What is a person specification?

When it comes to recruiting for a role or advertising a job, there are a few things that are really useful to have – and a person specification or personal specification is one of them! 

It should set out the skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience the employer considers are needed for someone to perform the role to the required standard. The person specification can be  a key tool in identifying the right person for the job. 

The person specification is commonly written alongside the job description, which details the purpose and tasks of the role being recruited. 

A big benefit of using a person specification helps you objectively set out the criteria for your ideal candidates, it means all candidates will be judged fairly against the same criteria and mean that different people can interview and reduce bias as they judge vs the same criteria. 

Another benefit of a person specification is it can make it easier when writing the job advert and briefing recruitment agencies, saving you time later in the process by not seeing unsuitable candidates. 

The four main reasons to have a person specification:

1. It makes the entire recruitment and interviewing process more streamlined. 

2. Job applicants can see if they would be a good match for the role and company before even submitting an application. This way, people only apply for jobs that actually suit them, rather than only looking at skills. 

person specification checklist

3. There are two types of personal qualifications that employers look for: essential and desirable. Having a list enables employers to be explicit in what they want and how candidates match this criteria.

4. A person specification not only helps with the assessment of a candidate’s abilities in relation to the role but also communicates equal opportunities policies within the recruitment culture of a business. A person specification ensures you are assessing a candidate on their abilities related to the role regardless of who is interviewing. This helps remove bias, prejudice and personal interest, all of which can be problematic for recruiting successfully. 

What should you include in a person specification?

The examples listed below are the types of qualities you should look for when choosing someone for the job. It’s crucial to understand what is and isn’t relevant for the position you need filled. 

In some cases, specific roles may require candidates to have a set level of training and qualifications. If you’re not sure how to approach this topic, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. 

  • Attainments – e.g. qualifications, experience 
  • Soft skills – e.g. communication, time management, teamwork 
  • Job-specific capabilities – e.g. use of systems or programmes, team management 
  • Personality traits – e.g. proactive, patient, 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) 
person specification notes

Top tips when writing a person specification

Be realistic: Candidates that tick all the boxes are incredibly rare, so it’s important to know which qualities are must-haves and which ones are nice-to-haves. 

Identify existing skills gaps: The most successful teams are made up of individuals who bring something different. Consider where your weak spots are and look for those skills. 

How you might assess the criteria: Can the candidate display or be tested for the required skills in an interview? It’s unfair to expect someone to provide you an example if you can’t think of one. 

Have a question about personal specifications, job descriptions or writing an engaging advert? Planning to advertise a job or recruit in the near future? Contact us now and one of the experienced team will be on hand to help with any of the above… 

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