Tech & Work

Built to last: Writing the perfect job description for your development staff

As a team leader, you need to put together a successful development team. Before beginning the recruiting process, create a detailed job description to define the essential functions of the job and to help you evaluate candidates.

As a team leader, you know that success depends on the strength of the team you've built. But if you're new to the managing game, how do you find the right people to ensure victory?

From creating a staff charter to retaining your employees, resource staffing is one of the most important skill sets found in the development manager's repertoire. Over the next few weeks, I'll look at the many intricacies of building a successful development staff. In this article, I’ll explain how to create a comprehensive job description to help you attract and retain employees as well as evaluate their performance.

Writing job descriptions
A team charter is the fundamental document that defines your staff and its role in your organization. Your team charter should include a section on resources, which summarizes the responsibilities of the staff members who will make up your team.

While it's definitely a good idea to provide an outline of the requirements and duties of your staff in the team charter, you also need to make sure that you have a detailed job description to help you in the recruiting process.

The primary purpose of a job description is to provide a clear, concise understanding of the duties and reporting relationships for a given position. These descriptions establish the basis for performance appraisals, salary maintenance, and conflict resolution.

Defining essential functions
A key element of the job description is the identification of the basic tasks of the position. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes essential functions as those that are fundamental to the successful performance of a specified position. You need to clearly identify these elements in your description in order to be in compliance with the rules found in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

To help clarify the definition of essential functions, here are some examples from the ADA. A function is considered essential when:
  • The position exists to perform the function. For example, a person is hired into the position of Web developer to do Web development.
  • There are a limited number of other employees available to perform the function. For example, many duties are shared among few employees in a small office. An essential function is one that is performed by one employee (such as answering the phone)—but not others because of the limitations on the other employees’ time.
  • The function is highly specialized, and the person is hired for the ability to perform that expertise. For example, a Perl programmer is hired because he or she can write Perl code.

Use action words
When writing your list of duty statements, you need to include action words that accurately describe the particular function. The following example of a duty statement from a DBA job description helps illustrate this concept:
  • Acceptable: Responsibilities include SQL procedures, backups, server maintenance, and storage recommendation
  • Preferred: Responsibilities include the coding of SQL procedures, execution of backups, performance of server maintenance, and the compilation of disk storage requirements

List education or skill requirements
When you list the education or skills necessary to perform the essential functions of the job, clearly distinguish those skills that are required from those that are preferred. You can include any variance in the skill requirements, such as substituting experience for a degree or certification. Also include any expectations for continued skill development.

Other considerations
Here are other items to include in your position description:
  • Relations with others: Identify such elements as supervision, communication, teaching/mentoring, and other interpersonal skills.
  • Environment: Define the working environment—for example, exposure to weather, noise, vibration, restricted spaces, heat or cold, etc.
  • Physical demands: Outline the physical requirements for the job—for example, vision, color identification, lifting, driving, stooping or bending, speaking and hearing, etc.
  • Equipment: Define the equipment used while performing job functions—for example, heavy equipment, computers, power tools, hand tools, vehicles driven, farm equipment, etc.
  • Hazards: Identify exposure to potential dangers.

Putting it all together
A job description should clearly identify the duties and skill requirements for a given position. It's a good idea to work with your human resources department to ensure compliance of your organization's requirements.


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