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Job description and person specification

Job description and person specification

Job description

It is standard practice to prepare a job description for every role and keep these up to date. The job description outlines the purpose, main duties and responsibilities of a role.  A job description should accurately describe the job to be done.  It should allow applicants to assess their suitability for the post and to decide whether to proceed with their application.  The job description also provides the basis for developing the person specification and the advertisement, identification of training needs, and measures of performance.  It is also essential for the grade of the post to be determined by a process of job evaluation.

Job descriptions should include the following information:

  • Job title

  • Reporting lines

  • Organisational unit

  • Overall purpose of the job

  • Key responsibilities, accountabilities or duties


The details provided in the job description must be clear and concise avoiding abbreviations and jargon.  The key responsibilities, accountabilities or duties should provide a comprehensive summary (as opposed to an exhaustive list) of what will be expected from the post holder.

All job descriptions should include the following paragraph which sets a requirement that post holders understand and will actively support the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy:

"The University of Manchester values a diverse workforce and welcomes applications from all sections of the community."


Person specification

After detailing the key duties and responsibilities of the post the next task for the recruiting manager is to produce a person specification, the purpose of which is to define the key characteristics of the person who could most effectively fulfil the role.

Usually, a person specification separates the desired skills, knowledge and experience into ‘essential’ criteria and ‘desirable’ criteria.  This helps candidates to assess whether they are a potentially good candidate for the role. 

Care needs to be taken when writing a person specification to make sure that it is specific enough, and avoids discrimination.  For example, it wouldn’t be appropriate to include a requirement for qualifications that aren’t essential to the role (e.g. ‘degree educated’).  Instead, it is important to focus on the type of skills needed.  You must be able to measure the content of the person spec. 

Together, the person specification and job description are the two documents that form the foundation of the recruitment process.  They should also be used to create the job advert and design the recruitment and selection process, including the design of interview questions. 



The job description template should be used when developing the job description: