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How to write a job description and person specification

Before you place a vacancy with a recruitment consultancy, it is a good idea to spend some time evaluating exactly what you require from a candidate. A job specification is a detailed description of the role, including all responsibilities, objectives, and requirements. A person specification is a profile of your ideal new employee, including skills, experience, and personality type.

1

Why they help

Writing a detailed specification forces you to think about exactly what skills and experience are required for your role and the type of person you want for the team. Giving your recruitment consultant a comprehensive brief will allow them to work more effectively and quickly in finding you the perfect candidate.

Specifications also give candidates a better idea of exactly what you are looking for. This can help to weed out inappropriate applications from people who might be suitable on paper, but not actually that interested in the role. They also help to manage the expectations of successful new employees and to avoid situations where they feel they have been misled about the exact nature of the role.

You can use the specifications as a checklist for evaluating CVs and in interviews, which will save you preparation time and make sure you don’t miss anything.

Writing a specification can make you think about how your department works and provide you with an opportunity to shift responsibilities around to maximise efficiency.

Specifications are also useful after the vacancy has been filled, as they can help to assess a new recruit's performance and to determine their future training needs.

2

Things to bear in mind before you start

Be as specific as possible about the responsibilities of the job, including any deadlines for delivery and measurements of success.

Leave room for flexibility within the job specification, and make it obvious if the role is likely to change or grow in the near future. This helps to avoid employees resenting taking on responsibilities not in their original job description.

Be careful with your wording, eg. is a qualification really required or would someone who is Qualified by Experience (QBE) still be suitable?

It is essential not to discriminate on grounds of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, or health, so avoid any inappropriate requirements, eg “must have x years’ experience” or words such as “dynamic” or “mature”.

If the role is involved with service delivery, you may want to ask a selection of your clients their opinions on the type of person they would prefer to work with.

3

What should a job specification include?

  • the job title and the position in the company, including their line manager and any other members of staff reporting to them
  • the location of the job
  • a summary of the general nature, main purpose, and objectives of the job
  • a list of the main duties or tasks of the employee
  • which skills/qualifications are essential and which are desirable, plus 
    any equipment or software requirements, eg “knowledge of Raiser’s Edge”
  • salary and benefits
  • examples of typical projects help to illustrate the requirements
    4

    What should a person specification include?

    • the technical, organisational, communicative, and creative skills and abilities you expect from an ideal candidate
    • any specific qualifications or education required for the role
    • the level of experience needed in either similar organisations or equivalent roles
    • the kind of personality that would fit in with your team, and with your organisation’s ethos
    • character traits that are likely to help them to do the job effectively
    • any preferred achievements, eg. volunteering

    Further information

    http://www.tpp.co.uk – agency specialising in not-for-profit recruitment

    Contributors

    Page last edited Apr 25, 2016 History

    Comments (2)

    to post a comment
    A KnowHow member
    A KnowHow member on Feb 09, 2011 06:20 PM

    Nice introduction! If you're looking for templates to help you get started, HRBird is a useful place to start http://bit.ly/gIbup5

    Alissa Wylder
    Alissa Wylder on Apr 22, 2016 10:47 PM

    I recommend against using templates, because size doesn't fit all. Personally, I like to use DirectReports.com because they way you through a process that takes no more then a few minutes and afterwards you've got an amazing job description thats ready to share and post with the world. There's simply no denying the how important a good job description is. The hiring process starts with writing the job description. Understanding what will make for a successful hire is key to identifying the right talent and putting this in writing is a crucial first step. This is often times the most difficult part, but done right it can make a world of difference in attracting the best candidates for the role.

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