So, last time we looked at why a good job spec is helpful and why it’s important to spend some time on it. If you missed that blog, you’ll find it here. Today, I’m looking at what exactly should be included in the job specification.
Just to recap, a job specification is a detailed description of the role, including all responsibilities, objectives and requirements. It can be accompanied by a person specification, which is a profile of your ideal new employee, including skills, experience and personality type.
When drawing up the job spec …
Include the details of how this person fits into the organisational chart, so as well as the job title and the position in the company, include the line manager and any other members of staff reporting to the new employee.
Be specific about the responsibilities of the job. Include details of how success will be measured so there is no ambiguity when it comes to targets or benchmarks being met – this doesn’t mean you need actual targets eg 5% increase in revenue. Simply point out that a target for revenue will be set.
Include salary and benefits and the grade of the post, if applicable.
Give the location of the job and whether this may change from time to time.
Outline any special working conditions such as unsocial or shift working patterns, or the requirement to undergo a criminal record check.
Spell out the general nature, main purpose and objectives of the job. Give a list of the main duties or tasks expected of the employee. Giving examples of typical projects the employee will be involved in will help to illustrate what you’re expecting.
Specify which skills and qualifications are essential and which are desirable, not forgetting any equipment or software requirements, eg knowledge of Sage essential; knowledge of InDesign desirable
Point out the person’s responsibility to look out for his or her own health and safety (though this can be included in a staff manual along with the company’s health and safety policy given to the successful candidate).
Box yourself into a corner. If you see the role changing or evolving, say that the role is likely to change in the future, so that when it does, your employee can’t refuse to take on further duties or responsibilities. A good phrase is “and other duties as are within the scope, spirit and purpose of the job as requested by your manager”.
Insist on a qualification if experience is just as useful. You can describe a qualification as desirable rather than necessary.
Discriminate on the grounds of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality or health. Making sure your job spec isn’t casually discriminatory requires close reading; you can’t insist on a number of years’ experience (as this could be ageist), for example.
Load the job spec with HR jargon or industry-speak. You may well be looking for someone who is au fait with industry jargon, but equally, you may not. In either case, the specification should be crystal clear and easily understandable. Jargon rarely aids clarity.
The person spec should list the knowledge, skills, experience and attributes the ideal person should have. When drawing up the person spec …
List the technical, organisational, communicative and creative skills and abilities you expect from an ideal candidate being careful to differentiate between essential criteria and desirable criteria.
Describe the kind of personality that would fit in. If your organisation has defined its culture in terms of attributes, give them here. Matching the person’s outlook as well as his or her technical skills to the organisation or team will result in a better fit.
Specify the type of experience applicants are required to have; however, stipulating length of experience required may be considered discriminatory (see above in job spec section).
Do specify any special requirements such “availability to attend evening meetings” or “possession of a driving licence” if they can be justified.
Draw up the person spec after the job spec, or after the post has been advertised. It should inform the ad and, potentially, where the ad is placed.
Ask for qualities that will be difficult to assess during the selection process (for example, a flexible approach).
Focus on how the objectives need to be met – eg by door-to-door sales – rather that they should be met. Someone who can’t walk around or physically go door to door could reach the targets in other ways.
Together with part one of the job spec series (see here), you now have everything you need to write a useful job spec, one that will help you attract an individual who is both a good fit for your organisation’s culture as well as someone who can achieve your business objectives.