How to Write a Position Description

Position Descriptions provide crucial information for job applicants, employees, supervisors, and HR staff. They clarify the qualifications and duties required for each position, ensuring everyone understands their roles in supporting the university’s mission.

Position Descriptions Should Answer Certain Questions

  • What work does the position involve?
  • How is the work done?
  • What are the primary duties?
  • How often are these duties performed?
  • What percentage of time is spent on each duty? (e.g., 4 hours of a 40-hour week = 10%)
  • What materials, equipment, or machines are used?
  • Is the position collaborative or independent?
  • What level of supervision is involved?
  • Does the position supervise others?
  • What are the minimum qualifications for the job?

Quantify details whenever possible. Indicate dollar volume for financial responsibility, number of accounts, ledgers, grants, number of faculty in department, number of persons supervised, etc.

How To Describe A Job/Position

  • Describe the job, not the individual doing it.
  • Write descriptions concisely, uniformly, and in plain, everyday language.

Wording of the Position Description

The position’s immediate supervisor collaborates with the incumbent to create the description. Use short, direct verbs in the present tense. Specify work details, methods, equipment, and other relevant information. Avoid copying from job profile and using ambiguous terms. Personal characteristics should be listed under “Other Characteristics of the Position” if necessary.


  • Use short, direct verbs in the present tense.
  • Describe work specifics, methods, tools, responsibility, consequences, instructions, supervision, and relationships.
  • Assign time percentages for each responsibility.
  • Clearly distinguish the position from other levels in the same series.


  • Copy verbiage from job profile.
  • Use ambiguous terms without explanation.
  • Combine several responsibilities and assign large time percentages.
  • Use abbreviations or technical terms without explanation.

Commonly Used Action Verbs

    • Administer – Manage or direct tasks.
    • Adopt – Take up and practice as one’s own.
    • Advise – Recommends a course of action; offer an informed opinion based on specialized knowledge.
    • Analyze – Separate into elements and critically examine.
    • Anticipate – Foresee and deal with in advance.
    • Appraise – Give an expert judgment of worth or merit.
    • Approve – Accept as satisfactory; exercise final authority with regard to commitment of resources.
    • Arrange – Make preparation for an event; put into proper order.
    • Assemble – Collect or gather together in a predetermined order from various sources.
    • Assign – Specify or designate tasks or duties to be performed by others.
    • Assure – Give confidence; make certain of.
    • Authorize – Approve; empower through vested authority.
    • Calculate – Make a mathematical computation.
    • Collaborate – Work jointly with; cooperate with others.
    • Collect – Gather.
    • Compile – Put together information, collect from other documents.
    • Conduct – Carry on; direct the execution of.
    • Confer – Consult with others to compare views.
    • Consolidate – Bring together.
    • Consult – Seek the advice of others.
    • Control – Measure, interpret, and evaluate actions for conformance with plans or desired results.
    • Correspond – Communicate with.
    • Delegate – Commission another to perform tasks or duties that may carry specific degrees of accountability.
    • Design – Conceive, create, and execute according to plan.
    • Determine – Resolve; fix conclusively or authoritatively.
    • Develop – Disclose, discover, perfect, or unfold a plan or idea.
    • Devise – Come up with something new -perhaps by combining or applying known ideas or principles.
    • Direct – Guide work operations through the establishment of objectives, policies, regulations, practices, methods and standards.
    • Draft – Prepare papers or documents in preliminary form.
    • Endorse – Support or recommend.
    • Establish – Bring into existence.
    • Estimate – Forecast future requirements.
    • Evaluate – Determine or fix the value of.
    • Execute – Put into effect or carry out.
    • Expedite – Accelerate the process or progress of.
    • Formulate – Develop or devise.
    • Furnish – Provide with what is needed; supply.
    • Implement – Carry out; execute a plan or program.
    • Improve – Make something better.
    • Initiate – Start or introduce.
    • Inspect – Critically examine for suitability.
    • Interpret – Explain something to others.
    • Investigate – Study through close examination and systematic inquiry.
    • Issue – Put forth or to distribute officially.
    • Maintain – Keep in an existing state.
    • Monitor – Watch, observe, or check for a specific purpose.
    • Negotiate – Confer with others in order to reach an agreement.
    • Operate – Perform an activity or series of activities.
    • Participate – To take part in.
    • Perform – Fulfill or carry out.
    • Process – Handle in accordance with prescribed procedures.
    • Provide – Supply what is need; furnish.
    • Recommend – Advise or counsel a course of action; offer or suggest for adoption.
    • Represent – Act in the place of or for.
    • Report – Give an account of; furnish information or data.
    • Research – Inquire into a specific matter from several sources.
    • Review – Examine or reexamine.
    • Revise – Rework in order to correct or improve.
    • Schedule – Plan a timetable.
    • Sign – Formally approve a document.
    • Specify – State precisely in detail or name explicitly.
    • Submit – Yield or present for the discretion or judgment of others.
    • Supervise – Communicates with, trains and evaluates employees, plans and directs their work; and has the authority to hire, transfer, suspend, layoff, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward or discipline subordinate employees or effectively recommends such actions.
    • Transcribe – Transfers data from one form of record to another or from one method of preparation to another without changing the nature of the data.
    • Verify – Confirm of establish authenticity; substantiate.

Ambiguous Terms

Avoid using terms like “assist,” “advise,” “handle,” “inspect,” and “research” without clarifying the degree involved.

Factors That Influence Position Classification

Complexity of Work Performed

  • Difficulty and variety of tasks.
  • Development of work methods.
  • Independence and decision-making.

Consequence of Errors

  • Responsibility for safety of others.
  • Financial costs of errors.
  • Necessity for accuracy.


  • Amount of supervision and supervisor’s classification.
  • Number and level of subordinates.

Fiscal Responsibility

  • Budgeting, record complexity, and purchasing authority.
  • Type and amount of purchases.

Reports and Record Keeping

  • Complexity and design of record systems.
  • Data gathering, inference, and analysis.
  • Compilation of quantitative reports.

Knowledge and Experience

  • Technical knowledge, training, education, and certification.

Responsibility for Public Contact

  • Level of public interaction, complexity of subject matter, and purpose.