For every staff position at Brown there should be a corresponding job description that accurately and fully describes the job. This document provides an understanding of the position’s major responsibilities, details how the responsibilities are accomplished, and identifies the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform the job. A copy should be on file with University Human Resources, and shared with employees at the time of hire.
A well written job description not only describes the position’s responsibilities, it supports effective human resources management in a variety of ways. It sets the foundation for recruiting, developing and retaining talent and also sets the stage for optimum work performance by clarifying responsibilities, expected results, and evaluation of performance. It is also an important component to maintaining an equitable compensation system and ensuring legal compliance. The document should be revisited and updated in line with the yearly performance evaluation cycle.
A job description should contain sufficient information to describe major responsibilities and essential functions; however, the document should not include every detail of how and what work is performed so that it remains useful even when minor changes occur. Staff members or supervisors may write the job description, but the supervisor must approve it.
Job description templates, samples and some guidance on building the document can be found below and in the related forms section to the right.
Here are some writing style recommendations to help staff and supervisors write a clear, easy to understand job description.
- Use a clear, direct style throughout the description.
- Avoid the narrative form. Keep sentence structure as simple as possible.
- Begin each sentence with an action verb, using parallel structure.
- Use the present tense.
- Focus on essential activities; omit trivial duties and occasional tasks.
- Be precise and adhere to a logical sequence in defining responsibilities.
- Avoid vague words like "handle" that do not specify what actions the position takes.
- Use factual, non-technical language whenever possible.
- If acronyms are used, spell out the words the first time they are mentioned.
- Refer to job title rather than people's names.
- Be descriptive. For example, if position “prepares reports”, explain what that entails.
The following is an outline of the major sections of the job description, along with suggestions for completing them.
Section 1: Identifying Information
- Administrative information.
- Titles should communicate the purpose of the position - why the job exists. For example, the title Coordinator, should be used to describe coordinating the work of other departments and/or individuals, not just the position's work.
Section 2: Position Purpose
- Bird's eye view of the overall purpose.
- Why of the job exists—not “how” the work is accomplished.
- One or two sentences—not a detailed listing of tasks.
- Begin with “The position coordinates...”
Section 3: Major Responsibilities
- Usually a single sentence (don't try to set down every detail).
- Allocate percentage of total time spent on each responsibility area.
- Tell how major tasks and functions are accomplished.
- Use brief, to the point sentences.
- Begin each sentence with present tense action verb: and avoid verbs that do not indicate the action involved.
Section 4: Decision-Making
Decisions You Are Free To Make
- Areas that the position primarily impacts or influences.
- Describe the level of decision making and independent judgment. This is important to determine if the position is exempt or non-exempt.
- Provide specific examples.
Explain Decisions Which Depend on the Position’s Advice
- Decisions which are escalated to the supervisors
- Recommendations to committees, departments, etc.
Section 5: Dimensions
- Areas for which the position has direct accountability.
- Areas for which the position has indirect accountability.
- Quantitative data.
- List which positions this position will supervise.
Section 6: Job Qualifications
- Minimum education or training required to perform this role
- Minimum years of experience required
- Include “or equivalent combination of education and experience” statement if appropriate.
- Skills necessary to perform job competently, not the incumbent's qualifications. Be as specific as possible.
- Differentiate between what is necessary and what is desirable /preferred.
Section 7: Other Information
- Any exceptional or unusual factors affecting the job.
- Exceptional working conditions or erratic schedule requirements.
- Any special processes, protocols, regulations (including workplace safety regulations) or, consequences associated with the position.
Generic Job Descriptions
Recognizing that creating a job description can be a time-consuming process University Human Resources has created some generic job descriptions with similar major responsibilities and qualifications for positions at Brown. These templates are provided for staff and supervisors to download and edit to correspond to the specific job-related criteria in their department.
Please note that a grade has been included for each generic job description below, however, appropriate grade levels for individual positions will depend on many factors such as reporting relationships, the extent to which work and decisions are delegated, dimensions, etc. University Human Resources will review job descriptions and assign appropriate grades as needed.
Generic Job Descriptions
Academic Department Managers