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Precisely Defining a Job Spec

08 November 2011

Writing a job specification seems like common sense.  If they are really that easy, why do so many companies fail to write them? Job specs are like the foundations of a home. It lays the groundwork for the recruitment steps that follow.  Do a job spec right and the rest will come naturally. Do it wrong and you risk hiring and attracting all the wrong candidates. 

Here are three things to consider when creating or updating job specs: 

1.The people involved in the structuring or restructuring of a job spec

Sit down as a group for 15 to 30 minutes, with the role’s intended manager, the team and if the role to be filled is a replacement, involve the person leaving. 

It is a team exercise because people need to have an understanding of why their own role exists and why their colleagues’ roles exist.  This situates roles in terms of where they stand within the organisation. If recruitment staff have a clear understanding of the purpose of the role to be filled, their chance of finding the ideal candidate significantly improves. 

It is also important to involve the person leaving if the role is a replacement. Often time’s some of the responsibilities that were covered will not be listed under the job description. 

2.The components of a job spec

Besides the purpose, which may read like a paragraph, the remaining components of a job description should be straight to the point and factual. 


Don’t get hung up on the title.Titles are something, but they are not everything.  Some clients will call me and say, “Look, I need an accountant.” And I say, “Ok, I can picture what an accountant is, but, what is it that for your company and for your department this person will do.”  And that’s where the definition of the role is important, because even though you have in your mind that you, for instance, want to hire an accountant, the accountant you need is a very different accountant to the company’s next door.  

Titles are actually quite tricky because you can have internal titles that do not reflect what it is that the person has to do, particularly in small to medium sized enterprises. So in the beginning stages, forget about the title and start by outlining in bullet point the role’s requirements.


Defining a role’s purpose is not a question of size. Rather it is a question of why the role exists.  As previously discussed, people need to get a feeling of where they will stand within the organisation. 


Describe what the day-to-day activities of the role will be. 

Reporting (both ways)

Identify who will report directly to the roleas well as any managers the role will be accountable to.  


Express the level of education or industry experience specific to the role.

Skills (Technical and Interpersonal)

Even though the role may have the title of ‘accountant’- do not be afraid to list skills specific to your business that may not ‘typically’ be associated with the role.  Try to be a bit creative so that you accurately profile your ideal candidate in terms of your organisation. 

3.The purpose of a job spec

A lot of people mismatch an ad and a job description.  An ad is to attract the right candidates; it is not a job description. The job description is too detailed to be an ad and an ad is not detailed enough to be a job description. A job description should be provided at the time of interview.

Job specs can be very useful for other aspects of the recruitment process. For instance, from a job spec you can draft an ad.  Take the position’s must haves and desirables when marketing the position.  From the job spec you can also create your list of interview questions drawing from the roles technical and interpersonal skills. 

Job specs can also be used to assess a roles evolution over time.  Save the date to ensure you keep a record of the roles development.

** This is the first part a seven part series on The Seven Steps to Recruit New People.  Part twowill cover how to realistically define the remuneration package you should provide.