The person specification defines the job in human terms. In other words, it describes all the qualities and attributes that the ideal candidate will have to do the job well. There is also a risk that the person specification can simply be an inflated shopping list, so keeping it realistic and objective will help you make the right hiring decisions.
What should be included in the ideal person spec:
1. Skills, knowledge and aptitudes
Include any skills, knowledge or aptitudes that the candidate needs – for example, oral, IT or written skills, or expertise in a particular technical or product area. Make sure that these criteria are directly relevant to the job, i.e. will possessing these skills/knowledge/aptitudes enhance the candidates performance of this job?
You may want candidates to have prior experience of performing particular skills or tasks. This is a problematic area as experience requirements have the potential to discriminate. In particular, asking for a certain number of years’ experience is likely to indirectly discriminate against younger employees (as they are likely to have been employed for less time) or those who have taken career breaks for any reason. However, there are ways round the problems created by experience requirements:
- think about why you want to see evidence of previous experience. If it is to demonstrate that the candidate is capable of carrying out particular tasks, could this be demonstrated in alternative ways, for example through training or qualifications?
- is experience really necessary, or merely an added bonus? It may be that prior experience is a desirable rather than necessary criterion that could be used to choose between very good candidates rather than a necessary criterion that will immediately rule out those who don’t have it
- do you need a certain number of years of experience? Rather than asking for, for example, ‘3 years experience’, you are more likely to recruit a suitable candidate if you ask for experience of carrying out particular tasks. For example, ‘experience of drafting contracts and co-ordinating disciplinary procedures’. Otherwise you may overlook a candidate who has gained experience of a wide variety of tasks in 6 months in favour of a candidate who has spent 2 years in a much more limited role
- if a candidate cannot demonstrate relevant experience through their professional life, they may be able to show that they have gained this experience through voluntary work or even through their personal life
3. Qualifications, education and training
Required qualifications must be necessary for satisfactory job performance. In some professions it will be a legal requirement that the candidate has certain qualifications in order to practice. In other cases it may be that it would be impossible to carry out certain tasks without having been trained to do them.
However, graduate recruitment schemes may be an exception. In this case a degree may not be an essential qualification to carry out the tasks that the candidate will initially have to perform, but can be used as evidence of future potential where this is the basis of recruitment.
As above, think about whether qualifications are the only way that a candidate could demonstrate that they are able to do the job. For example, a candidate who has no formal qualifications may instead have worked previously in a relevant sector and developed the necessary skills and knowledge. This can be harder to quantify.
4. Where can you be flexible?
Separate the criteria into essential and desirable factors. The essential factors are non-negotiable, those elements without which the candidate will not be able to perform the job at all. The desirable factors are those that will make a suitable candidate even more attractive, This will help you to discern between the suitability of a wide range of candidates.
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