Tips for Writing Position Descriptions at Purdue University

A position description is a formal document that summarizes the important functions of a specific job. It should accurately define actual duties and responsibilities, as well as minimum qualifications. Position descriptions are used for classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act, position postings, job interviews, and performance appraisals. The following are some tips to help you complete the position description form.

Things to Remember

  • Well-written descriptions should be easily understood by anyone who reads it
  • Try not to use ambiguous terms, such as coordinate, manage, assist, etc. without an explanation as to what this involves
  • Performance of the incumbent, longevity of the incumbent, and personality of the incumbent are not considered when classifying a position (the classification system is not a way to reward/recognize an incumbent)

Position Title

  • Use titles that describe the nature and level of work performed, as well as appeal to candidates
  • Avoid inflating titles

Position Summary

  • Two or three sentences summarizing the primary function and general purpose of the job
  • It may be helpful to write the summary after defining the essential responsibilities of the position

Example: Provide pre-award sponsored research services to the University community, including developing new funding opportunities, enhancing existing funding relationships, coordinating interdisciplinary proposal efforts, and representing the University on various research committees and professional organizations.

Essential Functions (Duties and Responsibilities)

  • Limit this section to eight or less essential duties and responsibilities, each of which accounts for more than 5% of the position
  • List them in descending order of importance and indicate the percentage of time spent on the duties
  • Use clear and concise language; closely related duties should be grouped together in one responsibility statement
  • Avoid gender-based language
  • To the extent practicable, please use action verbs with an implied subject (who) and explicit work objects and/or outputs (what).


(incumbent=implied subject) Evaluate (action verb) jobs (what) and prepare or revise (action verbs) job descriptions (what). – 20%

For additional examples, please see the list of sample duties/responsibilities in writing the essential responsibilities of the job.


  • Describe whether the position exercises functional or administrative supervision
    • Functional: limited to assigning, instructing and reviewing work of others, including students
    • Administrative: decisions/recommendations for hiring, termination, promotion, pay adjustments, etc., includes functional supervision responsibilities
  • Indicate number and type of staff supervised (i.e. administrative supervision over three staff positions and two student positions)

Minimum Requirements/Qualifications

  • Include minimum qualifications for formal training, education, certifications, licensures, and/or work experience
  • Equivalent combination of education and experience may be accepted; please discuss with Talent Acquisition
  • Identify the level of knowledge, skills, and/or abilities (KSAs) required to perform the essential job duties and responsibilities competently
  • Whenever possible, incorporate appropriate adjectives such as basic, intermediate, or advanced to indicate the required level of each KSA.
  • Basic: knowledge sufficient to perform recurring assignments with a reasonable degree of independence under normal supervision and after a customary orientation period
  • Intermediate: knowledge sufficient to coordinate, interpret, critique, and/or synthesize the work of others and to make a meaningful contribution to such work
  • Advanced: knowledge sufficient to qualify as an expert, an internal consultant, or a resource to other qualified specialists in other departments

Example: Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Business Management, or a related field. Two years of accounting or related field experience required. Basic knowledge of accounting application systems (e.g., SIS, Payroll, General Accounting). Ability to clearly communicate, verbally and in writing, information with accuracy, professionalism, tact, and sensitivity to all constituents.

Physical, Environmental, and Hazardous Specifications

Identify the working conditions and physical demands that relate to the essential functions of the position. This information is important to ensure that position descriptions, when necessary, include appropriate language about the physical requirements of the job for monitoring compliance with the ADA (Americans w/ Disabilities Act).

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