JOB DESCRIPTION: Let’s the employee know what’s expected
(from Maine Townsman, April 1999)
By Pam Fogg, Personnel Director, Town of Brunswick

As managers, in order to manage effectively, we must be able to:

• identify work that needs to be performed;
• delegate work to others;
• control progress and accomplishments.

We accomplish this by having definitions of various tasks, responsibilities, duties and relationships of all the participants in a work group. This is done with the use of job descriptions.

A job description is a concise, written statement of the duties, responsibilities, authorities, relationships and environment of a particular position within an organization. It identifies the requirements for performing the work, its frequency and its scope. A job description outlines the what, why, where and how a job is done.

The most important benefit of having job descriptions is that they are the tool that allows employees to get a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Writing job descriptions can be extremely challenging. It is a real art to write a job description that is descriptive without being too detailed.


Components of the typical job description include:

Job Title. It should have a clear connection to the position.

Job Definition/Summary. This defines work to be performed.

Duties and Responsibilities. General expectations of the job, primary responsibilities, and secondary responsibilities are delineated.

Educational Requirements/Skills. The job description describes the educational and experience requirements, special training, and other skills needed (i.e., what will it take to perform the job tasks?).

Personal Qualifications/Attributes. The unique, individual qualities, aptitude, and temperament required for the job should be included.

Staff Reporting Relationships. The position that this position reports to needs to be identified.

Working Conditions. Any dangerous or unusual working conditions, whether travel is required and how much, if it is required; unusual working hours, etc., should be stated.

Essential Functions. With every job, there are those functions, which an employer does not have to change when making reasonable accommodations to an applicant.

Pay Code. It is appropriate to include or reference the pay range of the position in the job description.

Date. When the job description was written or last updated is important to note.


As you develop a job description for a particular position, you should answer the following questions:

• Why does the job exist? What is the general function and primary objective?
• What kind of job is it? In what type of environment does this job exist? How does it relate to other jobs in the municipality: What are its basic challenges?
• What kind of knowledge is needed? What skills/abilities are needed for acceptable performance?
• How complex are the problems to be solved? What kind of thinking is required for analyzing and evaluating problems?
• How much independence is there? What are the parameters that affect the employee’s ability to make a final decision or take action?
• How much impact does the job have? Does it contribute directly to achieving organizational goals?
• What is the financial scope of the job? Are there financial responsibilities and accountabilities?
• Does the job have supervisory responsibilities?

Don’t re-invent the wheel! My analogy is that creating a job descriptions is like building a house…all houses have a foundation …four sides …a roof. When we get inside the house we start to customize the rooms. The same thing applies to job descriptions. There are basic common responsibilities whether the employee is an Administrative Assistant in a Public Works Department or in a Planning Department; the customizing evolves with the responsibilities that are unique to that position.

Contact MMA’s Personnel Department. They have hundreds of job descriptions on file and don’t forget networking with other municipalities. See what they have for job descriptions and then custom design it to fit your needs. Sample job descriptions are on MMA's extranet of the web page,


Identification of essential functions of a job under the ADA is a critical issue. Review the job duty in the context of the actual work environment. Some of the factors in identifying the essential functions of a job are:

1. What functions of a job are essential? Is the function the primary reason that the job exists?

2. Have a written job description before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job.

3. How much time is spent on the job performing the function?

4. What are the consequences of not requiring the employee to perform the function?

5. Have past employees who have held the position always performed the function?

6. Could this function easily be exchanged for one of equal weight assigned to another employee?

If lifting, stooping, standing, walking, pushing, pulling, etc are required then note it in the job description. Identify the weights involved if lifting is a function of the job.

Finally, job descriptions should be updated annually and should be accurate and current. The more specific a job description, the easier it will be to set goals with the employee. Job descriptions are just the beginning. They are the basis for organizational goals, employee selection, position expectations, compensation, regulation compliance and performance appraisal.