Writing a Job Description
The first step in hiring either an employee or a contractor is to establish the ground rules: What will he be doing, how will he do it, and what qualifications or experience does he need in order to do it? Writing a clear job description will answer all of these questions and having a job description has other advantages too.
First, it lets your staff know exactly what's expected of them, which can avoid a lot of problems later on. If you have more than one person on staff, it can help you to avoid areas of overlapping responsibility that can cause conflict between staff members. And it also provides a starting point when you're evaluating your staff.
When you write the job description, you should separate it clearly into sections that cover the duties, responsibilities, competencies, and qualifications that you expect of the person who will be doing the job. You should also consider whether you need the person to sign a nondisclosure or non-compete agreement. As long as the agreement is enforceable by law, the person's signature on the agreement means that she's agreeing to keep your business matters confidential or that she can't start a directly competing business or go to work for a competitor in a certain geographic area or time period, as applicable. (You'll need legal advice on such agreements, since the courts will not usually allow you to prevent someone from practicing her trade or profession in a reasonable manner.)
Don't be fooled into thinking your business is too small to worry about formal job descriptions. Your compliance with government regulations (such as labor laws that govern overtime and nondiscrimination) will often be judged by your job description. Consult with small business development offices or a lawyer if you have any concerns.
This short paragraph should briefly describe the scope of the job and its duties. It should also explain how the job fits into the business as a whole (who the person will be reporting to, and managing, if that's applicable). The position summary can also include a brief description of the business itself to put the job into context.
Key Duties and Responsibilities
This is a list of the specific duties that the job entails and might also include the responsibilities involved in those duties. For example, if you're looking for help in your retail store, one of the key duties would likely be staffing the cash register. The responsibility associated with that duty is to balance the cash in the register with the register tapes at the end of the shift. It can also be helpful to break down the duties into the time involved (e.g., staffing cash register: 30 percent; restocking shelves: 20 percent; assisting customers: 50 percent). If the position involves any occupational hazards or irregular hours, they should be noted here.
Core Competencies or Abilities
Here, you'll list the key competencies and abilities that the person will need to do the job. For example, your retail assistant may need to be able to stand for long periods of time, lift boxes of stock (within reason, say, 30 pounds), and enjoy finding solutions to customer questions.
This section deals with the education, training, and experience that you expect the person to have. You can ask for minimum education levels (such as high school graduation or college diplomas), specialized training (such as in handling workplace hazardous materials, if you're in manufacturing), and the amount and degree of experience (such as time in an equivalent position). This is also the place to list the skills required, such as good mathematical skills and an ability to work well as part of a team.
Finally, the job description should list how to apply for the job, whether it's by resume or application form, for example, and whether you want applications submitted by mail, in person, or via e-mail, and when the deadline is. Also note whether you will accept phone call inquiries about the job, and whether you'll be contacting only those accepted for an interview.