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Create or Review a Position

This step-by-step guide is everything you need to prepare a position description.  Review the guide below to discover available resources.

Position Description Template



  • Writing a Staff Position Description
  • Job Elements
  • Action Verbs
  • Job Functions
  • Supervisory Elements
  • Physical Demands
  • ADA Considerations

Writing a Staff Position Description

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Position descriptions are written by supervisors who design and evaluate positions. Supervisors may ask employees to document day to day job duties and functions. 

A well-written position description:

  • Clearly and accurately communicates the essential purpose and responsibilities of a position in the Job Summary
  • Outlines the specific Job Duties or Job Functions performed and the methods used to complete the duties
  • Defines the Minimum Qualifications needed to effectively perform the work
  • Is essential for recruitment, training and job evaluation and informs compensation decisions

Job Summary/Basic Function: Describes the essential purpose and primary duties of the position. It may include information about the unit or department to put the position in context.

Job Duty/Job Function statements identify primary as well as current duties and responsibilities of the position. Job duty statements typically contain two parts: the Task and the Purpose. Examples of the beginning of such statements are shown below:



Compile enrollment data

for distribution to administrators....

Conduct analytical studies

to support financial planning...

Analyze budget and recommend expenditures

to meet current and future business needs...

Monitor system performance

to ensure system integrity and determine necessary corrective action...

Job duties should:

  • Include substantive, broad duties/functions, leaving fine details for "to do" lists
  • Be grouped by functions such as budget, facilities, procurement, human resources, information technology and communication that identify different aspects of the work and are described in a few sentences that provide an understanding of the scope of  the position authority.
  • Communicate the full range of job elements the position has responsibility for including financial resources, budgets, physical resources and data/records information
  • Be specific about what methods, processes tools, techniques, materials and equipment are used
  • Describe supervisory elements
  • Describe physical demands and work conditions
  • Be identified as essential and marginal functions
  • Be understandable; limit the use of jargon and acronyms
  • Utilize specific action verbs for each job duty, (e.g., "operate," "analyze," "approve")
  • Include accurate percentages of effort. Generally individual functions are best described with percentages no higher than 20% to 25%, and no lower than 5%
  • Limit "perform other related duties as assigned" to 5%

Job duties should not:

  • Contain restrictive language that would preclude the accommodation of workers with disabilities.
  • Be so specific that changes in technology or the preferences of employees and supervisors do not cause it to become prematurely outdated

Minimum Qualifications: Determined by the supervisor in collaboration with Human Resource Services.

Include (in the following order):

The minimum level of formal education, license/certification, years of relevant work experience and skills and physical requirements required to perform the job functions

Do not include:

  • Statements related to performance, behavior, personal attributes or expectations,
  • Vague descriptors like "professional" or "excellent"
  • The qualifications of the employee in the position or of the ideal candidate. Current incumbents and candidates for a position often have more or less education and experience than stated in the minimum qualifications.
  • Statements regarding "an equivalent combination of education and experience..." This wording is already a standard part of the posting language displayed to applicants.

UVM's intention in basing classification on minimum (versus ideal) qualifications is to attract the broadest and most diverse pool of applicants during the recruitment process.

Make sure to distinguish between the skills required (education level and number of years of related work experience) for the position and "desirable" skills. When listing "desirable" qualifications, be careful to consider the potential impact on the applicant pool, as qualified individuals may choose not to apply based upon their perception of listed qualifications.


Job Elements

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The following job elements should be included in a position description at the University of Vermont:

Job Content

  • Breadth of Responsibility
  • Complexity
  • Independence of Action
  • Decision Making
  • Confidentiality
  • Innovation, Creativity
  • Problem Solving
  • Communication and Interaction
  • Responsibility for Directing Others
  • Working Conditions and Physical Demands
  • Formal Education, Certification, Licensure and Experience
  • Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
  • Impact of Actions
  • Minimum Qualifications

Action Verbs

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This list is intended to provide a common language to describe a body of work:

