How to write a position description
How to write a position description
You’d be amazed at the number of employers who contact us asking for help to find and engage their next employee without having a clear indication of exactly what they want. Sure, you may require a hybrid marketing, social media, content and digital professional, for instance, but without clearly defining the specific tasks to be completed, the objectives to be met, the skills required, and the salary and benefits offered, how can you hope to identify the most suitable person?
This is where a position description and a person specification come in.
Differences between a position description and person specification
A position description and person specification have different purposes.
A job specification outlines the key responsibilities, duties and objectives of the role, the salary and benefits on offer and reporting lines. It explains why this job is required and how it fits into the team and organisational structure.
A person specification, in contrast, is a profile of the skills, experience, qualifications and behaviours required to perform the job.
The position description and person specification are arguably the most under-utilised parts of the recruitment process for busy business owners or hiring managers, but they’re one of the most crucial as it is used by yourself, your recruiter and applicants to understand what is required to be successful in the role.
So, how do you write these documents?
5 tips to write a position description
Here are a few tips to help write a position description.
1. Company description
Start with a description of your business. Most position descriptions don’t include any details about the company that is hiring, but recruitment is a two-way process – if you want to hire the best, you have to sell your organisation to them.
So, describe the service or products your company provides and what industry or industries you work in. Include details not available on your website, such as success stories, your ambitions or your growth plans. Describe the culture of your organisation and your office environment. If you have won any awards mention them, too.
Most importantly, be honest. Don’t oversell and under deliver otherwise you risk rising turnover.
2. Overview of the job
Think of this as your elevator pitch, or in other words a quick overview of the job. To come up with this, jot down what you are really looking for, including:
- Do you need a specialist in one particular area or someone who has varied skills in several areas?
- What specific duties and tasks will your new hire perform? If you can, quantify each duty and responsibility.;
- What key objectives must be achieved?
- What resources, budget or staff will the new hire be responsible for? ;
- If you are replacing a departing employee, do you want to expand or change certain aspects or responsibilities of the job?
3. Reporting lines and training
Next, get down to the nitty gritty. Detail the size of the team, where it’s located and who the successful candidate will report into. If the new hire will be working on any large or important projects, describe them as this will appeal to top talent. Include training and development opportunities, which are also key attraction points for candidates.
It is important to include the salary in your position description too, but don’t pull a figure out of the air. Research current market salaries by referring to a recent salary guide, even if the new employee will be a direct replacement. After all, many factors can impact typical market salaries and you can be sure that prospective candidates have done their homework and know what salaries are currently on offer for other comparable roles.
This element is omitted from most job specifications, but jobseekers want to know what benefits are on offer. When you consider the competitive talent market, a description of the benefits available in your organisation will help you stand out. It may help to review your Employee Value Proposition (EVP), before writing this section.
Right now, jobseekers are looking for opportunities that offer on-the-job skills development. Think of the stretch opportunities, mentorships or coaching you can offer staff.
Mention every benefit your organisation offers, whether it’s free parking, flexible start and finish times, a sports or social club or even fast-track promotions. Equally a modern office, hybrid working arrangement, working with the latest technology or a warm, friendly environment can be just as persuasive.
The more benefits you can list, the more likely it is that one will attract your ideal candidate.
4 tips to write a person specification
Here are a few tips to help write a person specification.
1. Required skills
Establish the skills that are required to perform the job successfully. Include both technical and soft skills, as well as the level of proficiency required on relevant tools and software. Make sure the skills you list are aligned with the duties, tasks and objectives listed in the position description.
It’s common for employers to list all the skills they ideally want in candidates. However, with skills in demand in many industries and sectors, consider if certain skills can be developed over the course of the job. If so, list these as desirable rather than essential.
Make sure you are realistic when listing these skills, too. If you overstate the skills required, you risk attracting the wrong type of candidate. So, think about the minimum skill requirements a candidate must possess to successfully complete the job effectively.
2. Required competencies
What competencies or behaviours must the successful candidate possess to perform the job? It may help to think about how your ideal candidate would interact with colleagues or clients. For instance, they may require flexibility, an analytical mindset and a customer-focus. Unlike soft skills, which are learned abilities, behaviours are more difficult to teach (although it’s not impossible). So, list the knowledge and behaviours you ideally require for success in the role. You can read more on skills versus competencies – while this article is written for jobseekers, it succinctly explains the differences between the terms.
Are any specific professional qualifications, education, tickets or licences required in this job? If so, make sure they are relevant and realistic for the level of the role.
For some jobs, it is a legal requirement that candidates complete certain training. Make sure you are aware of any regulations relevant to the job.
4. Level of experience
What previous experience does your ideal candidate possess? Do they require similar experience in an equivalent job or are there certain aspects of the position description that may not require proven experience?
Align your position description and person specification
Remember, a person specification should result from the position description. Both must be aligned to ensure you, or your recruiter, identifies the best candidate to succeed in the job. With both these documents sitting alongside each other, you can equally assess all candidates to make a fair recruitment decision.