Effective position descriptions are an essential organizational tool. Position descriptions help employees understand how they contribute to the mission, goals, and objectives of the department and the University as a whole by defining their specific duties and responsibilities, supervisory relationships, and the expected results from their work. Position descriptions also serve as the foundation for many HR management functions such as: Recruitment and Selection, Compensation Administration, Unit Reorganizations, Employee Development and Performance Management. Download the for help with writing a position description.
Write the position’s general description
The general description is an overview of the position and should summarize the position’s primary purpose and its role in supporting, administering, or managing the activities of the department, business unit and University. To create this description, clearly and concisely outline the major job functions and expectations of the position, and include information related to the position’s scope of responsibility, major challenges, and complexity of duties. The answers to the questions listed above should aid in the creation of this narrative.
The general description is the section of the position description that appears when the position is advertised. Therefore, it should provide compelling information about the position and University in order to attract the most qualified applicants. It is important to highlight reasons why the position is desirable and promote VCU as a vibrant and dynamic employer. Keep in mind that the general description is the first step in selling the position and University to a potential candidate! The tone, language, and details included in the description influence a candidate’s first impression of the University and its values.
The purpose of the Qualifications section of a position description is to outline the skills, knowledge, and abilities required for an individual to successfully and competently perform the job. Consider the answers to the following questions when identifying necessary qualifications for the position:
The minimum requirements or “basic qualifications” of a position are those qualifications or criteria an individual (or candidate) must have in order to successfully perform the job functions. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of a position in order to be considered viable candidates. Minimum requirements are determined based on needs of the position; these requirements are specifically referenced in job advertisements.
Outline position’s core responsibilities
The purpose of this section is to describe the main duties and responsibilities of the position and to identify the percentage of time spent on each. In the “Core Responsibility” box, a brief overview (typically a few words about the duty) should be captured. A detailed description of the specific job duty and associated tasks should be provided in the “Measures” section.
The information provided in the Core Responsibilities section of the position description must clearly outline the requirements and expectations of the position. This information will be used as a baseline for employee performance (and whether one is successfully performing the work of the position.) It will also be used for classification of the position, compensation determination, etc.
Important tips for creating the core responsibilities of a position:
Common action verbs
Administers, Analyzes, Applies, Collaborates, Coordinates, Conducts, Demonstrates, Directs, Ensures, Estimates, Executes, Enforces, Instructs, Interprets, Manages, Organizes, Oversees, Participates, Performs, Plans, Proposes, Reviews, Resolves, Recommends
All position descriptions include Physical and Cognitive Requirements that outline the specific abilities an individual must have in order to perform the functions of the position (with or without accommodation). This is done in order to comply with the American with Disabilities Act Amendments (ADAAA), a law designed to strengthen the protections provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act and to broaden the coverage of individuals under the Act.
Below is a guide to help you determine when Physical or Cognitive Requirements should be indicated in a position description as Essential, Marginal, or Not Applicable. The frequency of the required activity should be considered when determining how to designate a requirement.
Physical demands and activities
In the spirit of continuous improvement and process review, review position descriptions with employees on a yearly basis during discussions of performance expectations and development plans for the coming year. If changes identified in your annual plan involve fundamental additions or deletions to the existing functions described in position descriptions, incorporate these changes into your employees' position descriptions. It is also important to note that employees, in partnership with their managers, should be updating their goals in Talent@VCU as often as needed.