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

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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
CharacteristicsEssential/minimumDesirableHow ascertained?
Physical attributesGood health recordExcellent health recordMedical report
Few absences from workPrevious employers' sickness records
Tidy appearanceSmart appearance
Creates good impression on othersInterview
Capable of working for long hours under pressureGive examples at interview
Mental attributesTop 50 per cent for general intelligence, verbal ability and numerical abilityTop 30 per cent for general intelligence, verbal ability and numerical abilityPossible use of selection tests
Education and qualificationsGood general school results with particular aptitude for EnglishTwo A-levels (post-16 higher examination) or equivalent Certificate or Diploma in ManagementQualification certificates
Membership of professional bodyMembership of professional instituteDocumentation
Experience, training and skillsFive years’ experience in purchasingTen years’ experience in purchasingCurriculum vitae (CV)
Two years’ experience of supervising small office or sectionSuccessful record of supervising qualified staffCV/interview: examples
Successful completion of reputable management training courseAttendance/qualification certificates
Good social skills
Fluent in two European languages, including English
Ability to write good reports and understand basic financial informationAbility to plan, organise, coordinate and control work under pressureCV/interview: examples
PersonalityCareer record shows ability to adjust to normal social circumstancesMature and socially well adjustedInterview
Thrives on challenge and change and has an ability to develop new approaches to the workAble to communicate at all levelsInterview
Evidence of experience of dealing with external clientsCV
Special circumstancesAble to work overtime and at weekendsWilling to work long hours when required, and to transfer to other locations in EuropePerson's experience
Able to travel to suppliersFully mobile with valid driving licenceInterview
(Source: based on Cowling and Mailer, 1981, p. 19)

Activity 2

Timing: 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'?