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Job Descriptions and Person Specifications

Preparation makes perfect   

Producing a job description is the most sensible place to start your recruitment process.

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. It also helps recruiters like us search more effectively and it gives candidates a really good idea of what’s expected of them.

You should also write a person specification, which describes the level of qualification, knowledge, skills and competencies that are required. Think about your company culture (this is really important whatever the size or kind of company, as personality clashes can have a huge impact). 

Your JD and job spec can be the same document, and more often than not, the best and most effective job specifications are one to two pages long. 

 

Our top five tips for writing job descriptions and person specifications:  

  • Start with the job purpose – this needs to be a single sentence that gives candidates an insight into the role.
  • Be fair to everybody – try not to include skills that may discriminate, e.g. asking for a recent graduate would go against age discrimination legislation. 
  • Steer clear of words, such as ‘dynamic’, ‘energetic’ and ‘young’ – they’re all adjectives that can be classed as being discriminatory.
  • Avoid asking for a certain amount of 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 budgets.
  • Outline what’s on offer – what benefits and salary are available and what opportunities will there be for training or development? Jot them down, candidates want to know these things! 

 

Developing a job description 

Job descriptions help articulate the most important outcomes needed from a particular job. They also provide co-workers with a steer on where their job requirements start and finish. 

Creating your job descriptions around existing top performers’ skills, knowledge and behaviour, will make it easier for you to match candidates to your criteria. Ideally, they should include a job title, essential job functions, required knowledge, skills and experience. They should also contain descriptions of the physical demands and working environment, as well as an indication of the salary and benefits on offer. 

A well-written job description tells employees where their job fits within the department and company. They can help a company’s recruitment process in all sorts of ways by: 

  •  Encouraging the manager of the vacant role and any other employees already performing the job to review and agree on the responsibilities and scope of the position. 
  • Helping the recruitment agency (where one is being used) understand the knowledge, skills, education, experience and capabilities that are required, which will then shape the recruiting plan. 
  • Informing candidates about the duties and responsibilities associated with the position they’re applying for. 

 

How to carry out a job analysis 

You can’t write a job description or person specification without carrying out a job analysis too. 

A job analysis is a compilation of what the job requires and where it fits within a company. It may include the job responsibilities of current employees, sample job descriptions and involve highlighting similar jobs and carrying out an analysis of the required duties, tasks and responsibilities. 

Companies and their processes vary, but the approach we’ve detailed above will provide employees, as well as employers, with a clear picture of expectations, not to mention, set the foundation for a healthy and productive long-term working relationship.

When preparing for an interview, a clear job description helps you 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. 

Want more practical advice or need a hand with developing your job description, person specification or carrying out a job analysis? Contact us today. 

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