Develop Position Descriptions

The position description is a candidate’s introduction to the role and the organization, and is your best chance to make a good first impression. The following sections outline the common elements of a position description and include questions or recommendations to consider as you craft position descriptions for your jobs and internships.

Organization Description

Position Purpose

  • Why does this position exist at your organization?
  • What function does this role serve in furthering your mission or work?
  • Including a position purpose gives prospective candidates a better sense of the role before apply. The purpose also justifies why hiring is necessary, and frames aspects of the onboarding process later on.

Position Description

  • What are the duties and responsibilities of this role?
  • What specifically can applicants expect to do?
  • What tools, programs, or resources might they use in this role?
  • In all your sections, and especially the position description, use inclusive language to avoid any potential bias. Use the Gender Decoder to check for any gendered-terminology in your position descriptions.

Learning Outcomes / Benefits

  • Internships are inherently learning experiences for students and a description of the expected learning outcomes shows candidates how they will benefit from the experience. Also, job descriptions can include a learning or benefits section to describe how candidates can expect to develop in the role.
  • Research shows that college students are pragmatic and shrewd consumers. Explaining the benefits or outcomes of a position can help sway their decision to apply.

Compensation

  • Ensure any wages offered are fair and equitable given the position, your organization, and industry standards. For-profit employers must abide by Department of Labor requirements for unpaid internships.
  • Equitable compensation enhances your overall recruitment and retention efforts, ultimately leading to a more diverse workforce.
  • Consider conducting a Pay Equity Analysis and making that information available to prospective candidates on your website.

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Avoid unnecessary qualifications that could lead candidates to opt out of applying if they don’t feel 100% qualified.
  • Candidates can view “Desired Qualifications” as attributes other applicants will likely have and therefore feel underqualified without them.
  • Clarify your “must haves” and focus on the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies needed for the role. These “must haves” will outline your review and selection criteria later on in the hiring process.
  • College name, major, and GPA are poor indicators of workplace performance and should be avoided as criteria for hiring decisions.

Application Process

  • How should candidates apply for the role? Be explicit about the application instructions.
  • What information or documents do they need to include? Only ask for what is actually needed for your application review and selection. Don’t ask for a cover letter or a transcript if you are not going to read them.
  • Candidates might be unfamiliar with resume or cover letter writing conventions. Are there other ways to collect relevant information about their aptitude? For example, you could ask candidates prompt questions such as “If hired, how would you successfully work with a diverse clientele?” or “What have you done to further your knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion in this work?”

View a sample position description for a graduate student internship at the UW Career & Internship Center.