HR Toolkit

Getting the Right People

Job Descriptions

The HR Toolkit offers information and tools to help organizations revise existing job descriptions or develop new ones. These tools include a job description template, job profiles of some common staff positions in nonprofit organizations along with sample job descriptions from nonprofit organizations. The job profiles available in the HR Toolkit provide a broad overview of the typical types of duties and responsibilities performed by staff in a position and the qualifications that are most common for that position.

Please read the following important introduction before using the tools - it gives useful and important information to consider before working on your organization's job descriptions.

Related HR Management Standard:

Standard 2.1

An approved job description is completed for all positions.

Why are job descriptions important?

A job description is a basic HR management tool that can help to increase individual and organizational effectiveness. The HR Council has developed job profiles for key positions in small organizations that are available for you to use and adapt for your own use.

For each employee, a good job description helps the incumbent to understand:

  • Their duties and responsibilities
  • The relative importance of their duties
  • How their position contributes to the mission, goals and objectives of the organization


For the organization, good job descriptions contribute to organizational effectiveness by:

  • Ensuring that the work carried out by staff is aligned with the organization's mission
  • Helping management clearly identify the most appropriate employee for new duties and realigning work loads


Job descriptions are also the foundation for most HR management activities:


  • Job descriptions are used to develop a recruitment campaign that clearly articulates the duties to be performed and qualifications required by the organization for the position


  • Interview questions, hiring criteria and the screening process are based on the duties and qualification outlined in the job description


  • The job description helps the employee see how their position relates to other positions in the organization


  • The job description can be used to identify areas where the employee does not adequately meet the qualifications of the position and therefore needs training


  • The job description can be used by the employee and the supervisor to help establish a work plan


  • Job descriptions can be used to develop a consistent salary structure, which is based on relative level of duties, responsibility and qualifications of each position in the organization

Performance Management

  • The job description and the work plan are used to monitor performance

Legal Defense

  • If an employee is terminated for poor performance, an accurate, complete and up-to-date job description will help the organization defend its decision

Performing a thorough job analysis

If your organization does not have job descriptions or if your job descriptions are out of date, the first task is to conduct a job analysis.

Job analysis is a process for systematically collecting information to help you fully understand and describe the duties and responsibilities of a position as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities required to do the job. The aim is to have a complete picture of the position - what is actually done and how.

The purpose of job analysis is to provide the information necessary for writing job descriptions. Job descriptions are used as the basis of most other HR management practices from selection to training to performance management. Job analysis information can also be used in the job evaluation process, which is the process for assigning value to a job for the purpose of setting compensation.

The types of information collected during job analysis will be specific to each organization. However, typical kinds of information that are gathered are:

  • Summary of duties
  • Details of most common duties
  • Supervisory responsibilities
  • Educational requirements
  • Special qualification
  • Experience
  • Equipment/tools used
  • Frequency of supervision
  • Others the incumbent must be in contact with
  • Authority for decision making
  • Responsibility for records/reports/files
  • Working conditions
  • Physical demand of the job
  • Mental demands of the job


Information about jobs can be gathered using qualitative or narrative techniques such as interviews, questionnaires, observations and activity logs.


  • The employee and/or manager are asked a series of questions about the job, the essential tasks of the job, and the abilities required to perform it well



  • The person collecting the data observes the activities of the employee and records these on a standardized form
  • Direct observation of the employee at work is a useful technique if the activities are easily observable

Activity Logs

  • The employee is asked to keep a log of every activity and the time spent on it for a set period of time
Good Practice

Job analysis can also be done using a combination of the above techniques. For example: staff may be asked to complete a Job Analysis Questionnaire and then it could be discussed during an informal interview to clarify information and to provide the supervisor's observations on the work done.


Designing satisfying and motivating jobs

Job design is the process of combining responsibilities and duties into jobs that enhance organizational effectiveness and employee satisfaction.

