Creating A Person Specification Before Hiring Someone New

A really useful document to create when you’re thinking of hiring someone new is the person specification.  It specifies the kind of person best suited to fill the job.  The real value is in the conversations you have whilst creating the specification.  That allows you to really think through what you need for the role.


Here’s some help from our archives …

In completing the person specification two disciplines must be observed, both of which are essential to the recruitment and selection process.  First, one must ask oneself again and again “What attributes would one like to see in the job-holder?”  and “What attributes are essential?”  Secondly, one must keep constantly in mind that the attributes needed to do a particular job are only part of a whole person’s make-up and that this person will probably work in a social setting where relationships with others may influence effectiveness.

Classifying The Information

A number of methods have been produced to classify the information; two of the most widely used methods are the Seven Point Plan and Munro Fraser’s Five-Fold Grading.

Seven Point Plan

Developed by Professor A Rodger, the plan ensures that no aspect of the person is neglected and prevents irrelevancies from being introduced.  The Seven Points are themselves divided into a number of sub-sections, not all of which will be relevant to every job, i.e.

1.    Physical

What are the occupational requirements in terms of physique and health?  You’ll have different ideas for an air traffic controller than for a systems analyst, but both will have specific requirements.  Be clear about what’s really necessary and what isn’t.  You can easily widen the pool of available talent.

2.    Attainments

These relate to the knowledge and the skills required to do the job, i.e.

  • What level of general education is required?  (Wherever possible, and if appropriate, define in terms of specific qualifications)
  • What professional qualifications are required?
  • What specific job training is required?
  • How much experience in a similar job or in other kinds of jobs is required?

3.    General Intelligence

If expert help is available, specify a minimum level.  You may be able to get someone with a masters degree to help out picking stock from a warehouse, there’s plenty of intelligent people available, but are they really who you want to do a good job month in, month out.


4.    Special Aptitudes

What special aptitudes does the job demand and to what extent?  Consider here mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, facility in the use of words and figures, artistic or musical ability.  If one or more of these aptitudes are required, remember that candidates can only be properly assessed by the use of selection tests.

5.    Interests

How far are any leisure interests really relevant to the demands of the job?  Consider here intellectual interests (crosswords, chess) practical constructional interests, physically active pursuits, social interests (e.g. involving influencing or persuading others) and aesthetic interests (e.g. music, drama, painting).  It may be nice to have someone who shares your interests, but check they’re relevant.  An encyclopaedic knowledge of Cthulhu Mythos is perfect for someone who works in a game or comic store.  Such an interest may not help a dentist much, but it wouldn’t be a detriment either.  Watch out for bias here.

6.    Disposition

How important is it that the job holder should be good at working with others and at what levels?  What capacity is required for leadership?  What importance is attached to stability and to self-reliance?  Don’t rule someone out of a job where they’ll mostly be working alone because they are not outgoing and gregarious.

7.    Circumstances

What requirements does the job demand in terms of personal circumstances?  You may need to think about whether the person will need to be willing to work away from the job location, ready to work irregular hours, or happy to relocate.  What personal circumstances could prevent someone from taking the job?

To boost your organisation’s ability to recruit more effectively, take a look at our Effective Recruitment and Selection course, and our Speed To Competency programme for getting new hires to full effectiveness quickly.