Having written job descriptions with clearly defined duties and work tasks is crucial to making wage-level decisions and differentiating among various student positions in your department. The information presented here may serve as a guide in identifying the components of a well-written job description.

Job descriptions form the basis for much of what happens (or should happen) in selecting and hiring students, managing work activities, identifying and measuring outcomes, and recognizing performance. To paraphrase an old cliché, "If you don’t have a job description, how will you know when the work has been accomplished?"

More specifically, job descriptions help you achieve five basic functions in your role as a supervisor. First, the well-written job description enables you to identify the important work activities the student will be performing and helps you define the role of the student’s position within your unit.

Secondly, the job description helps you identify the experience, skills, and abilities necessary for a student to be successful in the position. This is critical if your interviewing and selection activities are to identify the right student for the job. In addition, the job description can serve as a realistic "job preview' for students during the selection process—they need to decide if the job "fit" is for them, also.

Third, the job description serves as a training guide. Based upon your evaluation of the work activities to be performed, you can determine the best way to train or orient your newly hired students to the job. This may be as simple as orienting them to the department or training them in the use of specific equipment or procedures.

Fourth, the job description assists you in setting performance objectives with your student. Based upon the work activities to be carried out, you can set measurable objectives for your student to achieve and create a baseline for performance review discussions. It is extremely important for students to understand how their performance will be measured and what standards will be used.

Fifth, job descriptions create a baseline to use in planning within your department. Job descriptions are ever changing, just as goals and objectives change within your department. Changing priorities, increased use of technology, and the greater environment in which we operate all contribute to changing job duties and tasks. Documented job descriptions assist you in preparing for future demands.

Effective job descriptions are action oriented, brief and concise, specific to the work to be accomplished, and reflective of the job as it exists now. The job description should be factual, free of jargon, and non-sexist in terminology.