When designing jobs some of the issues to consider are:

  • How will the job contribute to the goals of the organization?
  • Do the duties that are grouped together require a similar or complimentary skill set?
  • Will grouping certain tasks together be efficient?
  • Do the tasks that are grouped together make sense for workflow at the individual and organizational level?
  • Are there ergonomic factors that should be taken into account when grouping tasks?


One of the well-known theories on job design looks at jobs from the employee's perspective. Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham link employee motivation and job satisfaction to the following characteristics of a job:

Skill Variety

  • The degree to which the job involves different tasks and uses different skills

Task Identity

  • The degree to which the job requires the completion of a whole/complete piece of work - doing the task from beginning to end

Task Significance

  • The degree to which the job has importance to the organization and/or others


  • The amount of independence and discretion the employee has in completing her/his work


  • The degree to which the employee is given direct information about the effectiveness of his/her performance

Keep these five characteristics in mind when designing jobs for your organization. Jobs that are interesting, motivating and satisfying usually lead to enhanced retention.

How is a job description developed?

The jobs appropriate for an organization come directly from the organization's mission and structure. Based on an analysis of the organization's mission, goals and programs or activities:

  • Identify the values that should be reflected by all staff
  • Establish the tasks or functions that need to be done
  • Group the tasks into meaningful and challenging jobs
  • Determine the experience, knowledge, skills and other characteristics that are required
  • Consider any special working conditions or physical requirements
  • Consider the internal equity and external recognition implications of job titles
  • Write or update the job description


Good Practice

Actively involve the incumbent in the process if a job description is being developed or revised for a position that already exists and is filled. Any significant changes to the responsibilities of an employee need to be discussed and negotiated with them and their written consent to the changes should be obtained. Fundamental changes may attract claims of constructive dismissal.


Good Practice


Who approves a job description?

The board or a sub-committee of the board approves the job description for an executive director.

In small organizations, the executive director approves all staff job descriptions.
As organizations grow the approval of job description may be delegated by the executive director to the appropriate manager.


Job profiles and sample job descriptions

The following job profiles were developed using job analysis techniques. The profiles are based on the information gathered in a job questionnaire, which was completed by individuals in the positions as well as a review of job descriptions for these positions.

How can the sample job profiles be used?

Good HR management includes written job descriptions for all staff. The job profiles available in the HR Toolkit can be used to develop and/or revise job descriptions for your organization. Whether you are developing new job descriptions or revising existing ones, you should carefully assess and adapt the information in the profile to ensure that it meets the needs of your organization.

Consider the following:

  • Does the profile accurately capture the responsibilities and duties as they are practiced in your organization - what should be kept? what should be left out?
  • Does the language used in the profile suit your organization?
  • What order should duties and responsibilities be listed in to reflect their importance for your organization?
  • Are the qualifications appropriate for your organization?



All the information in the Job Profiles should be assessed to see how applicable they are to your organization and then adapted to fit your situation.


What information is included in the job profiles in the HR Toolkit?

Job title

  • The title of the position and some alternative titles for the same position (some organizations will have another title for the same set of duties)

Job purpose

  • A brief overview of why the job exists

Primary duties and responsibilities

  • Examples of the common duties performed by individuals in the position
  • The duties listed cover most of the tasks that would be performed by an individual in the position (the list of duties is not exhaustive - some of the duties may not be appropriate for every organization, additional duties may be required by an organization)


  • The minimum qualifications necessary to successfully perform the job
  • Minimum qualifications are used to ensure that qualifications are not inflated and therefore potentially discriminatory and to ensure that capable individuals are not screened out during the recruitment process
  • The qualifications described are: education, professional designation, knowledge, skills and abilities plus personal characteristics


  • The number of years of experience to be successful in the position

Working conditions

  • Common working conditions


  • Each position is linked to the appropriate occupational description in the (Canadian) National Occupational Classification as a comparison
  • The National Occupational Classification provides a standardized framework for describing occupations and can be used to make a link to labour market information

Sample job descriptions

  • At the end of each profile there are samples of job descriptions from voluntary and non-profit organizations


Next Section: Recruitment