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GUIDANCE ON WRITING JOB DESCRIPTIONS PERSON SPECIFICATIONS
1. A job description is a key document in the recruitment process, and must be finalised prior to taking any other steps in the process. It should clearly and accurately set out the duties and responsibilities of the job and must include:
- the job title (which must be sex and age neutral)
- the location of the job i.e. department/faculty/division/research group
- grade of the post
- the post to whom the postholder is responsible
- any posts reporting to the postholder
- main purpose of the job
- main duties and responsibilities
- any special working conditions (e.g., unsocial or shift working patterns, the requirement - for clinical posts - to obtain health clearance from an NHS Trust, the requirement for a criminal record check)
2. Items that should be included in job descriptions are:
- A note that indicates that, as duties and responsibilities change, the job description will be reviewed and amended in consultation with the postholder
- An indication that the postholder will carry out any other duties as are within the scope, spirit and purpose of the job as requested by the line manager or Head of Department/Division
- A statement that the postholder will actively follow UCL policies including Equal Opportunities policies
- An indication that the postholder will maintain an awareness and observation of Fire and Health & Safety Regulations
3. The language in job descriptions should:
- Avoid jargon and unexplained acronyms and abbreviations
- Be readily understandable to potential applicants for the post. The Plain English Campaign can proof documents for accessibility and plain, effective English
- Avoid ambiguity about responsibilities and be clear about the postholder's accountability for resources, staff, etc.
- Use inclusive language - for advice on non-discriminatory language see UCL's 'Guide to non-discriminatory Language'.
Sample job descriptions can be found in Appendix B.
4. The person specification is of equal importance to the job description and informs the selection decision. The person specification details the skills, experience, abilities and expertise that are required to do the job. It should be drawn up after the job description and, with the job description, should inform the content of the advert. The person specification should be specific, related to the job, and not unnecessarily restrictive - for example only qualifications strictly needed to do the job should be specified. The inclusion of criteria that cannot be justified as essential for the performance of the job may be deemed discriminatory under discrimination law, if these impact disproportionately to the disadvantage of specific groups.
5. The person specification must form part of the further particulars of a vacancy along with the job description in order that applicants have a full picture of what the job entails. The person specification enables potential applicants to make an informed decision about whether to apply and those who do apply, to give sufficient relevant detail of their skills and experience in their application. The person specification forms the basis of the selection decision and enables the selection panel to ensure objectivity in their selection. Sample person specifications can be found in Appendix B.
6. UCL has a set of core behaviours which should inform the person specification for all staff ('UCL Core Behaviours'). Similarly, UCL has outlined a range of expectations which should inform the person specification for all academic, research, and teaching staff ('Excellence and the UCL community: a shared endeavour'). When developing the person specification, the recruiting manager will include the relevant competencies and expectations.
Elements of the Person Specification
7. The person specification details the:
- knowledge (including necessary qualifications)
- skills and abilities
required to do the job, specifying which are essential and which are desirable; these may be different from the attributes of the previous postholder.
8. Essential criteria are those without which an appointee would be unable to adequately perform the job; Desirable criteria are those that may enable the candidate to perform better or require a shorter familiarisation period.
9. Criteria which are subjective and for which little evidence is likely to be obtained through the selection process must be avoided (for example, 'a flexible approach' is often too vague to be of any help in the selection process).
10. There are a wide variety of educational, vocational and professional qualifications (together with their foreign equivalents); for some jobs a particular qualification may be essential, while for others no single qualification may be most appropriate and experience may be of just as much importance as a formal qualification. Where qualifications are deemed essential these should reflect the minimum basic educational requirements necessary to carry out the job to an acceptable standard.
11. Where a qualification is stated as essential this must be fully met by the successful candidate before a certificate of sponsorship is issued, where required. E.g. if a PhD is listed as essential someone almost completing, or subject to viva will not be deemed to fully meet the essential qualification.
12. Candidates will increasingly have National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). The qualifications recognise the achievement of employment-led standards of competence. Where possible, requirements for specific employment competence should be expressed in terms of possession of the relevant NVQ at the required level.
13. The type of experience applicants are required to have should be specified; however, stipulating length of experience required should be not be used as this may be challenged under the Equality Act 2010. Quality of experience is more important and a better arbiter of suitability than length of experience.
14. Note skills and experience are not distributed evenly cross the population and on account of past discrimination, black and minority ethnic candidates, women, disabled or older people maybe underrepresented in some areas. This could constitute indirect discrimination if a selection criterion has a detrimental impact on one sex, or ethnic group or by reason of age or disability and cannot be shown to be justifiable. Note therefore that experience can often be transferable from one area of work to another, in which case skills may be more important than a narrow definition of experience.
15. It may be necessary to specify "availability to attend evening meetings" or "possession of a driving licence", but you should distinguish between need and convenience and weigh up need against discriminatory effect.
16. Remember the possibility of adaptations or aids to enable a disabled person to fulfil a requirement. It is important to be clear about what needs to be achieved in the role, not the means to achieve it.
17. Positive Action statements should also be included on adverts
18. Please also read Equalities and the Law
Page last amended : July 2014