Human resources: recruitment and selection
Human resources: recruitment and selection

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Human resources: recruitment and selection

4.5 Person specification

Once the job and organisational analyses and the job description have been completed (see Figure 1 ), the next stage is to write a specification of the kind of person needed to fill the job you have just described. It is important to be as precise as possible about the skills, knowledge, qualifications and attributes that are required for the job and about the experience and personal characteristics that are needed. It is good practice to specify what is essential or the minimum required to perform the job, as well as what is desirable. To decide on the qualities required for the person specification you need to pick out key features from the job description. Think also about the context of the job and the wider organisational requirements to specify any elements of person-organisation fit that are important.

Table 1 is an example of a completed person specification; we have added some imaginary aspects of person-organisation fit under ‘Personality’.

When constructing a person specification you need not follow the format described in the table; your organisation may have a standard approach. The exact format of the person specification is less important than making sure you capture what the suitable applicant requires in order to perform the job and fit with the organisation's way of working and culture. You will have noted the ‘How ascertained?’ column in the table. This signals the need to think through how you will measure or assess the specification you are looking for.

Table 1 : Person specification for the position of Buying Department Manager

Characteristics Essential/minimum Desirable How ascertained?
Physical attributes Good health record Excellent health record Medical report
Few absences from work Previous employers' sickness records
Tidy appearance Smart appearance
Creates good impression on others Interview
Capable of working for long hours under pressure Give examples at interview
Mental attributes Top 50 per cent for general intelligence, verbal ability and numerical ability Top 30 per cent for general intelligence, verbal ability and numerical ability Possible use of selection tests
Education and qualifications Good general school results with particular aptitude for English Two A-levels (post-16 higher examination) or equivalent Certificate or Diploma in Management Qualification certificates
Membership of professional body Membership of professional institute Documentation
Experience, training and skills Five years’ experience in purchasing Ten years’ experience in purchasing Curriculum vitae (CV)
Two years’ experience of supervising small office or section Successful record of supervising qualified staff CV/interview: examples
Successful completion of reputable management training course Attendance/qualification certificates
Good social skills
Fluent in two European languages, including English
Ability to write good reports and understand basic financial information Ability to plan, organise, coordinate and control work under pressure CV/interview: examples
Personality Career record shows ability to adjust to normal social circumstances Mature and socially well adjusted Interview
Thrives on challenge and change and has an ability to develop new approaches to the work Able to communicate at all levels Interview
Evidence of experience of dealing with external clients CV
Special circumstances Able to work overtime and at weekends Willing to work long hours when required, and to transfer to other locations in Europe Person's experience
Able to travel to suppliers Fully mobile with valid driving licence Interview
(Source: based on Cowling and Mailer, 1981, p. 19)

Activity 2

0 hours 15 minutes

If you have a job description for your current post, construct a person specification for the job based on a format similar to that in Table 1 . Decide what you think should be in the person specification, even if this differs from any actual person specification there may be for your job. Alternatively, or in addition, you could do this for a person who works with or for you. If you do not have a description for your current job, try to work from the main duties and responsibilities you have. (This may convince you that it is easier to work from a fairly thorough job description.) Also, in constructing this person specification, try to indicate some person-organisation fit requirements which may be relevant to your own situation.

  • Physical attributes

  • Mental attributes

  • Education and qualifications

  • Experience, training and skills

  • Personality

  • Special circumstances

When you have completed this task, check what you have written, bearing the following points in mind.

  • Have you thought about the qualities needed to cope with the difficult parts of the job?

  • Have you considered any particular qualities that would be required to fit the culture of the organisation?

  • How carefully have you thought through the education/training needed for the work? Remember that qualifications are only one way of knowing what people have to offer. Skills and experience gained in a whole variety of contexts – for example parenting, voluntary work, leisure interests – can sometimes be just as relevant.

  • Have you included any rigid requirements based on age, physical ability or length of paid work experience which may be questionable on equal opportunities grounds and constitute ‘indirect discrimination’ (specifying a criterion that would effectively debar someone because of their ethnic group, gender, age, disability, etc.)?

  • Have you said which qualities and attributes would be essential and which desirable? Remember, if something is ‘essential’ you should be able to justify it.

  • Is the specification credible? Do such people exist? Are they likely to apply for the salary offered? What are the options if the answers to these questions are probably ‘no'?


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus