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How to write a position description

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Many organisations start the hiring process before they have finalised the position description for the role they are looking to fill.
Regardless, if it’s a standard contact centre operator, or a more complex hybrid marketing, social media, content and digital professional – by clearly defining the specific tasks to be completed, the objectives to be met, the skills required, and the salary and benefits offered, your recruitment journey can start on the right foot.
A well thought out position description and person specification can set everyone up for success.

Differences between a position description and person specification

A position description and person specification serve different purposes in the search for a new employee.
A position description (sometimes referred to as 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 by the business and how it fits into the team and existing organisational structure.
A person specification 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-appreciated elements of the recruitment process for busy business owners or hiring managers, but they’re one of the most important aspects as it is used by yourself, your recruiter and applicants to understand what is required to be successful in the role and a great one can engage with more prospective employees.

Tips for writing a position description

Here are a few tips to help write a position description.

1. Company description

Start with a concise 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 and they need to know who they’re applying for.
So, describe the service or products your company provides and what industry or industries you work in. Include further details that are not already available on your website, such as success stories or case studies, your ambitions or your growth plans. Describe the culture of your organisation, your office environment and the team they’d be working alongside.

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 detail. Let them know the size of the team, where it’s located and who the successful applicant 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 looking for the next challenge. Include training and development opportunities, which can also be key attraction points for those who prioritise learning in their employment. Also cover your organisations remote or hybrid work arrangements and whether these can be tailored to individual needs.

4. Salary

It’s important to include the salary in your position description. 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 employees have done their homework and know what salaries are currently on offer for other comparable roles.

5. Benefits

This element is becoming commonplace in most job advertisements, with jobseekers wanting to know what benefits are on offer. When you consider the current 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). Also consider detailing your organisations wider purpose – and how that helps the communities it operates within.
We are seeing many jobseekers looking for opportunities that offer on-the-job skills development. Think of the formal job training, stretch opportunities, mentorships or coaching you can offer staff.
Mention every benefit your organisation offers, whether it’s free parking, flexibility, a sports or social club or even possibility of career advancement. Equally a modern office, hybrid working arrangement, or working with the latest technology can be just as persuasive.

6. Include a diversity statement

It has been proven that diverse teams are crucial to success. Therefore, including a diversity statement in your job posting allows you to reach as wide a talent network as possible. Diversity reaches beyond just gender or culture, but can also include physical abilities, neurodiversity, age, experience and all the attributes to contribute to one’s identity.
You could also consider noting your organisation’s ability to respond to adjustment requests. For example, some organisations can make adjustments for the physical or neurodiverse needs of a candidate.

How to write a position description for an undefined role?

With emerging industries and the new for flexible workforces, it can be challenging for businesses to finitely define a specific role. But you can still create an attractive job description.
Start by defining the purpose of the role, or what the overall goal will be – consider what the overarching business need is. This will help indicate to potential candidates what they will ultimately be responsible for.
Outline general responsibilities but indicate that you expect that this will evolve over time as the needs of the position become clearer.
Instead of clearly defined responsibilities or KPIs, identify the desired characteristics of the employee. Consider what they will need to fit into the team and thrive in the role. This is where you can insert desirable soft skills that they will need, instead of the technical skills which you may not know of yet.

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 execute all job responsibilities. 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. Ensure that soft skills aren’t an afterthought in this process as well, as they’re just as integral as technical skills in the current world of work.
It’s common for employers to list all the skills they ideally want. 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.

2. Required competencies

What competencies or behaviours must the successful applicant possess to perform the job? It may help to think about how your ideal worker 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.

3. Qualifications

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 employees complete certain training. Make sure you are aware of any relevant regulations.

4. Level of experience

What previous experience will your new employee 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 be derived from the position description. Both must be aligned to ensure you, or your recruiter, can identify the right person for your company. With both these documents sitting alongside each other, you can equally assess all prospective employees to make a fair recruitment decision.


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