Completing a Position Analysis

Before an accurate position description can be created for a position, a position analysis must be conducted in order to evaluate the need and purpose of the position, and the way the work should be performed. A position description should include a list of essential functions. The position analysis ensures that the work to be performed in a position is accurately described. A position description simply documents the findings of the position analysis.

Questions that Drive a Position Analysis

The intent of asking the following questions is to determine whether or not the tasks can be achieved in a new or different way:

  • What is the purpose of the position? By answering these questions, the essential functions of the position can be identified. A position exists to perform an essential function and the person hired to fill the position is hired for his/her ability to perform it.
  • What would happen if this position were not filled? Is it possible to transfer essential functions of the position to other positions within your department or other departments/units within the university?
  • What larger developments within the university or within the position’s specialized area play a role in determining different ways of thinking about the position? A good example here is offered by examining the fast-moving developments in information technology and sciences that have changed the qualifications you would look for when filling a Librarian position.
  • What can we learn from our past five years experience with this position? Has it been marked by high turnover or has it been a continuous trouble area? What accounts for the present vacancy?
  • What does any of this information tell us about the position? Does the position need to be redefined or perhaps eliminated?

The responsibility for analyzing a vacant (or new) position, rests primarily with the hiring manager, but it is recommended that at least one person higher in the line of authority become involved, if for no other reason than to guard against a token or narrowly focused review of the position and its essential functions. It is also recommended that unclassified position descriptions be shared with the search committee in draft form for feedback, questions, and proposed revisions/clarifications before it is finalized and approved by the hiring manager (the person ultimately responsible for its content).

Writing a Position Description

Importance of Position Descriptions

The position description is the primary document of personnel administration for the University. It affects how a position is classified and compensated. It serves as the foundation for setting expectations with an employee, and for performance evaluation and management. It also is important in determining the professional development needs of the incumbent. The development of a position description should be done thoughtfully and carefully. Do not let the pressing needs of a search process minimize the importance of developing an accurate position description.

Goal of Position Description Writing

Each position description should be written in such a way that it provides all the information an evaluation committee needs to clearly understand the duties the incumbent performs. It must accurately reflect all the duties and responsibilities required of the incumbent as well as the qualifications that person needs to satisfactorily fill the position.

Review the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access (EOA) Principles for Developing the Position Description document for ideas around how to incorporate the diversity aspects of the position.

Position Summary

After the job analysis has been conducted, the next step is to begin writing the position description. From the job analysis, you should have an understanding of what the primary purpose of the position is. This is the position summary. Write the summary to explain what you need accomplished by this employee and how it relates to the mission of the organization. This should be no shorter than a sentence or two and no longer than a paragraph. In the position summary, balance the need to focus on the position’s purpose with the need to provide some limited information about the organization for recruiting purposes. Be sparing with your use of marketing language here, as the posting is the place best utilized to market the organization, location, etc.

Position Duties

This section should expand on the position summary. Write position duties so that they are clearly understandable by anyone who should happen to read the position description. The duties should be succinct. From your position analysis, begin grouping the position duties by similarity and importance. Typically, you will have no more than eight to ten groupings of position duties. Each group should have a common heading.

Tips: Do not list unnecessary details, only the important facts regarding the position. Avoid ambiguous terms and begin each statement with an action verb. Avoid jargon that the search committee and applicants may not understand. Avoid stating a list of performance expectations. Expectations may be listed in a separate document. Be accurate in describing the duties. Don’t overstate or understate - to do so may result in classifying the position incorrectly, affecting the compensation of the position. The duties must total 100%.

Decision Making/Guidelines

This section, along with the position summary, defines the scope and responsibility of the position. List what decisions the incumbent will be expected to make independently and which decisions they will make under the guidance of their supervisor. List the impact these decisions will have on the organization. What are the negative impacts of an incorrect decision?Then list what guidelines the incumbent will use in making these decisions.

Determining the Qualifications

Ensuring that the qualifications are accurate and necessary for the position is crucial to a successful search. Qualifications should not be so extensive that they limit the applicant pool or could be seen as discriminatory. Go back to the job analysis and the position description. What must the incumbent have upon beginning this position to be successful Create a list of these items. These will become your minimum qualifications, or the additional required qualifications. What qualifications would be helpful for the incumbent to have, or useful to the organization? These will become your preferred qualifications.

For Classified positions, the minimum qualifications come from the classification specifications and have been negotiated with SEIU. The additional required qualifications cannot exceed the minimum qualifications. Be careful when you list experience or education as a requirement and refer back to the minimum qualifications.

Refer to the Online PD and Recruiting System Position Titles for minimum qualifications for unclassified positions. If you require a degree, make sure to list what field the degree is in. (e.g. B.S. or B.A. in Psychology, or closely related field)

Sample Position Descriptions

Selected position summaries, decision-making statements, and descriptions of duties are available for the position titles referenced below. Click on the desired link to open a sample position description.

