Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to prepare and present an effective job description. However, if you are clear about the purpose of a role and what you expect of the person in the role, you will find that the most important information fits on one or two pages. The people who work with or for you want to know what is expected of them.

The starting point is to be clear about the purpose of having a job description. I would suggest there are three purposes:

  1. To help you clarify how you want to run your business. By deciding what will be done by an employee, you are deciding what you won’t be doing.
  2. A good job description will clarify for an applicant what they agree to do. It helps them determine whether this is a job they really want.
  3. A good job description will guide your management. It serves as an agreement and sets a useful standard against which you can gauge performance. We recommend that you appraise your employees at least once a year, and the job description is the basis for the review.


  1. Date last revised. You are likely to adjust job descriptions over time. By documenting the date you last revised it you will know which version of the role description you are looking at.
  2. Context. The context of a role includes the factors that have led you to create the role in the first place, for example:
  • As the work involved in client experience has been increasing, the advisor no longer has time to look after the clerical aspects of the business so a role has been created for this work.
  • The firm’s new strategy is centred on marketing and there is a need for one person to focus on and manage marketing for the firm.
  • The context allows someone to understand why the role is designed as it is. In reviewing the job description periodically, it will be useful to see whether the context has changed and whether that means that the role description should be changed.
  1. Purpose. The purpose of a role is the problem it is intended to solve, for example:
  • The purpose of the Executive Assistant role is to look after the clerical aspects of the firm, freeing the Advisor to focus on sales and client experience.
  • The purpose of the Marketing Director role is to acquire prospective clients so the Advisor can focus on making the sale and servicing the clients.

Being clear about the purpose allows you to periodically determine whether the purpose is still appropriate and whether the person in the job is fulfilling the purpose.

4. Stratum. Stratum is a measure of complexity of the work in a role. This is a very important and somewhat complex topic, and the next few articles will go into it in detail.

5. Areas of work. Areas of work are not specific tasks but rather the types of tasks you will be assigning. For example, 

  • Not “type this letter” but “Typing letters” or even “typing letters, filing, and other clerical duties”.
  • Not “get us into the Spring Conference” but “get us into appropriate conferences” or even “get us into appropriate conferences, write our newsletter and conduct all marketing activities”.

You won’t know ahead of time every specific task you want your employee to work on, but you can and should say what the type of work will be because:

  • It helps the prospective employee determine whether this job entails the kind of work they like to do
  • It helps you determine what abilities someone needs in order to succeed in the role
  • It helps you review whether you are assigning the appropriate work to the employee.

6. Key tasks. Some tasks do carry predictable tasks. Your Bookkeeper or your Office Administrator will have to reconcile the books every month. Your Marketing Director needs to get a newsletter out every quarter or once a month. If you expect these specific tasks to be part of the role, it is useful to include them in the role description.

7. Compensation. Finally, how do you plan to compensate the employee? You need to spell out the salary, expected number of hours per week, whether you will pay extra for overtime and whether there are opportunities for bonus or profit sharing moving forward.


What I just outlined, describes the role itself. Two additional items will be useful in the hiring process.

8. Distribution of time. For two reasons, it will be useful for you to describe how much time per week you expect your employee to spend on each of the various activities their work entails:

  • Someone applying for the job will find it useful to know how they will be spending their time. An applicant’s interest in a clerical position might depend on whether time is spent primarily on files or on client contact.
  • By filling out the table, you make explicit your assumptions about the nature of the job explicit. Once the role has been filled, you can find out how close your assumptions are to the real job, and this helps you build a more realistic understanding of your own business.

9. Capability required. It will be useful to specify what you are looking for in a candidate. It typically takes special experience for some skills and knowledge to be developed, so it may be useful to specify what experience you are looking for in a candidate. Finally, some roles may require specific licences or degrees.


It may seem that writing and maintaining job descriptions takes an inordinate amount of time, so let’s look at how much time this exercise actually takes and what you get in return.

Filling out the job description the first time should take about 30 minutes if you already know what you are looking for. The return on that half hour is a document you can hand to an applicant to tell them what they are applying for, that will guide your selection of whom you hire, and that will guide how you manage the applicant once they are hired.

If it takes longer to fill out the form because you have to think about your answers, the problem is not with the form or with filling it out but that you are not clear on what you want your new employee to do. Thinking about the questions on the form, filling out the form and reviewing the form periodically all take time. But, as is the case with all areas of management, if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you have the time to do it over?

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