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Why is it important to have an accurate Job Description and Person Specification?

When you have an accurate Job Description and Person Specification the recruitment process will naturally flow…

The Job Description (JD) and Person Specification is the most critical document in the entire process.  This document will, to a certain extent, determine the success of the hire.  The importance of accurate job descriptions and person specifications will be explained here.

Firstly, we need to consider the Job Analysis which happens before creating an accurate job description and person specification.    

Here are several methods to consider:  Job Analysis Methods

Job Analysis can be a time-consuming and in-depth process and there are many ways of conducting the initial job analysis.  We are not covering this subject in any depth. However, we will be discussing a couple of methods available to you.

The most reliable and convenient method is to ask those people already doing the job. You may wish to identify the people performing effectively and at a high standard.

Keeping a Diary

This relies on the person keeping track of all the tasks they perform throughout the day, the week, the month, or even annual tasks. This can be a fairly time-consuming activity and an interruption to the work schedule.

Conducting Interviews

Having a face to face interviews with the employees either one to one or within groups can help you understand the tasks they perform and can be less time consuming than other methods.

However, it heavily relies on asking the right questions otherwise key tasks and activities could be missed. Make sure you thoroughly think about the questions before you conduct the interviews.

Conducting Observations

This would require someone shadowing and observing tasks:  I can imagine this method of analysis being very time consuming and costly.

The information gathered can also end up subjective.  It might be worth asking existing employees to write Process Maps for all the key tasks and activities. Step by step guides are useful for new joiners to understand how to perform tasks.

Design Checklists & Task Inventories

Sometimes this method is referred to as a Questionnaire. Again this method relies on asking the right and most relevant questions to gather all the information on the job. Or there could be a risk of inaccuracies or omissions.

This is not an exhaustive list and there are many other techniques used to analyze the exact requirements of the job. Some techniques involved specialist expertise and considerable administration and for this reason, I have not included them in this list of suggestions. Use these mentioned and adapt to suit and adapt your job requirements.

Do you have a robust recruitment process?

The importance of an accurate Job Description and Person Specification

Once you’ve defined the requirements using one or two of the methods above, the JD should include all the relevant skills, type of experience (not years of experience), knowledge and qualifications required to performance the tasks. It should also identify the relevant behavioural competencies associated with the role.

Getting the job description and person specification right is the first step in the recruitment process.  It will then lead into writing accurate adverts, selecting the right candidates for interview and asking the right questions to gather information and data on the person’s future capability, ability and competence. This is an important point – so please read again!

What’s the difference between the Job Description and the Person Specification?

The Job Description outlines the tasks and duties:  What the person can expect to do in the role and what tasks and duties will be involved.

The Person Specification describes the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to perform the duties and tasks.

Key items in the Job Description & Person Specification

  • Job Responsibilities: Duties & Tasks, Accountabilities & Responsibilities, Job Content etc.
  • Person Specification: Essential & Desirable: Skills, knowledge, types of experience, qualifications, training certificates.
  • Technical & Behavioural competencies:  Five or six should be sufficient
  • Key Performance Indicators KPIs
  • Compliance, regulation or legislation relating to this role
  • Relationships:  Stakeholders, clients and internal customers, suppliers, other departments, divisions and provides, agents etc.

The recruitment activities will flow naturally from a well-written Job Description;

A well-designed job description clearly clarifies the role within the specified function. It allows the manager to set clear and concise expectations of the person’s duties, tasks, accountabilities, and responsibilities.

In relation to the recruitment process – it is the most critical document.

Advertising Campaigns

Creating good copy starts with an accurate brief of the job requirements, selling points, and motivation for someone to apply, and be successful in the job.

Advertising is fundamental to the successful attraction of the right candidate with the right skills.

Candidate Attraction

The advert must attract the most suitable candidates and this can only be done if the job description was able to describe the skills, knowledge, and requirements.

Advertising is fundamental to the successful attraction of the right candidate with the right skills. I know I’m repeating myself….it’s an important point!

CV Screening

The Job Description allows the recruiter to accurately screening in and out the CVs against job-related, objective and fair criteria.

The criteria must not refer to any Protected Characteristics.

Selection Methods

Choosing the best and most appropriate selection method relies on a well-written job description.

For example, if performing presentations in front of clients or peers is an essential part of the role then you may wish to assess the candidate’s skills in this competence.

Find out the positive indicators associated with Presentation Skills.

Questioning Techniques

Gathering the right information to be able to make a good judgment and decision on someone’s capability of performing the job – you must ask the right questions.

The interview really isn’t a chat – it’s a formal process to assess the candidates suitable [on many levels] to the job, the organization, the culture, and the team.

The job description isn’t just for advertising the position – it’s a useful document for the ongoing performance management of the incumbent (employee!)

Induction & Orientation – it’s good for all parties to know exactly what is expected of the person and at what level of competency the job should be performed.

End of Probation Period – to evaluate the performance of new joiners. If you do not have clear objectives in place it’s going to be very difficult or impossible to manage someone effectively.

Training & Development – if you have both essential skills and knowledge and desirable skills and knowledge the JD will act as a reference point for training needs in the future.

Annual Appraisals – to identify strengths and developments in performance. It is normal to start an appraisal interview by reviewing the contents of a Job Description with the post holder after making necessary changes.

Job Evaluation – larger companies will have compensation and benefits analysts evaluating the jobs in the organization and ensuring some consistency of grading and all associated responsibilities, etc.

The Job Description is a live document to be reviewed and amended as appropriate.

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Dos and Don’ts of Job Descriptions:

  • Don’t state the years of experience. Avoid specifying maximum or minimum lengths of experience. This may be direct discrimination because of Age if you state a requirement of this nature.
  • Do not state a requirement is Essential if you are willing to be flexible. You could be increasing your risk of discrimination if you later change any of the original criteria. If for business reasons the requirements of the job change, you must re-screen all the previous applications / CVs to avoid any legal difficulties or missing out on the perfect candidate.
  • Do keep good and accurate records.  These records demonstrate an objective process to your decision making.
  • A well designed job description clearly clarifies the role within the specified function. It allows you (the manager) to set clear and concise expectations of the person’s duties, tasks, accountabilities and responsibilities.

The criteria must not refer to any Protected Characteristics (Age, Disability, Gender Re-Assignment, Marriage & Civil Partnership, Pregnancy & Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex and Sexual Orientation).

Contact me Dawn at Your Interview Coach to discuss in-house training designed specifically for the needs of your hiring managers and business.


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