Job Descriptions

What's a Job Description (JD)?

  • A tool to reference and measure the responsibilities, duties, competencies, skills, and education required to perform a job
  • The basis for the University of Pittsburgh’s job evaluation process for classified staff positions

What is the Job Description Used for?

  • Establishes the essential and/or primary role and responsibilities of staff members across the University
  • Evaluate work distribution and departmental organization
  • Classify jobs
  • Determine appropriate pay ranges
  • Recruit qualified candidates to fill vacancies
  • Evaluate staff performance against established standards

Why are Job Descriptions Important for the University?

Each University staff position should have its own job description – it is generally used as the basis for creating, classifying, and recruiting staff positions. Although it can be a challenging task, it is important for managers and supervisors to take the time to ensure comprehensive and accurate job descriptions are documented for their respective staff positions.

A well-written job description is imperative for the following reasons:

  • Establishes a basis for an accurate job classification determination, ensuring the incumbent is paid appropriately for the work performed and the department’s budgetary funds are spent effectively
  • Establishes a basis for recruitment, selection, and performance evaluations.
  • Communicates the duties and responsibilities of the position to current and potential staff members. With a clear understanding of the job’s expectations, the incumbent is able focus his/her time on the duties that will foster success in the position
  • Defines the function and role of a position within a group, department, division, and/or organization and may help align individual roles with the goals of the department, division, or organization.
  • Serves as a management tool for assessing the organization of work responsibilities within a department, division, or organization of the University.

How to Write Effective Job Descriptions

Review the JD Writing Guide for help with writing effective job descriptions.

  • A job description for each classified staff member should be saved electronically in the Job Description Library in PittSource.
  • The supervisor should complete the Position Details, Job Duties, Job Factors, and ADA/OSHA sections of the job description.
  • It is the supervisor’s responsibility to gather sufficient information from all appropriate sources to provide a comprehensive and accurate description of the major tasks and responsibilities for each position. If appropriate, the incumbent may participate in the preparation of the job description. However, the ultimate responsibility for preparing the job description rests with the supervisor and can not be delegated.
  • The best descriptions are written in a factual and impersonal style. The description is a statement of duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and reporting relationship of the position. It defines and describes the scope and content of the position, and outlines the knowledge and skills required to successfully function in the position. The length of the description does not indicate the importance of the position. It should be accurate, concise, and complete. The description is to be written in terms of the position itself, not the capabilities of any individual.
  • Specifications should be limited to what is required to perform the job at the required standards. Do not require what is not really needed and do not overlook essential components. Again, describe the requirements for filling a position in the work area regardless of the person assuming the job. (The individual objectives established with each employee through the performance appraisal process personalizes the position for the incumbent.)

Ready to get started? Download the Job Description Template.

Job Description Writing Do's and Don't's

Before writing a job description, here are some helpful hints to consider:


  • Refer to the Job Description Writing Guide
  • Utilize the Job Description Template
  • Attend a Job Description Writing Workshop (if available)
  • Use a factual and impersonal style when writing the job description
  • Base the job description on the department’s needs
  • Write an accurate, concise, and complete job description
  • Use complete sentences
  • Keep sentence structure as simple as possible, omitting unnecessary words that do not contribute pertinent information
  • Begin each duty/task with an action verb
  • Be consistent when using terms like “may” and “occasionally.” (These should be used to describe tasks that are performed once in a while, or tasks that only some employees perform.)
  • Refer to job titles rather than incumbents, i.e., “Reports to _______ Manager” instead of “Reports to Mary Smith.”
  • Be precise and succinct. This is critical for accurate job evaluation and analysis
  • Focus on critical activities
  • Use a logical sequence in describing duties and responsibilities (Key Responsibility first, followed by the corresponding duties)


  • Use narrative form when writing a job description
  • Base the content of the job description on the capabilities, skills, and interests of any one individual
  • Write the job description based upon the desired job classification
  • Write the job description as step-by-step guide on how to do the job
  • Include minor or occasional tasks, which are not unique to a specific job

Job Evaluation Process

The job evaluation process is conducted by the Compensation Department to determine the appropriate job classification level for a staff position at the University. This is done by analyzing the job duties, functions, and factors of a position based upon the job family criteria outlined in the Staff Classification System as well as evaluating the level of duties in relationship to the duties of other similar positions within the department, responsibility center, and across the University. The Compensation Analyst reviews the job description to assess how the job’s primary responsibilities and minimum qualifications relate to the marketplace and/or to other University of Pittsburgh’s jobs.

Job Factors

The job evaluation process determines the following:

  • Internal equity between similar jobs
  • Appropriate pay range for each job
  • External competitiveness

The University uses various factors to determine relationships between jobs. Each job is assessed on the following factors:

Knowledge and Skill Requirements:

  • General Knowledge
  • Job Specific Skills
  • Experience  

Scope of Responsibility:

  • Problem-Solving Authority
  • Organizational Impact
  • Financial Impact
  • Supervisory Accountability


  • Level of Contacts
  • Complexity of Contacts

All staff jobs throughout the University are analyzed using these factors. It is important to note that the job evaluation process measures job content, not employee characteristics. The measurement of employees’ characteristics is within the purview of supervisors and managers through performance management.