April 2019 – Person Specification Vs Job Description

In last month’s newsletter, we discussed the importance of a job description, why they are important, what they should cover and the benefits of having them in place within the organisation. By way of brief summary, a job description:
  • Removes ambiguity
  • Outlines the purpose of the role
  • Lists the primary duties
  • Describes the major accountabilities
  • Explains the physical demands of the role
  • Autonomy of the position outlined
  • Company policies including OHS and bullying stipulated
  • Signing section, to allow the job description to form part of the overall employment relationship.

A similar document sometimes used hand in hand, or formulated within the job description itself, is a person specification. By having the job documented on one hand, and the person best suited to do the job on the other allows for a certain degree of flexibility. In an ever-changing world, where advancement in technology, new fields of study and workplace flexibility all impact on employment conditions, there may be cases where the job doesn’t change, but the skills needed to perform the role have. In this instance, you don’t need to change the job description, but you may need to amend the person specification.

A person specification allows for a greater analysis to take place when comparing job applicants, and the desired profile of the ideal incumbent. Depending on the position, it may be appropriate for the person specification to include requirements related to:

  • Physical abilities
  • Demographics
  • Psychological features
  • Personality
  • Qualifications and licences
  • Criminal background

Having this document in place means that each applicant is assessed against the same criteria, so the potential for bias is minimised. Each element that forms part of the ideal candidate can be weighted also, either in terms of essential or desired, or in some other way that allows for the easy comparison between shortlisted candidates. It also allows for an easier on-boarding process, as the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the candidate have been well and truly uncovered, so more focus can be spent on areas where the candidate is perhaps not as strong.

As with anything employment-related, it is crucial that any criteria used when assessing potential candidates is far, relevant and justifiable. This is particularly so when the person specification delves into concepts related to demographic characteristics of candidates.

Job Description vs Person Specification

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