A person specification describes the personal attributes desired in a potential employee. It is similar to a job description but more specific. These attributes include qualifications, skills, experience, and knowledge, and sometimes personal attributes that a candidate needs to possess in order to perform the job duties.

The specification should be derived from the job description and forms the foundation for the recruitment process. You will use the person specification as a basis for your selection decisions at shortlisting, presentation/test and interview stages. Interview questions and selection tests should also derive from the person specification and be designed to elicit more evidence on candidates against the criteria. The person specification should also be used to write your advertisement for the position.

Importance of Person Specification

  • Make recruitment process structured and streamed lined
  • Removes bias, prejudice and personal interests
  • Classifies required qualifications as Essential and Desirable
  • Helps Job seekers in self-evaluation before applying for the job
  • Make you equal opportunity employer without discrimination

Essential and Desirable Qualifications

The list of requirements is divided into essential criteria and desirable criteria. These are used in shortlisting and interviewing. Essential criteria are those which are necessary for a person to do a job, while desirable criteria are ‘good to have’. For positions that attract many applicants, the use of desirable criteria when shortlisting can help identify a more focused list of candidates for interviews.

Writing Person Specification

Consider the following parameters while writing person specifications:

Understanding the job

Before you start to create your person specification, you’ll need to make sure you understand the vacancy well and have a picture in your mind of the type of person who’ll be successful in it.

Discrimination

It’s important that your person specification does not discriminate against anyone by containing statements that would put them at a disadvantage.

Job summary

This section will provide a brief summary of the vacancy, so you should write the job title, job family and grade for the vacancy. Give the people a brief summary of what the vacancy mainly involves. This should help them to quickly understand their role.

Educational qualifications

These criteria should include the qualifications and level of education needed to carry out the job. You should always consider other qualifications of equivalent levels e.g. MCA can be considered equivalent to BE computers.

Competencies

This is how the person behaves when using their knowledge and skills. This is not about how they complete a task, but about the way they complete it in line with our competency structure – in other words, it’s how you want them to behave.

Once a candidate has been chosen, the person specification makes integration and training much more organized 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 the creation of learning and development plans where they perhaps didn’t have certain desirable skills!

Example of Person Specification

Person Specification
Job title: Marketing/BD Lead (Healthcare)
Criteria
Degree in a relevant discipline, eg marketing, communications, journalism, media and/or public relationsEssential Shortlisting  
Evidence of further relevant training or continuing professional developmentEssentialShortlisting  
Experience of working in a Marketing, Communications, Journalism, Fundraising, Media and/or Public Relations roleEssentialShortlisting  
Knowledge of communications, public relations, journalism and marketing communications techniques, approaches, procedures acquired through training and experience to degree level or equivalentEssentialInterview
Knowledge of design and print processes and ability to brief on required specificationsDesirableInterview
Working knowledge of the media including approaches to newsgathering and coverage of healthcare issues DesirableInterview
Basic knowledge of appropriate legal aspects DesirableInterview
Experience of researching and sourcing informationEssentialInterview
Experience of producing written information on sensitive issues for a public audienceDesirableInterview
Experience in planning, coordinating and delivering media campaignsEssentialInterview
Experience of using word processing packages, email and the internet and social media, especially Facebook and TwitterEssentialInterview
Experience of working effectively as part of a teamEssentialInterview
Excellent interpersonal skills to deal with challenging situations and relationships with key stakeholders EssentialInterview

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