The person specification is an important part of the recruiter’s toolbox. It allows you to communicate the traits you find desirable in an ideal candidate, such as education, previous work experience, and any extra traits that are needed to succeed in the role.
"Many companies rely solely on a job spec, focussing on the job and not the person. With talent more sought-after than ever, the more people-focussed businesses are doing just that - focussing on the people."
Chris Adcock, Managing Director, Reed Technology
The five purposes of a person specification:
It makes the interviewing process more refined and streamlined from the start
Jobseekers are able to assess themselves before applying and understand how they will fit in with the role and your business. This allows them to match themselves according to suitability and not just skills
It clarifies the two types of personal qualifications important to the employer, essential and desirable. This enables the employer to be explicit in what they want and how the candidate matches these criteria
It helps to communicate equal opportunities policies within the recruitment culture of a business. The law is very clear about discrimination. A person specification ensures you are assessing a candidate on their abilities related to the role
It means you test all of your candidates against the same list of priorities set out in advance. This helps remove bias, prejudice, and personal interest, all of which can be problematic for recruiting successfully
What to include in a person specification
Below are just a few examples of the types of information about candidates. It’s important to know what is and isn’t appropriate for the vacancy you’re looking to fill. For example, some roles have a legal requirement for the candidate to have a set level of training and qualifications. For specialist advice on your industry, get in contact with one of our consultants here. It can be a sensitive document if approached incorrectly, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Attainments - e.g. qualifications, experience, positions held
Soft skills - e.g. relationship building, public speaking, time management
Job-specific capabilities - e.g. use of different software or programs, or team management
Personality traits - e.g. proactive, patient, motivated, attention to detail
Physical attributes - e.g. height, eyesight (note - these must be a justified requisite to complete the tasks within a role, not a preference)
"While the employee and the employer have similar goals, ethics and job satisfaction, the employee will continue to work hard and give loyalty."
Claire Harvey, Managing Director, Reed
Top tips when writing
Be realistic: It's incredibly rare that any candidate will tick all the boxes. Ensure you know your must-haves from your nice-to-haves before starting
Identify existing skill-gaps: The most successful teams are those that are made up of individuals that bring something different to the department. Consider where your weak spots are and seek those out in the desired skills section
Consider how you might assess the criteria: Can the candidate be tested or demonstrate the desired attributes in an interview situation when asked? If you can't think of an example, it may be unfair to expect them to.
Check your tone of voice: It's a good idea to have one or two people read over the document to check all points are conveyed in an appropriate manner and cannot cause offense.
Easing the onboarding process
Once a candidate has been chosen, the person specification makes integration and training much more organised because you will already be aware of what the candidate is able to do. For example, if your specification required someone with excellent computer skills as being essential to the role, then you would only need to give a brief induction to the computer systems of your business. It can also assist with creation of learning and development plans where they perhaps didn’t have certain desirable skills (yet)!
Recruitment agencies are experts in creating person specifications. Get in touch with one of our specialists for more advice on finding the best person to help reach your business goals