Job Description Components

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A landscaper from New Jersey called me the other day to talk about her Human Resources Program.  Like many established companies, her company has enjoyed significant growth over the years, which is obviously a good thing.  Lamentably, her company’s Human Resources Program has not kept pace with said growth, which is obviously a bad thing.

Those once vivid green lights, quickly turned into bright yellow lights, which are now flashing red lights.

Industrious, conscientious, and studious, the landscaper appropriately came to the sage realization that she could no longer run her 80-employee company with the same human resources mindset she possessed when it had 20 employees.  I sincerely applaud her re-awakening!

As a capitalistic, I told the landscaper the optimal path is to re-establish the fundamentals of her Human Resources Program.  By way of parallel, in much the same way her company built upon business (e.g., budget, forecasting, goals), operations (e.g., cost accounting, BOSS software, safety), and customer (e.g., target markets, estimating, job quality) fundamentals, she must rely on that same methodology for her Human Resources Program.

Stated simply:  The foundation for the entire Human Resources Program is the job description.

Without a valid job description, the entire Human Resources Program is at risk.

As I explained to the New Jersey landscaper, job descriptions should be accurate, concise, and legal.  To that end, here are the key components I suggested she incorporate into all her revised job descriptions.

Classification PurposeA one or two sentence overview of the position’s key functions, specifying its FLSA exemption status and if it has any legally-binding supervisory responsibilities.

Essential FunctionsA bulleted list of at least 20-25 specific job specific behaviors the position is accountable for completing.  This is the most important aspect of the entire job description!

Competencies:  Five to seven qualities (e.g., Business Acumen, Safety, Job Quality, Results Orientation) that are indicative of successful job performance.

Education/Experience:  A brief summary of necessary high school, trade school, or collegiate experience, as well as years of applied work experience that equate to basic content knowledge or skill proficiency.

Essential Physical Characteristics:  Necessary for the Americans with Disabilities Act, this section addresses body movements, lifting requirements, and vision quality relevant to the position.

Special Notes, Licenses, and Certifications:

  • Pre-employment: Arbitration Agreement, Confidentiality, Sales Commissions, Non-compete, etc.
  • License: Driver’s license, Class A, Class B, CDL, or none required, etc.
  • Certifications: Arborist, CLIP, LEED, OSHA 10-hour, CPA, etc.
  • Language: English, Spanish, Portuguese, bi-lingual, etc.
  • Working Conditions: Outdoor work, varying weather conditions, exposure to dust, pesticides, herbicides, grease, oils, electrical currents; indoor work, noise, space, and computer screen exposure.
  • Background Investigation: Based on position sensitivity, a background check may be administered.
  • Introductory Period: Usually a 90-day period of time.

Key Performance Indicators:  The primary goals the position must attain to be successful.

Develop sound job descriptions for every position on your organizational chart; today. By keeping them current annually, you too will be re-awakened to see the flashing red lights turn back to vivid green lights.

At that time, I will sincerely applaud you as well.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.