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The first step is to advertise the role with clear and accurate information about the position available. Something that works alongside a job description is the ‘person specification'.

The person specification, or personal 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 needed to succeed in the role.

Many companies rely solely on a job spec, focusing on the job and not the person. With talent more sought-after than ever, the more people-focused businesses are doing just that - focusing on the people.

Chris Adcock, Managing Director, Reed Technology

The five purposes of a person specification:

  1. It makes the interviewing process more refined and streamlined

  2. 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

  3. 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 this criteria

  4. 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

  5. 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

The person specification examples shown below are the types of information you should look for in a candidate. 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. It can be a sensitive document if approached incorrectly, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  1. Attainments - e.g. qualifications, experience, positions held

  2. Soft skills - e.g. relationship building, public speaking, time management

  3. Job-specific capabilities - e.g. use of different software or programmes, or team management

  4. Personality traits - e.g. proactive, patient, motivated, attention to detail

  5. Physical attributes - e.g. height, eyesight (note - these must be a justified requisite to complete the tasks within a role, not a preference)

For specialist advice on your industry, get in contact with one of our consultants here.

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 a person specification

  1. Be realistic: It’s incredibly rare any candidate will tick all boxes. Ensure you know your must-haves from your nice-to-haves.

  2. Identify existing skills gaps: The most successful teams are made up of individuals who bring something different to the department. Consider where your weak spots are and seek those out in the desired skills section.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 offence.

How does a person specification ease 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.

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