View List of Action Verbs

AdministerManage or direct the execution of affairs.
AdoptTake up and practice as one's own.
AdviseRecommend a course of action; offer an informal opinion based on specialized knowledge.
AnalyzeSeparate into elements and critically examine.
AnticipateForesee and deal with in advance.
AppraiseGive an expert judgment of worth or merit.
ApproveAccept as satisfactory; exercise final authority with regard to commitment of resources.
ArrangeMake preparation for an event; put in proper order.
AssembleCollect or gather together in a predetermined order from various sources.
AssignSpecify or designate tasks or duties to be performed by others.
AssumeUndertake; take for granted.
AssureGive confidence; make certain of.
AuthorizeApprove; empower through vested authority.
CalculateMake a mathematical computation.
CirculatePass from person to person or place to place.
ClearGain approval of others.
CollaborateWork jointly with; cooperate with others.
CompilePut together information; collect from other documents.
ConductCarry on; direct the execution of.
ConferConsult with others to compare views.
ConsolidateBring together.
ConsultSeek the advice of others.
ControlMeasure, interpret and evaluate actions for conformance with plans or desired results.
CoordinateRegulate, adjust or combine the actions of others to attain harmony.
CorrelateEstablish a reciprocal relationship.
CorrespondCommunicate with.
DelegateCommission another to perform tasks or duties that may carry specific degrees of accountability.
DesignConceive, create and execute according to plan.
DetermineResolve; fix conclusively or authoritatively.
DevelopDisclose, discover, perfect or unfold a plan or idea.
DeviseCome up with something new - perhaps by combining or applying known ideas or principles.
DirectGuide work operations through the establishment of objectives, policies, rules, practices, methods and standards.
DiscussExchange views for the purpose of arriving at a conclusion.
DisposeGet rid of.
DisseminateSpread or disperse information.
DistributeDeliver to proper destinations.
DraftPrepare papers or documents in preliminary form.
EndorseSupport or recommend.
EstablishBring into existence.
EstimateForecast future requirements.
EvaluateDetermine or fix the value of.
ExecutePut into effect or carry out.
ExpediteAccelerate the process or progress of.
FormulateDevelop or devise.
FurnishProvide with what is needed; supply.
ImplementCarry out; execute a plan or program.
ImproveMake something better.
InitiateStart or introduce.
InspectCritically examine for suitability.
InterpretExplain something to others.
InvestigateStudy through close examination of systematic inquiry.
IssuePut forth or to distribute officially.
ManageDirect personnel and area/unit/department operations.
MaintainKeep in an existing state.
MonitorObserve, track, or check for a specific purpose.
NegotiateConfer with others with an eye to reaching agreement.
NotifyMake known to.
OperatePerform an activity or series of activities.
OrganizeGather, collate, or classify information.
ParticipateTake part in.
PerformFulfill or carry out some action.
PlaceLocate and choose positions for.
PlanDevise or project the realization of a course of action.
PracticePerform work repeatedly in order to gain proficiency.
PrepareMake ready for a particular purpose.
ProceedBegin to carry out an action.
ProcessSubject something to specific treatment; handle in accordance with prescribed procedure.
PromoteAdvance to a higher level or position.
ProposeDeclare a plan or intention.
ProvideSupply what is needed; furnish.
RecommendAdvise or counsel a course of action; offer or suggest for adoption.
RepresentAct in the place of or for.
ReportGive an account of; furnish information or data.
ResearchInquire into a specific matter from several sources.
ReviewExamine or re-examine.
ReviseRework in order to correct or improve.
SchedulePlan a timetable.
SecureGain possession of; make safe.
SelectChoose the best suited.
SignFormally approve a document by affixing a signature.
SpecifyState precisely in detail or name explicitly.
StimulateExcite to activity; urge.
SubmitYield or present for the discretion or judgment of other.
SupervisePersonally oversee, direct, inspect or guide the work of others with responsibility for meeting standards of performance.
TrainGuide others in order to bring up to a predetermined standard.
TranscribeTransfer data from one form of record to another or from one method of preparation to another - without changing the nature of the data.
VerifyConfirm or establish authenticity; substantiate.


