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The secrets of the perfect job ad

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Employers Guide to Recruitment
This article is based on the free eBook “Employers Fuide to0 Recruitment”

Do job descriptions sometimes confuse you? Then you are one of many. To get an idea of what the job ad in front of you really tells you about the actual job, you need to separate the terms “job description” and “person specification”. Let’s take a look at these two terms. This is useful information for both the job seeker who reads the ad and the person who writes it.

The job description defines the duties in the role the employee will be expected to undertake. The person specification defines the attributes and skills of the person needed to perform those duties. Between them, these two documents can help you objectively analyse the job criteria. You can use the job description and person specification to help you write your advertisement, the shortlist and even your interview questions.

What should be included in a job description?

A job description describes the tasks and responsibilities that make up the job. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or complex (although this will depend on the nature of the job).

It would normally include the following:

  • job title;
  • department;
  • summary and purpose of main job role;
  • main tasks.

The job description should always include a catch-all phrase stating that the job holder is required to carry out any other reasonable request by management. While there is an implied duty upon every employee to carry out reasonable management requests, it makes life much easier if you spell it out.

The job description also provides a basis for drawing up a specification of the type of person best suited to carry out the work. This is known as a person specification.

What should be included in a person specification?

A person specification defines the qualifications, skills, knowledge, experience and qualities of the ideal jobholder. It describes the person needed to fulfil the duties in the job description and the drawing-up of a person specification is recommended in the discrimination codes of practice.

The sorts of things to consider are listed below. Obviously, they will not all apply in every case.

  • physical attributes;
  • education;
  • general intelligence;
  • special aptitudes;
  • interests;
  • personality;
  • circumstances.

It needs to be decided what sort of person, in terms of personality, would be ideal for the job role. If, for example, the job is working on a production line, you would want someone who prefers a reasonable level of repetition and is comfortable with routine. Someone with the opposite preferences – the type of person who enjoys lots of change and variety and likes to do things in new ways – would be unlikely to stay long in the job.

Essential vs. desirable criteria

Once you have decided what qualities the ideal candidate will bring to the job, consider what is essential and what is merely desirable. Many people make the mistake of including in the essential category attributes that are merely desirable. It is only essential if, without the ability to meet that criterion, the candidate simply would not be able to do the job.

You have to be able to justify your selection criteria in objective business terms. Setting unnecessary standards for qualifications, experience or personal qualities may be indirectly discriminatory. If you can’t objectively justify criteria, you may face a claim for unlawful discrimination.

It is when the selection or exclusion of candidates is based on unlawful and unjustified criteria that we run into trouble. A person’s right not to suffer unlawful discrimination extends from the advertising of a job and the ensuing recruitment process, all the way through employment (training, promotion, contractual terms) and even in the way in which employment ends (for example, selection for redundancy). Protection also extends beyond the termination of the employment contract. That said, most problems can easily be avoided with a mixture of common sense, tolerance, establishing good procedures and sticking to them.

If you want to learn more about how to find the right candidate for the job by creating a top-notch job ad, then read “Employers Guide to Recruitment” written by Russell HR Consulting.

Download “Employers Guide to Recruitment” right here