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Writing job descriptions essential part of hiring process for leisure services organizations

This is an excerpt from Leisure Services Management With Web Resources by Amy Hurd,Robert Barcelona & John Meldrum.

Developing the Job Description

Developing a written job description is the culminating act of the various planning steps discussed previously. The job description is the formal, written definition of the essential functions of a job, as well as its required qualifications and competencies. The job description is the basis for personnel recruitment, candidate selection, training, and performance appraisal. A well-written, thorough description clearly communicates the scope of responsibilities associated with a particular job. It sets the expectations for employment and provides a framework for personnel supervision.

At a minimum, a job description should list the essential functions and competencies required to perform the duties associated with the job. Even the best job descriptions cannot capture every responsibility assigned to a particular job; thus, a job description should be an overall summary of the duties assigned to a particular position and should leave room for additional assignments as needed. Different agencies may have unique formats for job descriptions. However, the following sections are usually included:

  • Salary range: Job descriptions may include a salary range that represents the minimum and maximum salaries that can be earned by an employee in a specific job class. This is particularly important in public and nonprofit organizations, where organizational or political mandates require specific salary ranges.
  • General definition: This is a general definition of the job and its overall scope of responsibility within the organization.
  • Supervision: This statement details the supervision the position receives and exercises.
  • Job segments and functions: Most job descriptions provide a detailed list of the essential job functions that the position is responsible for within the organization. Job segments might include program planning, personnel supervision, budgeting, accounting, marketing, policy making, and so on. Job descriptions should go beyond just listing broad job segments, however. They should be fairly descriptive in specifying the functions that are associated with each particular segment. For example, instead of merely listing marketing as a job segment, a job description might also state that the position is responsible for all aspects of marketing and publicity for recreation programs, including developing and distributing brochures and press releases, updating the program Web sites, customer service, and communicating with the media.
  • Working conditions: Some job descriptions include a statement regarding the conditions that the employee is expected to work under. This is particularly important for jobs that require specific physical or manual labor or that require the employee to work in somewhat dangerous settings.
  • Qualifications: Job descriptions must outline the minimal qualifications necessary for the particular job, including both level of formal education and length and type of experience. If there are any additional qualifications for the position, such as specific licensure requirements, certifications, background checks, or physical abilities, they should be listed here as well.
  • Competencies: This section focuses on the specific attributes that are needed to fulfill the essential functions of the job. They generally derive from a combination of education and experience. Some job descriptions will focus on general competencies, whereas others will focus on specific knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) associated with the job. In general, knowledge refers to the body of information that directly applies to specific job functions, such as knowledge of the recreation needs of a particular community or understanding of program evaluation techniques. Skills are physical or psychomotor competencies required for a particular job, such as operating certain types of machinery or typing on a keyboard. Finally, abilities are the aptitudes for a position, or what and how well a person is able to perform a certain task. Examples of abilities might be communicating effectively with the public or establishing effective interpersonal working relationships.

Job descriptions are not static documents. Jobs evolve over time, and as organizational needs change, new knowledge, skills, and abilities are required. Organizations should conduct regular job reviews, especially if position descriptions are out of date and incongruent with the actual job duties being performed.

Creating the Job Announcement

Following the personnel planning process and the development of the job description, the leisure services organization should have a clear idea of its personnel needs. The first step in the candidate selection process is the development of an open job announcement. Job announcements serve several purposes:

  • They provide notification of available positions to potential job seekers.
  • They provide a template for organizational decision making in candidate selection.
  • They act as a marketing tool for the organization.

The job announcement sets the tone for the hiring process. As such, it plays an important role in communicating what the organization wants in an employee and what the organization is about. The job announcement should be viewed as a two-way communication tool. It should clearly delineate the employment need of the organization but should also be developed to attract the best candidates. In this way, the job announcement can be seen as part of marketing and communication efforts. Poorly written job announcements reflect negatively on the organization.

Many organizations have standard formats for job announcements or require that certain information be included. An example of this might include statements affirming the commitment of the organization to equal employment opportunity and workforce diversity. Leisure services managers should first consult with their human resources division, if one exists, to ensure that job announcements conform to whatever standard formats might exist. When developing a job announcement from the beginning, consider including the following components.

Title of the Position

Job announcements should include the title of the open position. In some cases, organizations may have an official position title that corresponds with specific employment classifications within the larger organization but is not representative of common job titles in the field. For example, for human resources purposes, a city or municipality might generically categorize all agency heads as unit managers, but their working titles might be more specific (e.g., chief of police, director of housing, director of parks and recreation). In these cases, it is wise to include both the official title and the more common working title for the position. Remember, the job announcement is a communication tool, and job titles often help communicate the scope of responsibility.