Essential and Marginal Job Functions

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Essential Functions: Must be performed with or without reasonable accommodation. If appropriate, include information about resources and/or supervisory elements.

Essential Functions

  • Be specific in describing job functions: What methods, techniques and equipment are used? What is the expected result or outcome? With whom is it done? Communicate the position's responsibility for financial resources, budgets, physical resources, and data/records/information. Describe Supervisory Elements.
  • Use action verbs to specify each function statement, such as "operate," "analyze," or "approve." Avoid vague words such as "may" or "preferred."
  • Determine the percentage of total effort each function requires. The total of all functions should equal 100%. In general, individual functions are best described with percentage breakdowns no higher than 20%-25%, and no lower than 5%.
  • Prioritize functions in order of most to least essential

Marginal Functions

To distinguish essential from marginal functions, ask yourself :

  • Does the position exist to perform the function?
  • Can other employees perform the function if the incumbent does not?
  • Is special training or education required to perform the function?
  • Would removing the function fundamentally change the job?
  • Would there be significant consequences if this function were not performed?

Supervisory Elements

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In addition to identifying the title(s) and number of positions supervised, describe whether the supervision is functional or administrative.

Administrative Supervision

Typically involves decisions or recommendations regarding hiring, promotions, salary adjustments, and terminations, as well as other supervisory duties. Administrative supervisors have either:

  1. Effective authority for all personnel actions; or
  2. Responsibility for formal recommendations on hiring, promotion, and pay rates.

Functional Supervision

Usually is limited to assigning and reviewing work and acting as a group leader. Functional supervisors may make suggestions on hiring, promotions, salary adjustment, and firing.

Physical Demands and Work Conditions

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To communicate about the physical demands and work conditions of a job, consider the following questions:

Does this job involve significant physical strain or activity?

  • lifting - how many pounds
  • carrying
  • standing
  • climbing
  • crawling/kneeling
  • repetitive motion

What unusual working conditions, if any, are associated with this job?

  • lighting
  • heating
  • ventilation
  • odors
  • noise
  • animals
  • heights
  • infectious diseases
  • danger
  • exposure to inclement weather
  • irregular hours

ADA Considerations

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Although not specifically required by the ADA, it is highly recommended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that every job have a carefully prepared job description that (1) distinguishes between essential and marginal job functions, and (2) reflects consistent job-related qualifications.

Currently, UVM uses detailed job descriptions that include consistent qualifications as the basis for the staff classification system.

  1. Before new positions are created or existing positions are submitted for review, supervisors separate essential and marginal functions using the Job Functions guidelines.
  2. Before staff positions are posted, Human Resource Services classification staff will help distinguish between essential and marginal functions. As usual, in writing the posting, the analyst will help define minimum qualifications and required knowledge, skills, and abilities that are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

General Information

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires the fair treatment of "qualified individuals with disabilities." Such a person is "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions..." of the job. For the purpose of ADA, "essential functions" are job duties that are "fundamental" and not "marginal."

The underlying premise of this title is that persons with disabilities should not be excluded from job opportunities unless they are actually unable to do the job. In order to ensure a match between job criteria and an applicant's ability to do the job, the ADA requires that:

  • persons with disabilities not be disqualified because of the inability to perform nonessential or marginal functions of the job;
  • any selection criteria that screen out people with disabilities be job-related and consistent with business necessity
  • reasonable accommodation be provided to assist persons with disabilities to meet legitimate job criteria

The ADA does not require employers to maintain job descriptions, but written job descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job are relevant evidence in determining whether a particular function is essential or marginal.

Other evidence of whether or not a particular function is essential includes:

  • employer's judgment about which functions are essential
  • amount of time spent performing the function
  • consequences of not requiring the incumbent to perform the function
  • terms of a collective bargaining agreement
  • work experience of present or past employees in the job

Reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. For example, reasonable accommodation may include:

  • acquiring or modifying equipment or devices
  • job restructuring
  • part-time or modified work schedules
  • reassignment to vacant position
  • adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies

For more information, contact Dana Hutchinson, the Americans with Disabilities Act Liaison in the Division of Human Resources, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at 802-656-0945.