Axcis Guide to Good Recruitment Practice: Part 2 – Writing a Person Specification

Recruitment is a bit of a minefield. Getting it right takes time and sometimes a lot of patience. By following the Axcis Guide to Good Recruitment Practice, you can increase your chances of finding that perfect candidate the first time. In part one I talked about writing a good job description. Part 2 covers writing a person specification.

Negotiate the recruitment minefield with the Axcis guide to good recruitment practice. Credit Flickr cc

Are you happy with your job description?

You can’t write a person specification until you are clear about what the role requires, so ensure that you have a clear job description to work from. If you need advice on writing one, check out my last blog.


What to include in a person specification


Once you are happy with your job description, you can start to write a person specification.  A person specification is a profile of your ideal new employee, including skills, experience and personality type. This should typically include:


  1. The skills you expect from an ideal candidate. For example, technical/ICT skills, organisational skills, creative skills and abilities.
  2. The qualifications or educational/training standards expected of the ideal candidate
  3. Whether experience is necessary, and if so what experience you are looking for in similar organisations or positions
  4. What personality type will suit the role/team/company
  5. Character traits that will help applicants to do the job effectively
  6. Any preferred achievements such as voluntary or charity work

During the selection process, you will shortlist applicants by assessing them against the person specification. It can also be referred to when deciding who to offer the role to. It will also help potential applicants to work out if they are suitable for your role or organisation and hence help them to decide whether they should apply or not.


Issues with discrimination

Recruitment of PE staff is often the exception to the rule when it comes to gender discrimination being acceptable in your recruitment process. Credit Flickr cc

Although we can some­times re­cruit some­one on the basis of age, race, sex, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or re­li­gion or be­lief where this is gen­uinely needed for the job, such as a male PE teacher for a boys school (where they will be expected to enter changing rooms), most roles should not demonstrate any level of discrimination, and your person specification must reflect that. Think carefully through the role and ensure you are not asking for qualities, skills or attributes that could be considered discriminatory. As a rule, your person specification criteria should:

  1. Consider knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for the role
  2. Be relevant to the duties described in the Job Description
  3. Be measurable and specific so as to be fair when comparing applicants

A good per­son spec­i­fi­ca­tion will help with performance management of staff be­cause it will de­scribe the knowl­edge, skills, be­hav­iours and gen­eral stan­dards needed to do the job.

Criteria for your person specification


A good starting point is to look at each of the main du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties from the job description and de­cide what knowl­edge, skills and be­hav­iours some­one would need in order to do them. Don’t in­clude cri­te­ria that isn’t rel­e­vant to the job de­scrip­tion. For ex­am­ple, hav­ing a PhD prob­a­bly isn’t rel­e­vant for most teaching jobs. There is no recommended length for a per­son spec­i­fi­ca­tion but check that every point is needed, there isn’t any du­pli­ca­tion and that what you’re ask­ing for is re­al­is­tic and jus­ti­fi­able. A per­son spec­i­fi­ca­tion should in­clude es­sen­tial and de­sir­able cri­te­ria.

Having a discussion with peers can help to separate essential from desirable criteria. Credit Flickr cc

Essential criteria


These are things that some­one must have to do the job. This means that when short­listing and deciding who to appoint, you can’t short­list/ap­point some­one if they do not meet all of these cri­te­ria, so think carefully and make sure you don’t include non-essential items in this list.

Desirable criteria


These may mean some­one can per­form at a higher level in the job but they aren’t es­sen­tial for them to get the job. This in­cludes some­thing which can be trained in a rea­son­able length of time, such as using a particular computer package. They can also help you to de­cide be­tween good can­di­dates who all meet the es­sen­tial cri­te­ria. A useful tip is to look at all of your essential criteria and for each one, decide whether this is something you could offer training on for the right candidate, and if the answer is yes, move this to the “desirable criteria” list.

If you’d rather let someone else do all the hard work


The recruitment process is labour-intensive and time consuming. Many organisations now rely on recruitment consultancies to do the vast majority of the hard work for them – which is why recruitment as an industry is worth over 25 billion pounds and growing year on year. For special educational needs positions, at Axcis, we have an extensive database of candidates with valuable skills and experience. We do the advertising and interviewing, pre-screen interested candidates and negotiate pay on your behalf. We also undertake all relevant compliance checks. So if you’d rather let someone else do the majority of the hard graft, contact Axcis with your vacancy now to see how we can help. Our recruitment service is absolutely FREE OF CHARGE until you find your perfect candidate and want to hire them for a temporary or permanent role. So, if we don’t find you anyone you feel is worth hiring, you won’t pay a penny! So, what have you got to lose?


If you’d like to read more of our series on Good Recruitment Practice, the following articles are available:


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