When thinking about person specifications, job descriptions and job adverts, they can all seem quite similar. However, these three different parts of the recruitment process have different purposes, so I have decided to tell you a bit more about person specifications and why they matter.


What is it?
Person specifications are often mixed up with job descriptions, and while the latter describes what the job will entail, the former describes what kind of person is required to do the job. These two elements make a whole when it comes to informing a recruiter of what you want when using their service.

They serve the purpose of identifying the best person for a job, and describe the attributes, experience, skills, and qualifications needed.

There are two elements to a person spec – essential and desirable – and these are as follows:

  • Essential elements – without these the job cannot be fulfilled (e.g. a Driver will need a diving license)
  • Desirable elements – these elements are not crucial but will enhance the suitability of the candidate (e.g. the aforementioned Driver having knowledge of the area they will be working in would be desirable, but not essential)


Why do recruiters use them?

  • Set out what is expected of the ideal candidate in order to fulfil the requirements of the position
  • Detailing skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications which are essential and desirable
  • Help with the writing of job adverts
  • Assist with screening applications and shortlisting candidates
  • Provide selection criteria to the interviewer for assessing candidates
  • Referral during advertising, shortlisting and interviewing


What does it contain?
The content allows the recruiter to look for specific evidence within a candidates application and interview in relation to their suitability for the role. A typical person spec will contain elements such as:

  • Qualifications, education or training
  • Skills and knowledge
  • Experience
  • Personal qualities

A good person specification isn’t discriminatory and allows for diversity whilst being specific to the needs of the job. The listed skills and knowledge for the position must be related to the position as not to employ someone based on false hopes.

Good practice must be upheld when writing person specs, and the following should be considered:

  • Avoid using gender specific terms which imply that the person doing the job should be of one gender
  • Try not to include unnecessary or marginal requirements (e.g. a driving license may exclude people with disabilities)
  • Eliminate ageist language such as “young graduate”
  • Make sure that you are clear about the knowledge required, and whether this needs to be demonstrable or an awareness


How do you write one?
There are several sources from which the relevant information can be obtained, including:

  • The current person in that role
  • The line manager
  • Observing the person in the role
  • Supporting documentation (e.g. job descriptions and appraisal reports)


Hopefully you now feel more confident in your knowledge of person specifications and how they can aid your recruitment process. If you are looking to recruit and wondering what the best recruitment option is for you, we are now offering free recruitment consultations – no strings attached!