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Describing the job

You will need to be able to describe the job, and you can write this down in a job description.

At a minimum, the employee has to have a description of their work in their employment agreement. You are more likely to find the best person if you and the applicants have a clear idea of what the job involves and what type of skills, experience, and personal characteristics you are looking for.

Before you start the hiring process, you should think about any flexibility you have to meet the requirements of suitable employees who, for example, have a disability or care for children.

You can use hiring as an opportunity to consider the needs, structure of your business, and make sure that the position still fits your needs, now and for the future.

Describing the job

You can clarify your thoughts by asking yourself the following questions and maybe talking to someone who understands your business:

  • What made you create the position?
  • What are the tasks that have to be done?
  • Is someone doing the job now? How would they describe their responsibilities? Do they have all the necessary skills for the job? What essential skills are missing?
  • What are the main personal characteristics needed for those tasks?
  • Are the skills you needed in the past the ones you need to meet the continuing/future needs of your business?
  • Will the person work alone or as part of a team?
  • How many hours a week should the tasks take?
  • Do the tasks need to be done on particular days of the week?
  • What are the key skills, knowledge and characteristics (or competencies) required for those tasks?
  • Is there specialist equipment or knowledge involved in the tasks?
  • How will the person be supervised, and will they be supervising others?
  • Does the job have any legal requirements?
  • Are there extra tasks or competencies that might need to be done by the job that should also be explained?
  • Who are your customers, and what are their expectations of your business and this job?
  • How long do you think you will need the position for; is it to cover a seasonal peak or is it needed permanently?
  • What training could you provide?

Use your answers to these questions to, for example, draft an advertisement and a job description, and work out the proposed hours and type of employment.

Personal characteristics are behaviours and attitudes the job requires. They must be relevant to the job and/or the culture of your workplace. The required personal characteristics will show strengths that can help you choose between two applicants with similar experience and qualifications, and will indicate to the employee whether they are a good ‘fit’ for your workplace. Make sure that these are clear, easily understood and not discriminatory.

Examples of personal characteristics include:

  • ability to work alone
  • a strong customer service focus
  • ability to relate well to different types of people
  • ability to build and maintain networks of contacts or stakeholders
  • attention to detail
  • personal integrity
  • an ability to maintain composure under pressure
  • good personal presentation
  • values that align with the organisation’s goals
  • understanding of and respect for different cultures
  • language or cultural knowledge
  • fitness or physical requirements.

As you work out the personal characteristics needed, remember that these must reflect the genuine needs of your business. It is illegal to discriminate in employment against a number of groups.

Discrimination provides more information on types of discrimination in the workplace.

Human rights legislation makes it illegal to discriminate in employment on a number of grounds.

The Human Rights Commission (external link) website has information about requirements, exemptions and advice on how they relate to recruitment.

You need to think about the skills and qualifications the job needs, such as:

  • previous experience in a skilled area
  • literacy (reading and writing)
  • computer skills
  • driver’s licences
  • NCEA levels
  • certificates
  • diplomas, degrees.

Setting requirements out of habit (eg you have always used a school leaver for this job, or the previous employee had these qualifications so the new employee requires them) may both reduce the range of people who apply for the job and open you up to accusations of discrimination.

Writing a job description

Putting lots of relevant detail in the job description (also called position description) means you will reduce the number of unsuitable applications you have to sort through, and save you time. A job description should be written at a level suited to the position. Examples of things a job description might include are:

  • the job title
  • the employer’s name and its focus
  • the job purpose
  • main tasks and responsibilities
  • the reporting lines of the job - who the person is responsible to and (if appropriate) who reports to them
  • any minimum legal requirements, education or qualifications
  • ideal personal skills, knowledge and characteristics for the job
  • any delegated authority the position has (financial and people)
  • place of work
  • performance measures for the job
  • hours of work
  • wage or salary range
  • customers and stakeholders, who the job works with internally and externally
  • any organisational competencies or values
  • the type of employment (eg full-time, part-time, permanent, fixed term, casual).

You should be clear on what you think is essential and what you think would be ideal as your legal requirements, as your ability to recruit may be affected by this.

Workplace character/culture

You can use recruitment as an opportunity to think about your workplace culture and whether this is the right culture, you want for your organisation. The job description should reflect the reality of your workplace. If there is a mismatch, you need to consider whether the job description or the culture should change.

Questions you could ask include:

  • Do teams work together or does everyone just do what the supervisor tells them?
  • How formal and hierarchical is the workplace? Are you on a first name basis?
  • Are people encouraged to show initiative, or just work by the book?
  • Do you value diversity or expect people to conform?

You need to make sure your culture doesn’t:

  • put off eligible workers
  • create an unsafe working environment
  • lead to discrimination/harassment/bullying.

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