Department Resources: Conducting a Successful Employee Selection Process -
Developing a Position Description

Regulations and Definitions

  • A "position" is a group of duties, responsibilities and working conditions requiring the service of one person for the hours per week specified.
  • A "classification" is a group of positions sufficiently similar in content of duties and responsibilities that the same University title and pay grade is assigned to each position.
  • To "classify" is the assignment of a position to a classification.
  • To "reclassify" is the reassignment of an existing position to another classification.
  • New positions are classified and existing positions reclassified at the request of the department.

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Position Analysis

Before developing a Position Description, complete the following departmental needs analysis:

  1. If applicable, review the generic classification description.
  2. Describe the position: full or part-time, temporary or regular, position share or other special circumstances?
  3. If this is a new position, have you talked with your Human Resources Representative?
  4. What does the position accomplish? If there is an incumbent, what are that person's duties?
  5. Who does this person report to? Are there any special considerations/issues, such as multiple reporting relationships?
  6. How does this position fit into the department? Where does it connect with others?
  7. Does the department have current unmet needs this position could fill?
  8. What ramifications do upcoming organizational changes have on this position?
  9. What new directions are in the future for the department? Do they impact this position?
  10. Who can provide information about this position before the "formal" Position Description is written?

Once you have answered these and other questions, you may begin the process of creating a Position Description.

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Writing a Position Description

Preparing an effective position description involves defining the following:

  1. Title of position and working title
  2. Basic functions and responsibilities
  3. Characteristic duties and responsibilities
  4. Related duties
  5. Supervision received
  6. Supervision exercised
  7. Qualifications, and
  8. Required Contacts

Position Description Form

Basic functions and responsibilities

Describe the basic functions and responsibilities of the position by distinguishing the position function from other classifications using characteristic duties, responsibilities and contributions. These are generally identified by the following factors:

  • Recognized as being the primary duties and functions.
  • Occupy a significant portion of time.
  • Performed on a regular or recurring basis.

Look closely at the nature of the work and its relative responsibility and difficulty. Position descriptions should contain enough information to clearly define what duties are to be performed. Note: All positions in a classification have comparable duties and responsibilities. Positions in a classification have the same University title-e.g., Secretary, Senior Accountant, etc. Review the position description with HR prior to posting for consistency. The written description should be worded succinctly and precisely.


Departmental qualifications should be tied directly to the work involved and directly relevant. Example: Selected candidate must have at least one year in designing software programming in Novell and Fortan, C++. Note: Avoid qualifications not related to the duties and responsibilities. For example, the qualification ".Must have winning personality." is not appropriate and can be legally challenged. A better qualification could be stated as "Demonstrated excellent customer service skills." Interview questions should be prepared to probe for knowledge and demonstration of those skills and should be measurable using documented selection criteria.

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Developing Selection Criteria

Selection criteria are a necessary and critical tool in the faculty/staff selection process. It's primary function is to guide the hiring supervisor in determining which set of candidates meet the qualifications for the posted position. Selection criteria should be:

  • Established before a position is advertised or posted.
  • Clearly defined and relevant to the position.
  • Used to evaluate applicants for the position.
  • Easy to use when evaluating candidates.
  • Understandable and defensible.
  • Aligned with the department's needs.

Emphasis in screening applicants should be on demonstrated performance. Successful candidates should be those clearly possessing the prerequisite skills and the strongest combination of strengths.

Note: Selection criteria is determined by individual departments.

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