Writing Inclusive Service Descriptions

The first step in creating an inclusive National Service program is to review your program’s current service descriptions (a.k.a. job descriptions).  Before you can begin to recruit you need to be certain about the tasks that need to be accomplished, the environment where the participant will be serving, and other important details of the position.  A properly prepared service description will aid you in:

  • Crafting your recruitment message to target potential National Service participants who possess the skills your program needs.
  • For Learn and Serve programs, crafting your recruitment message to target youth for whom your program is appropriate.
  • Writing appropriate interview questions.
  • Determining whether a person is qualified to perform the essential functions of the position.
  • Identifying reasonable accommodations to enable a person with a disability to perform the essential functions.

When writing an inclusive service description, the position should be analyzed to determine the following:

  • Purpose - the reason for the position.
  • Essential Functions - the tasks or duties that are fundamental and critical to the performance of the position.
  • Marginal Functions - those activities that are seldom or intermittently performed.  The position does not exist to perform these functions and their removal would not fundamentally alter the nature, purpose, or result of the essential tasks to be accomplished by the National Service participant.
  • Setting - the work station and/or conditions where the essential functions are to be carried out.
  • Qualifications - the minimal skills an individual must possess to perform the essential functions.

It is helpful to describe the purpose and results of the essential functions, rather than how the functions must be performed. Following are some questions to help you analyze each service description in your program.



  • What are the particular contributions of the position toward the accomplishment of the overall objectives of the organization?

Essential Functions:

  • What three or four activities actually constitute the position? Does the position exist to perform these functions? Is each activity really necessary? (For example, in order to perform secretarial duties, is it necessary to type, file, answer phones, and take dictation?)
  • What is the relationship between each task? Is there a specific sequence that the tasks must follow?
  • Do the tasks necessitate specific physical activities such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, etc.?
  • How many other people are available to perform an essential function? Can the performance of that function be distributed among any others?
  • How much time is spent in performing each particular function? Are the less-frequently performed tasks as important to success as those done more frequently?
  • Would removing an essential function fundamentally alter the overall purpose of the position?
  • What happens if the task is not completed on time?

Service Setting:

  • Is the setting compliant with ADA requirements? If not, what accommodation can be made to bring it into compliance or to change the setting?


  • Do the qualifications define the skills required to perform the essential functions and not the person who performs them?

Using the Service Description Form will assist you in crafting an accurate, inclusive service description. Having a good service description is the first step in recruiting qualified candidates for your National Service program.  More information about evaluating a position’s essential functions can be found in the except of the EEOC’s Technical Assistance Manual on the Employment Provisions (Title I) of the Americans with Disabilities Act.