It is also important to remember that job titles may differ from organization to organization. This is especially true of organizations in different leisure services settings. For example, campus recreation organizations often use titles such as director, associate director, assistant director, and program coordinator to designate scope of responsibility. Municipal recreation departments may use titles such as recreation director, recreation superintendent, assistant superintendent, and program manager. Using titles that are common in the institutional setting of the organization helps prospective job seekers understand the scope of the position.

Overview of the Organization

Job announcements should include basic details about the organization that have relevance for the scope of responsibility. Consider briefly describing the mission, structure, facilities, personnel, or other areas of potential interest to prospective candidates. In many cases, this is the first contact that a prospective job seeker will have with the organization, so a brief overview can help create interest in potential candidates.

Brief Overview of the Position

In addition to the position title, the announcement should include a general description of the position and its scope of responsibilities. This information could be similar to the general definition of the position discussed earlier. For example, a brief overview of the position might state the following: "Under the direction of the recreation director, the youth sport program supervisor is responsible for all phases of the design and delivery of a comprehensive community recreational sport program for young people, including but not limited to program design, facility management, tournament administration, supervision of coaches and officials, communication with parents, program evaluation, budgeting and accounting, risk management, and program evaluation."

Academic and Professional Qualifications

Job announcements should clearly state both the required and preferred academic and professional qualifications for the job. In general, academic qualifications include education levels, degrees, and areas of study. Professional qualifications include requirements for licensure, certification, or other credentials. A rule of thumb to consider is that as requirements become more specific, the potential applicant pool shrinks. For example, requiring an undergraduate degree in a specific academic area or requiring an advanced graduate degree may limit the pool of applicants. A benefit to this is that it can discourage underqualified applicants from applying, and it eliminates them from consideration early in the process if they do decide to apply. A drawback is that stringent qualifications may prevent good candidates from applying because of their inability to meet the specific requirements for the position. Another potential drawback is that stringent qualifications may reinforce existing inequities in employment based on sex, race, or other areas. For example, if certain racial or ethnic minorities are underrepresented in graduate degree programs in leisure services management, then requiring an advanced degree may further limit the pool of otherwise qualified minority candidates.

In figure 10.3, the position of recreation superintendent responsible for community sport and special events requires candidates to possess a bachelor’s degree in recreation management, sport management, or a related field. This obviously limits the applicant pool to candidates who possess academic qualifications in the general field while still allowing a search committee some flexibility in deciding if a degree in a different but related academic area (such as physical education or public administration) could be substituted. The position announcement also states that the organization prefers candidates to possess a master’s degree in recreation administration, sport administration, or a related field. Such a statement might give weight to an advanced degree during the selection process but does not completely eliminate otherwise qualified candidates who might not hold a graduate degree. Discussing the required and preferred academic qualifications for the position during the personnel planning process can provide insight into the benefits and costs to the organization when making these decisions.

Required and Preferred Competencies

Similar to academic qualifications, job announcements should list the competencies that are both required and preferred for the position. When listing required competencies, consider the base level that the position requires. Preferred competencies are those that the organization desires but are not absolutely critical.


Some organizations list salary ranges and other forms of compensation on the job announcement, especially for entry-level and middle-management positions. Others merely state that compensation is "commensurate with experience and qualifications." The decision on whether to list compensation on the job announcement is tricky. By providing specific information on salary and benefits, organizations may be either attracting or discouraging job seekers from applying for the position. Providing specific compensation information also means that the organization goes public with its salary structure, which it may be reluctant to do for any number of reasons. In general, if an organization believes its salary structure is competitive with other organizations or believes that providing specific compensation information may help attract good candidates, then it makes sense to provide that information. If an organization does not want salary to be the deciding factor in whether a job seeker applies for the position, or if it has the flexibility to negotiate salary with a successful candidate, then it may make sense to limit the information provided in this section.

Application Process

The job announcement should be extremely clear about the process that candidates must follow to apply for the position. This section should include the contact person to send application materials to, the materials required to apply (e.g., cover letter, résumé, references), specific formatting requirements for application materials, and the deadline for receipt of materials.

Deadlines may be hard (all application materials must be received by a specific date), soft (application materials are encouraged by a specific date, but applications received after the date may still be considered), or open (application materials will be considered until the job is filled). Advantages of hard deadlines are that they encourage job seekers to get their applications in early, they make organization of the application process easier, they help to achieve fairness in the process, and they help to limit large applicant pools. Soft and open deadlines allow greater flexibility on the part of the organization and potential job seekers, but they can also be more difficult to manage, especially with large numbers of applicants for a given position.

Additional Information

Job announcements should include contact names, phone numbers, physical and e-mail addresses, and Internet links for candidates to obtain more information about the position. If the organization has specific requirements for candidates to follow (e.g., no phone calls), this information should be clearly stated. For professional or career positions, many organizations include information pertaining to lifestyle interests, including information about the area, local amenities, access to cultural events, and other areas of interest to potential job seekers. This can also be helpful in attracting the best candidates for a particular position.


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