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Job descriptions

Producing a job specification is the most sensible place to start: it helps you define what you want from an applicant, it helps recruitment consultants to search effectively, and it gives candidates a good idea of what is involved and expected of them. A job description or profile could possibly be built around existing top performers’ skills, knowledge, and behaviour – this will therefore help match candidates to this criteria and distinguish them as future key contributors in your organisation.

If necessary, we can supply you with guidelines for producing a job specification. It should include a job title, an outline of the key functions of the role, the background and experience required for the job, any other key criteria, and an indication of the salary and benefits.

You should also include a person specification, which describes the level of qualification, knowledge, skills, and competencies required. When creating a person specification, think about your company culture – this is really important whatever the size or kind of company, as personality clashes can have large impact.

These two aspects can all be part of the same document, and more often than not the best and most effective job specifications are one to two pages long.

Tips for Writing a Job and Person Specification

  • Start with the Job Purpose – a single sentence that gives the candidate an insight into the role
  • Be fair to all – try not to include skills that may discriminate, e.g. asking for a recent graduate which would go against age discrimination legislation
  • Avoid words such as “dynamic,” “energetic,” “young,” etc. – these are all adjectives that can be deemed as discriminatory
  • Avoid asking for a certain amount of years’ experience – we know that this is the easiest way to determine level but, again, this can be deemed as age discrimination. Instead, think about what you would expect an applicant to be able to do with so many years’ experience, such as managing a team or planning a budget
  • Outline what is on offer from you – what salary and benefits you can provide, and any training or development that will be available. Candidates want to know these things!

Developing a Job Description
A job description helps articulate the most important outcomes needed from a particular job. It is also a tool that tells co-workers where their job finishes and the job of another starts.

A well-written job description tells an employee where their job fits within both the department and the company. It is also an integral piece of the performance development planning process. Without a job description, it is very difficult for a person to properly commit to a role and company.

A job description helps a company’s recruitment process in a number of ways:

  • It causes the manager of the vacant position and any other employees already performing the job to review and agree on the responsibilities and scope of the position
  • It helps the recruitment agency (where one is being used) to understand the need for the knowledge, skills, education, experience, and capabilities sought in the new employee, which then shapes the recruiting plan
  • It informs candidates about the duties and responsibilities of the position for which they are applying

When developing a job description, gather the appropriate people for the task. This may be led by the manager to whom the successful candidate will report or a HR specialist, but other employees who will be working with the new candidate can contribute to the discussion – this means that everyone knows what is expected and will feel more committed to the new colleague.

When preparing for interview, the job description helps the interviewers select meaningful questions to ask candidates, and to define what qualities they are seeking in the new employee. This formal documented planning can protect against cases of discrimination, as it can be demonstrated why a particular candidate was the most qualified.

How to Perform a Job Analysis
The job analysis is a compilation of what the job requires and where it will fit into a company. It may include the job responsibilities of current employees, research, sample job descriptions, highlighting similar jobs, and lastly an analysis of the duties, tasks, and responsibilities that will be undertaken by the successful applicant.

A job analysis will be invaluable when writing the job description.

The company may have a format for writing job descriptions – start there if so. The normal components of the job description are:

  • Overall position description with general areas of responsibility listed
  • Essential functions of the job described with a couple of examples
  • Required knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Required education and experience
  • Description of the physical demands
  • Description of the work environment

Companies and their processes vary, but these components give the employee clear direction. An effective job description establishes a base so that an employee can clearly understand how and where they need to develop personally in order to contribute effectively to the organisation.

A well-written job description provides employees with a compass and clear direction. It will also set the foundation for a healthy and productive long term working relationship.