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Guide to Writing a Job Specification


A good job description, or job specification, is not hard. But it does require a little time and focus. A poorly written job spec may be too brief or full of irrelevant information, or tell you nothing about the 'real' vacancy that needs to be filled.

There are seven main areas a job specification needs to cover, to make it a useful recruitment tool:

  • The organisation
  • The team
  • The role itself
  • How the role will develop
  • Personal qualities required
  • The remuneration
  • Process & timescales

The organisation

The size, history and key markets of the organisation are what candidates will expect to see. The corporate aims will also need to be detailed here. The strongest candidates will want to know what the organisation is aiming for so they can assess whether it is a goal that excites them, and one they can help towards.

The team

How many people are in the team? How is it structured? How does the function fit into the organisation as a whole? Who are the key people the successful candidate will need to relate to?

The role itself

What is the reason for the vacancy? What are the main duties? What is the purpose of the role? What skills will be needed to do it? What training could be provided to help do it? What background would help? What previous achievements would be considered useful and which vital? Also it is important to add what hours of work the candidate will be expected to do as sometimes employers negate this fact and can cause problems for the candidate in regards to child care and family time.

How the role will develop

How will the role look in a couple of year’s time? Where might it lead? What opportunities for progression are there? Again, strong candidates will be looking for a job spec which illustrates a consideration of the future, if they are being expected to invest their own in the organisation. It’s important to remember a job interview is both you and the candidate interviewing each other.

Personal qualities required
What kind of person does the role require? There is always a danger here that employers specify the qualities of someone they like or is like them, rather than someone who is necessarily best for the role. Most teams benefit from a breadth of personality profile, rather than recruiting people like themselves. Be sure to shape the personal attributes to the role and not just the team or organisational culture.

The remuneration

Full benefits package needs to be detailed. Sometimes the smallest of things can tip a candidate in favour of a particular job. A lot of people when applying for jobs will not just look at the overall wage of a position but also the child care benefits, Pension, Health care before deciding which role is best for them and their needs.

Process & timescales

When will the interviews be happening? Who will be involved? How many stages are there? This list is not exhaustive but adhering to the points detailed above should make for a solid and professional job specification

Writing a person specification

A Person Specification is a profile of the skills and aptitudes required of the post-holder and are derived from the job description. It lists the criteria that will be used in short listing and selecting candidates. It provides:

  • A set of criteria against which all applicants can be measured objectively;
  • A structured and systematic means for a comparative assessment of the applicants;
  • A document to ensure that the basis of decision-making is transparent.

The Person Specification is a live document to be reviewed and amended as appropriate in line with the Job Description. The person specification should include:

Skills / Abilities

  • e.g. competence in the use of IT tools including Word, Excel and PowerPoint e.g. ability to prepare budgets and annual financial statements
  • e.g. up-to-date knowledge of employment law
  • e.g. line management experience
  • Qualifications (do not insist on paper qualifications unless absolutely essential to the post. Experience and evidence of competence should be viewed as equally valid).
  • e.g. NEBOSH Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety or equivalent
  • e.g. MREC membership or equivalent Personal Attributes and Circumstances (only include criteria that the performance of the post depends upon)
  • e.g. able to work flexible and unsocial hours including weekends as and when required. Some Bank Holiday shifts will be required. The requirements set out in the person specification should be specific and measurable during the selection process
  • e.g. English to GCSE standard or equivalent.

To ensure equality of opportunity all criteria on the person specification should be derived from the requirements set by the job description.

The criteria included in the person specification must be capable of being objectively justified as the minimum requirements to carry out the post effectively. Criteria should not be included if they unfairly discriminate on the grounds of race, religion or belief, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability. Give careful consideration to reasonable adjustments that can be made.

The person specification should be divided into essential and desirable criteria. This should be used in the short-listing process to distinguish between candidates.

Essential criteria are those that are critical for the satisfactory performance of the job. It is expected that applicants will meet all the necessary criteria to be considered eligible for appointment.

Desirable criteria are those that improve a person’s capacity to do the job. These are usually not listed as essential because it is expected that they can be acquired once in employment. For example, while specific knowledge of the Company and its environment could be of benefit, it can also be learnt.


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