Academic Teaching/Research Faculty Position Titles:

Assistant Professor
Associate Professor
Faculty Research Assistant
Research Associate
Senior Faculty Research Assistant
Senior Instructor

Administrative/Professional Faculty Position Titles:

Advisor (Academic Advisor)
Assistant Dean
Associate Dean
Department Head
Department Chair
Director (Director Position Title)
Professional Faculty

Classified Staff Position Titles: see the Oregon Public Universitie Classification Specifications for guidance 


Position Advertisement Guidelines Tenure-Track Teaching Positions

The office of International Services (OIS) recommends that an advertisement be filed in an online or print professional journal for any tenure-track position with teaching duties. In the event that the selected candidate is not a citizen or permanent resident of the US, OIS will work with the hiring department to pursue US permanent residence. The following guidelines must be met if OIS is to pursue a Department of Labor special handling labor certification, which is one step in the process of applying for US permanent residence. Please note that these are simply guidelines that provide some flexibility in options to pursue permanent residence, these are not requirements.

Questions may be directed to OIS by emailing

Advertisement Overview (read below for details)
1. Electronic
OR print ad
advertise in at least 1 electronic or web-based national professional journal with a national circulation for a minimum of 30 days (document start & date) OR a one time posting in a print version
2. Position title state rank (e.g.  Assistant Professor )
3. Duties Brief list of duties, must include the word “teaching”
4. FTE note that the position is full-time
5. Experience plainly state minimum experience required, quantify if possible; avoid listing preferred qualifications in advertisement
6. Degree

explicitly list all disciplines acceptable for position (“PhD in xxx”)
AND “PhD by start of employment” or  “PhD at time of offer”

7. To Apply Clearly state the application process
8. Location list geographic location of position (e.g. Corvallis, Newport)

1. Advertise 30 days online OR one time print ad.  Position must be advertised in at least one online journal with national circulation, e.g. Chronicle of Higher Ed, for at least 30 calendar days. Documentation required of start and end dates of advertisement and the text of the advertisement, e.g.  e-tearsheet. Note that online job postings, such as are not considered online journals. Alternatively, one time ad in print version of journal; documentation would be tearsheet of dated page on which ad appeared.

2. Position Title(s). If you are uncertain about the specific rank, include all possibilities. E.g.: “Appointment is anticipated at the Assistant Professor rank, but candidates with exceptional qualifications may be considered for appointment at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor.” Listing “tenure-track faculty member” is not acceptable.

3. Duties. Include a brief description of the duties in the advertisement, must explicitly state that job duties include “teaching.”

4. Employment FTE. Full-time job offers are required for all employment-based permanent residency petitions. If the College/department would prefer a 12 month appointment, consider allowing some flexibility in hiring by using the following wording:

The appointment for this position will be made in one of two ways, at the discretion of the College:

1) Full-time 9-month appointment. Tenure track will be offered at 1.00 FTE. The appointee will be expected to generate grants and/or contracts for any appointment during the summer months.

2) Full-time 12-month appointment. Tenure track will be offered at 0.75 FTE. The appointee will be expected to generate 0.25 FTE in sponsored grants and/or contracts to raise their appointment percent to 1.00 FTE.

In this scenario, the College would have some flexibility in the event that the successful candidate requires US work authorization and permanent residency for long-term employment.

5.  Experience requirements. In the advertisement plainly state minimum experience required for the position, e.g. one year experience. Avoid being too restrictive in establishing requirements as the College must document that the selected candidate met each and every requirement, both minimum and preferred, that are listed in the ad. Avoid a long list of preferred qualifications, limit to skills/experience that serve to assist in the selection of candidates by gauging ability to perform duties of the position. When writing preferred qualifications, consider using “demonstrated ability to” or “knowledge of” rather than “experience in X”, which will need to be quantified and will require proof that the successful candidate met that requirement.

6.  Degree requirement. If you anticipate that your applicant pool will include individuals who have not yet completed the PhD, suggested language would be “candidates must have earned a PhD by the start date of employment” or “candidates must have earned a PhD at the time of offer”. Avoid saying “PhD required” if you will actually consider applicants who are ABD. Clearly state the disciplines that will be considered acceptable to fill this position. E.g. PhD in Genetics, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry or Microbiology.

7.  To Apply. Clearly state application instructions, e.g.To view a full announcement or to apply, visit for job posting #000XXXX. For full consideration apply by <date>.

8.  Location. Indicate the geographic area of employment, e.g. Pendleton, OR.

A word of caution: avoid “unduly restrictive” job requirements and document “business necessity." The Department of Labor may consider an experience requirement of more than two years “unduly restrictive” and the department will need to document business necessity for the additional experience.

Note: if the successful applicant is from China or India, OSU would not pursue the Special Handling Labor Certification due to a backlog (4+ years) in immigrant visas.