your performance appraisal, which could be annually or bi-annually, is based on the JD you saw when you applied for the role. It also guides you to know the skills you should acquire and certification to pursue as you work towards your career progression.

  1. Provides a basis for self-evaluation and professional growth

If there is no benchmark for self-evaluation, how will you measure your progress and success on the job? Job Description is that benchmark you need to evaluate yourself to know if you are actually delivering on the needs that propelled the organization to employ you. When last have you carried out a professional self-audit?

job description

Major Components of a Job Description

A job description typically contains the following components that are carefully designed to give you sufficient background knowledge about a role.

  1. Job title

The name or designation given to the position you want to apply for within an organization is known as the job title. The goal of this is to give you a concise overview of what the job entails and the level of responsibility attached, whether it is an entry-level, mid-level or managerial role.

  1. Reporting structure and relationships

No one exists in isolation in a corporate setting. This implies that you either have someone you report to or someone who reports to you. In some cases, you have both. This is one of the contents of the Job description so as to guide you on the organizational structure and your report line.

  1. Responsibilities and duties

You agree that it is a job which means there are duties you will be expected to carry out at regular intervals. This is one of the contents contained in a JD. While it could be difficult to give a comprehensive list of everything you will do in an organization, the list gives you an idea of the minimum duties and responsibilities you are expected to discharge in a particular role.


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  1. Position summary

This is basically a concise explanation of the position and what you should expect to experience if your application is successful.

  1. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and expectations

While some JDs will not specifically mention the KPIs and expectations for your role, it is important to note that they are usually fashioned within the duties and responsibilities listed in the role.

  1. Salary range

You don’t want to go through the rigours of job assessment tests, different stages of interviews and get the job offer only to discover that the pay is far below what you are expecting. Some states in the United States of America now have laws that mandate all employers to include the salary range for a position in the job advert. It is however disheartening that in many jurisdictions across the world, there is no such requirement and as such employers only include it when they wish.

Difference between job description and job specification 

In addition to the job description, one other thing you find in a typical job advert is the job specification. No, they do not mean the same thing and do not perform the same functions.

Job specification refers to the educational qualification, skills, experience and personality traits that you possess which cumulates in making you a perfect fit for the role. Educational qualifications is one of the first pointers used by employers to determine whether you have the knowledge required for a role. If you changed careers or ventured into a new field, the certificates obtained after completing a training program in the new field could also suffice.

Skills include the soft skills and technical or hard skills you possess that give you an edge to perform on the job. For a managerial role, communication and networking skills are vital soft skills an employer will consider.

Your job experience also tells a prospective employer that you have honed your skills in the field and have what it takes to excel in the new role. In the event that the role you held in the past is different from what the job specification requires, especially if you are transitioning to a new career, it is important to understand how the previous roles have prepared you for the new role you are applying for.


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