Guidance on writing job descriptions

The main purpose of a job description is to outline the main duties and responsibilities of the job. Additional information is often provided by departments so that a single document can fulfil a number of needs: recruitment and selection; performance development and review and job evaluation. However, it should always be based on a thorough analysis of the function of the job and should be as brief and as factual as possible. Additional information not requested as standard on the Oxford Brookes job description proforma e.g. department overview, contextual information, should be appended to this standard document and not included within it.

Ideally a job description should be no more than single side of A4 and should not contain more than 10 main duties.

The headings under which the job description should be written and notes for guidance on completing each section according to the proforma are set out below:

Faculty and Directorate

A drop down menu can be found on the electronic job description proforma; you should select the appropriate Faculty or Directorate.

Title of post

The job title should accurately and clearly describe the job, whilst retaining consistency with University norms. Please discuss with your link HR Manager if you are unsure of ‘like’ posts or appropriate comparator titles. It is important that job titles for ‘like’ posts are kept as standard.

Grade of post

It is important that all job descriptions are reviewed when the post becomes vacant. The job description is then passed to your link HR team as part of the recruitment pack. Any additions or changes made will be evaluated using the University job evaluation scheme and a grade allocated to the post. This grade should be quoted on the job description and advertisement.

Post number

Each job has a unique post number. This is allocated by Human Resources when a job is created. If the job is a replacement and not a new one it will retain the same post number. Please quote this on the job description.

FT or % PT

Indicate the hours worked if PT or state FT.

Principal location of work

This should be the main base (University site) for the job.

Immediate line manager

This should be the post title and post number that line- manages the post, not the name of the manager.

Staff managed

It is important that any responsibility for staff is recorded clearly here.

  • If the job requires the holder to directly line manage staff please state this here. E.g. Is direct line manager for 3 posts; Administrator (Post number) Administration Assistant (Post number), Marketing Assistant (Post number).
  • If the job does not require full line management but the role holder has operational task management, or supervisory responsibility, it is useful to note that here e.g.’ has day to day operational task management for one person but no direct line management responsibility’; or’ supervises a team of 3 but has no direct line management responsibility’.
  • For job evaluation purposes it is important that the number of posts managed, supervised or lead is clear.

Qualifications required for post

Describe/list qualifications only if they are essential or desirable for the effective performance of the job. Consideration should be given to the recruitment potential for the post and equal opportunities. As a general rule, if you would consider shortlisting candidates without the stated qualification but with appropriate equivalent experience it is not an ‘ essential’ qualification. In this case you should list the appropriate relevant experience under the heading ‘experience required for post’.

Experience required for post

Be specific and realistic about what experience is required to be able to undertake the role (essential) and what is desirable and can be learned in the job. If there is any specific requirement for previous experience, please specify the length and/or type needed. The person specification and job description should be the same here, e.g. what is essential/desirable on the job description should be essential and desirable as appropriate on the person specification.

Overall purpose of post

This should be an accurate and concise statement of the function of the role. It should not contain a detailed list of how the job is done or a list of tasks and activities. It should not exceed a small paragraph in length and should normally be capable of being contained within one sentence.

  • What is the job intended to achieve?
  • What contribution does the job makes to the University?

Faculty, department or team contextual information should be appended to the job description not written within it; this maintains greater currency and supports flexibility.

Main duties

This section is for articulating the main duties of the post. It should not be an operational task list but should embrace all areas of the work that the role holder will be responsible for in broad, brush-stroke statements. Care should be taken when writing the job description that it maintains the flexibility to cover all aspects of a function whilst giving the job holder a clear indication of what is required.

Ideally a job description should contain no more than 10 main duty areas; this can be achieved by considering the following:

  • Firstly identify and list the tasks that are to be carried out by this function.
  • Analyse the initial list of tasks and so far as is possible, simplify the list by grouping related tasks together so that no more than 10 main areas of responsibility remain.
  • Using broad statements and covering the grouped tasks –describe what is done, to what, to achieve what results. For example:
    • To design (what is done) degree courses for undergraduate students (to what) to meet the Faculty’s teaching objectives (to achieve what result)
    • To produce (what is done) database reports (to what) in order to provide accurate and timely management information (to achieve what result)
  • Having written down the main duties and responsibilities you can expand on each sentence appropriately using precise terminology and examples if necessary. You should not need to elaborate on all areas, but further detail will provide a fuller picture if required. For example:
    • To line manage the administrative team – recruits and selects team members, sets performance objectives, agrees training and development plans and reviews performance.

It is important to make clear those tasks or activities for which the role holder has ultimate responsibility. These should be clearly distinguished from those tasks and activities which the post holder has involvement but not responsibility. Taking this into account the words “responsible for” should be used with care and only where responsibility does rest with the post holder.

If the role is in any way comparative in the main duties to other roles in the University, e.g. 80% the same 20% different, these duties should be listed in exactly the same way on both job descriptions with the additional different duties shown clearly at the bottom. This will enable consistency of evaluation across the University.

All job descriptions should include the following duties:

  • Every member of staff is expected to show respect to their colleagues and to understand and adhere to the University's value of dignity at work; they are also expected to work collegially and to support all the teams with which they have contact in achieving the University's objectives.
  • Any other duty as required by the line manager commensurate with the post.

And finally…

In view of the need to provide flexibility and to take into account future developments, all job descriptions should contain the statement “Any other duties commensurate with the grade and level of responsibility of this post, for which the post holder has the necessary experience and/or training” in the ‘main duties’ section. However, this clause should not be used to “hide” areas of responsibility. All significant responsibilities (and certainly all functions that occupy 10% or more of the post holder’s time) must be separately and specifically identified.

All job descriptions should contain the date last reviewed (eg Reviewed August 2005) as a footer to maintain a record of currency and to ensure that they are reviewed annually by the role holder and line manager at performance development and review meetings.

Updated March 2011