How to write an effective job specification

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In an increasingly competitive jobs market, an effective and insightful job specification is essential when looking to fill a position successfully.  What ultimately seems like a straightforward task can be pitted with issues and all companies have their own approach to this with two mirroring jobs from differing companies often looking very different.  

When embarking on writing an effective job specification it is important that you put yourself in the position of the potential applicant and consider that this will likely be their first interaction and insight to your company.

All too often, a candidate will be viewing many potential positions at one time, but will need to consider the time restraints they have when applying for a position.  Most applicants within a specialist field would only look to apply for around 3-5 key positions at any one time, especially if they are already in employment and have to tailor their search around work commitments.  However, in a buoyant market, following a few conversations with relevant Recruitment companies, you could easily expect them to be evaluating a number of positions at a single time.  Most will look to select their top roles and may have second choices.  However, all too often these reserve roles don’t get revisited, even if a candidate is unsuccessful with their first choices, as new opportunities are constantly added or circumstances change.  

In an increasingly digital world with time restraints a plenty it is also important to bear in mind that applicants increasingly want contact via email.  Therefore you cannot always rely on your internal talent acquisition team or external recruitment company getting the opportunity to bring a role to life and effectively sell this into a candidate.  Given this, your job spec is often your only opportunity to hook that perfect candidate in.

Here we talk you through the key processes to consider and a further breakdown of a suggested lay out for you to create the perfect spec which will ensure you’re getting the best responses from interested people who are on brief:

Gather your information:

Before you commence writing your job spec it is essential that you have all the information to hand.  Some information will be standard across your company, such as benefits or company history and this can ordinarily be obtained from a central HR function or business owner/director within smaller organisations.

However, it is as important to gather specific information which will form part of your description breakdown from the relevant department head.  Some positions will be standardised across the business and you can use these core skills to form the backbone of your job spec.  

More tailored and unique information relevant to an individual role or team will not only give greater depth and personality to your spec, but will also motivate a candidate to apply if this area is of personal interest or they have specific skills relating to the sector.   For example, if you are seeking a customer service professional they will have standard skill requirements.  However, if you have teams focusing on different sectors it is beneficial to provide greater depth, for example, by stating that the position will work within the Telecoms team, you are making the role more specific and often relevant.

It is essential that Job Specs are continually assessed and tailored each time a position becomes available to allow for any changes or developments and to ensure they remain accurate and continue to promote a company and position in the best possible light.  Unfortunately it isn’t uncommon to be told, as an external supplier to just use the old spec which is often out of date or work with a standard, impersonal spec which reads in a dry fashion and is unlikely to excite a potential candidate.

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Job Title

Consider how your job title will compare and be received in the wider employment market. As such you must consider continuity and how this title will translate into relevant advertising for the post.  If searching online for a role a potential candidate will ordinarily use a search term which best reflects their sector and experience.  It is therefore best to avoid ambiguous titles which will only lead to confusion and require further explanation, thus lengthening your job spec.  For example, Customer Service Executive is far easier to understand and digitally friendlier than Client Experience Advocate. 

Additionally, a job title should also not be too long and must not include jargon and it should reflect the duties of the position accurately.

Department, Hours and Location

Simply list the internal team and the location where the position will be based.  If a position requires any additional information, this should be outlined here, for example – flexible working, shift patterns or international travel.

Company information

Company’s all too often assume a level of knowledge and understanding about their business in the wider market and therefore this crucial part of a job spec is often too bland or worse still, completely missed out.  Not only does this allow relevant insight to your company and act as the key enforcer in motivating a potential applicant to apply, it also acts as a great promotions platform for your company to a wider market.  

It is arguably the most important part of your job spec as it allows you to show real personality and provide a window into your company’s unique culture. That said; remember to keep your insight relevant and concise. 

Points worth including are:

  • Company background/history
  • Sectors managed
  • Company reach/locations
  • Company successes/Awards
  • Staff retention and development data
  • Key HR initiatives (i.e. wellbeing, charitable activity)
  • Training initiatives

You can provide links where relevant to steer candidates to supporting information, such as the website or examples of work or awards within this section.

Responsibilities and Duties

Using the information you gathered at the first stage, you will now outline the key tasks your new recruit will perform on a regular basis.  It is advisable to list these tasks as bullet points to allow applicants to easily cross check their skills against your requirements.  

If the position will work across varying factors you can break this down accordingly into key sections to allow for concise explanation.

You should write your key responsibilities in order of importance.  Additionally it is advisable to use complete sentences and to use the present tense.

Experience and Qualifications

At this point you will outline the core skills and education level you require for your position.  Again it is advisable to bullet point these requirements and you should look to compile a sound list covering all areas.  Points you can look to outline include:

  • Education level
  • Previous experience within a set field
  • Exposure to a relevant sector
  • Knowledge of relevant IT or industry bespoke systems
  • Man management experience
  • Personality traits relevant to the team/role
  • Wider geographical/international exposure
  • Additional language requirements

Benefits

Benefits are becoming increasingly important to job seekers and it is a good idea to outline what you offer your staff.  This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your care as an employer and if relevant, you should outline your list of benefits beyond more traditional perks such as holiday, pension and medical insurance, to include those which really will set your company apart as an employer of choice.  Good examples will include well-being support, free breakfast, massages, subsidised gym and flexible working.  Be sure to outline if any benefits do however require a qualifying period in terms of service. 

Application process

Finally, it is essential that you give a clear guide on how interested applicants should apply for the position and in what format you would like this application.  If you expect an accompanying cover letter along with a CV, outline this here.  

If you also expect a shortlisted applicant to be available on a set date for next stage interview this will need to be outlined here to ensure they are available when required.

You should also outline a set closing date for application if relevant.

And finally….

It is highly recommended that you adopt a strong approach in attracting applicants from a diverse background and your company is therefore seen as one who supports inclusion in the workplace as an equal opportunities employer.

Therefore it is suggested that you:

  • Use gender neutral language throughout your job spec
  • Do not refer to a specific level of experience in terms of years to avoid discriminating on the grounds of age
  • Emphasise your company’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.  A well-considered company statement gives a solid platform.
  • Emphasise inclusive benefits such as maternity/paternity allowance or flexible working
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