How to Create a New Job Description

May 21, 2015

By Angela Yate

The Knock Em Dead Job Deconstruction Document™ breaks down the job into its component deliverables, so that you can reassemble them into a practical Job Description (JD) that delivers a three-dimensional picture of the professional you want to hire.

Start your Job Description by analyzing how other companies prioritize and express their needs for this particular job.

Step #1: Collect Job Descriptions

Collect half a dozen job postings that closely match the job you need to fill, and save them in a folder with your company’s official JD. The others are defining and prioritizing their needs. If you don’t have a favorite job site, try www. or www.indeed. com: These are job site aggregators that will search thousands of job sites for you, making JD collection much faster.

Step #2: Create a Job Deconstruction Document™

Open a new MS Word doc and title it “JDD” for Job Deliverables Deconstruction, and then specify the title; for example: JDD–Accountant Step

#3: Prioritize the Responsibilities, Experience, and Deliverables

Add a subhead titled: Responsibilities, Experience, and Deliverables

Look through the collection of job postings for a single requirement that’s common to all of your job posting examples. Take the most complete description of that single requirement and copy and paste it into your JDD doc, putting a #6 by your entry to signify it is common to all. Then add any other words and phrases from the other job postings used to describe this same area to the bottom of the entry.

Repeat this exercise for other requirements common to all of your sample job postings. Here is an example from a JDD done for a Money Laundering Analyst working in the financial services industry:

  • Monitor customer account transactions to detect suspicious activity and make decisions on appropriate action to take.
  • Monitor and investigate money laundering, securities fraud, regulatory violations, and terrorist financing.
  • Conduct periodic internal account/customer reviews to identify potentially suspicious activity.
  • Perform various duties that include, but are not limited to, transaction look-backs, KYC file remediation projects, AML gap assessments, AML compliance monitoring, customer identification programs, AML training, and SARs review and preparation.
  • Conduct investigations of client accounts for potential suspicious behavior based on branch referrals, monitoring reports, government referrals, and other sources.
  • Review and monitor customer asset movements.
  • Conduct transactional reviews of client accounts, including historical trade/account activity reviews, to identify potential, legal, regulatory, or reputational risk.

Repeat this process for requirements common to five of the jobs, and then four, and so on all the way down to those requirements mentioned in only one job posting.

When this is done, you can look at your work and say, “When employers are hiring people like this, they prioritize their needs in this way and use these words to describe them.” Doing this, you’re accessing the thinking your professional peers have done to define, prioritize, and express the deliverables of the job you are going to fill.

Step #4: Identify ProblemSolving Responsibilities

Jobs are only ever added to the payroll for two reasons:

  • To make money or save money for the company, or otherwise increase productivity. How do you want this job to contribute to the success of your department and its role in helping company profitability? For example, you could be thinking, “Business is growing and we really need another accountant to help us with a growing backlog at accounts receivable.”
  • To help contribute to profitability by identifying, preventing, and solving the problems/challenges that arise on the job and interfere with profitability.

If problems didn’t occur, the job either wouldn’t exist or would be done by a machine. Ultimately, every one of us is hired to be a problem solver with a specific area of professional expertise. So sticking with the same example, you could be thinking, “So we need someone who knows the job well enough that he can anticipate and prevent the most common A/R problems before they crest the horizon. Also, we want someone who can get 90 percent of accounts paid within thirty days, and who knows how to prevent thirty-day overdue accounts from becoming forty-five-day overdue accounts.”

Starting with the job’s most common requirements, identify the problems that typically arise when a staff member is executing duties in this area. Then for each problem identify:

  • How you want the next holder of this job title to execute her responsibilities in this area to prevent such problems from arising in the first place.
  • How you want the next holder of this job title to solve such problems when they do occur. Repeat the process for the rest of your identified responsibilities.

Step #5: Behavioral Profiles of Success and Failure

Going back to the prioritized requirements you identified in earlier steps, recall the best person you have ever seen do this job. Then identify what made that person stand out as a true professional. This isn’t about personal fondness; it’s about the employee’s ability to complete the job’s deliverables with true excellence. Think about her competency in all the technical skills of the job, and all her transferable skills and professional values; perhaps she always had a smile, listened well, and had good critical thinking and multitasking skills. Together with the specific technical skills of the job you have already identified, this will give you a behavioral profile for professional success that you’ll want to have in the back of your mind as you interview candidates. Once the behavioral profile of the best you’ve seen doing this job is firmly in mind, recall the worst person you have ever known doing the job. Perhaps he was passive aggressive, never listened, was always late for meetings, and missed project deadlines. This will give you a behavioral profile for professional failure that you’ll want to have in the back of your mind as you interview candidates every bit as much as your behavioral profile for professional success.

Most of the time you will have an existing JD that everyone is used to working with, but leaving your future in the hands of anonymous managers or HR recruiters would not be a smart move, as their JD could be outdated and might result in bad hires. The successful manager always uses the legally approved written JD as at least a starting point, but only as a starting point. Fifty percent of the success of any project is in the planning, so the first step you should take when filling a position is to generate your own JD. This will help you get the proper focus on the relative weight you should attach to education, experience, responsibilities, deliverables, and what I call the transferable skills and professional values, the foundational skills that power success in any job. Your success as a manager is rooted in the selection process and depends on how carefully you define the job in the beginning.

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