Just as writing resumes challenges most people, government job recruiters might struggle to write effective federal job descriptions. The quality of the candidates attracted to a job depends on writing a thorough yet clear description.
Job Description Goals
When planning to write a position description for federal jobs, you should provide key duties and responsibilities in a job announcement.
- Job Title
- Job Summary
- Requirements (Conditions of Employment and Qualifications)
- Required Documents
- Contact Information
You’ll fill in the blanks for information about the location, pay, and benefits. The written description, however, will need to communicate the other two factors related to mission and culture.
Federal government job descriptions typically link to extra information about the applicable agency. Although this is helpful, the job description itself should frame statements around how duties contribute to the agency mission.
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Pro Tip: Cite examples of projects that the person can expect to complete in the position. Explain how these served the public goals of the agency.
Government Job Description Template
The position serves as an Accountant in the Financial Management Division to perform operational accounting for financial staff services.
Conditions of Employment
- A one-year probationary period may be required
- Position subject to a pre-employment background investigation
- Temporary Duty (TDY) travel will be required approximately 10% of the time.
✲GS-11 Position require:
- Accounting degree or a degree in a related field such as finance or business administration.
- At least 4 years of experience in accounting.
- Certificate as Certified Public Accountant or a Certified Internal Auditor.
- A complete resume.
- A certificate in your application package.
- A copy of your college transcript or an appropriate course listing.
- Disabled veterans and veterans must provide legible copies of supporting documents.
- Health Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Long Term Care Insurance
- Flexible Spending Accounts
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Describe Operational Environment
People often look for work situations that suit their personalities and strengths. Provide them with clues about how often an employee will need to collaborate with others. Some positions are relatively solitary and independent whereas others involve ongoing teamwork.
Describing how duties fit into the operational environment will give people a better idea of how they will fit into the job. Clearly stated expectations about supervision, interaction with colleagues, and frequency of work deadlines allow job seekers to screen themselves.
How to Write a Description for a Federal Position
The federal Office of Personnel Management directs managers to write job descriptions that present the major duties and responsibilities. It does not have to be an exhaustive list of every function that an employee might need to perform on any given day.
The description must include:
- GS level or range of GS levels
- Primary duties
- Necessary skills
- Physical demands of the job
1. Consult the Supervisor and Co-Workers
The department manager requesting recruitment for a position will submit a list of necessary duties and skills. After looking over the information, ask for feedback.
The manager may not have listed requirements in any particular order. Ask the person to clarify priorities. You want to present duties and skills in the order of greatest importance. This way, you’ll avoid getting applications from people lacking essential skills or experience.
Other people in the department who are already doing the same job will be a valuable source of information. Ask them to confirm the accuracy of the written job duties. Their insights will help you understand the duties and write a clear picture of the actual job.
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2. Job Duty Percentages
When consulting people in the department, try to gain information about the percentage of job time given to particular duties. Specific information like this in the job description will help potential candidates imagine how their workdays might unfold. They will gain a good idea about whether they will get to apply their skills in a way that meets their career goals.
3. Group Similar Duties
As well as leading with the most essential skills and duties, it’s good to organize them in a logical fashion. US government job descriptions with tightly organized duties and responsibilities can be read quickly and with greater comprehension.
4. Measurable Skills
Describe the required skills in a quantitative way. For example, an applicant must have documentation showing at least one year of designing complex mechanical equipment. Other examples of measurable skills include typing 40 words per minute or knowing how to use accounting software.
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5. Physical Demands
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people from job discrimination. Accurate descriptions of physical demands could prevent people from entering situations where they cannot be adequately accommodated by an employer.
Accuracy matters because occasionally needing to lift a 25-pound box is not the same as moving 25-pound boxes for hours every day. Don’t assume that an office job doesn’t impose physical requirements. Include estimates about how many hours someone might have to operate a computer work station or stand on feet. Position descriptions for federal jobs that overlook these details could result in applicants unable to perform the necessary physical tasks.
6. Bringing it Together
Your notes about the agency mission, primary duties, skills, and physical demands can now be transformed into a complete description. Craft a two-to-three sentence summary of the job. This provides job seekers with a quick way to determine if they might qualify
Pro Tip: Identify keywords about the job that people might use to search for the position. Place these in the job summary to improve the description’s performance in online search results.
Listing the duties and skills is perfectly acceptable. People want information that can be scanned easily. You don’t want important aspects of the job buried inside a paragraph. A qualified person might miss it and not even apply.
Use paragraphs within government positions descriptions to provide insights about the lists of duties, skills, and responsibilities. People will dive into this information if the easy-to-read lists caught their attention.
To close the description with an effective call to action, briefly summarize the qualities of an ideal candidate. Describe how to apply and remind applicants about the documentation that they need to provide.
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