The job specification

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The job specification is arguably the most under-utilised part of the process as well as the most crucial, as it is the guide for the recruiter and also the applicant.

 

What we mean by under-utilised, is that this is where hiring companies have the most information, i.e. they know who they want to hire and what they are offering. Nonetheless, they usually prepare a basic job specification, with very little detail. This might be down to lack of experience, lack of time or lack of knowledge of what a good job specification should consist of.

 

Why is this important?

As mentioned above, this is the key document for the person doing the hiring as it encapsulates everything about the job – what the job is, what type of person you are looking for and why they should come work for you. It will be the point of reference for any candidate queries and will be the basis for your recruitment ad.

 

It also provides helpful information for the candidate. If you are short-listing someone for interview, you can send them the job specification so they are fully informed about the job.

 

Finally, it’s a useful document for the individual you eventually choose to hire, as they can use it to set their targets and goals in the job.

What to include in a job specification

Company description

The majority of job specifications don’t include any details about the company that is hiring. As we mentioned earlier in the planning section, this is a two way process – if you want to hire the best, you have to sell your company to them.

 

Of course you’ll need to detail what service/products your company provides and what industry or industries they will work in, but the best candidates are understandably discernible and they require more detail – What have been your success stories to date? What are your ambitions? What are your growth plans?

 

Another important part of selling your company, is promoting its environment. It could be the company culture or the physical setting:

We are a supportive, family run business
Our company is friendly and inclusive
We are a young and energetic company
Our office is a beautifully restored Georgian building
Our state of the art headquarters is based in the trendy ____ business park

If you have won any awards include them here. Employer awards are a big attraction for job seekers.

 

Remember, any document carrying your company name is in effect representing your business. Please ensure it corresponds to how you would like the business to be perceived.

Overview of the job

By creating an overview you’re helping yourself when trying to pitch the job quickly. Also, if you send the job specification to a candidate it will very quickly allow them to decide if the job is worth pursuing before reading the whole specification

 

This is where your definition of needs will come in handy as you can give the scope of the job. State what is the most important thing you want them to do in the job. e.g.:
Due to the 50% YOY growth of our company we require a financial controller to come in and head up the team. They will be responsible for…….

This position of operations manager has become available because we have increased our output threefold and we’ve promoted the previous incumbent to operations director. You will head up a team of 15 and report into the operations director.

Job description

Again, your definition of needs will make this part easy. Tell the applicants what they will be expected to do in the job. Detail the size of the team and who they will be reporting into, this information is important to candidates, especially with more senior roles.

 

If the new hire will be working on any large or important projects, by detailing them you will portray the job as more interesting. You could also include details about training for the successful candidate. That might be induction training, software training or professional development. This can be a key attraction for jobseekers.

What skills are required?

It will help the process if you can declare what is essential for doing the job and what would be an advantage. For example, five years’ minimum experience may be essential; or perhaps a professional qualification; a specific second language; or use of particular software. However, project management or budgeting skills may be an advantage.

 

It’s common for employers to list all the requirements they want from candidates, however there needs to be some understanding of the employment market and the skill levels available. Instead of looking for ten out of ten essential requirements, consider what can be trained and developed over the course of the job.

 

It will help you get the right match for the job if you can describe the type of person you are looking for. You might even have a separate profile. Here are a range of examples:

Meticulously detail orientated person
Fastidious timekeeper
Confident, outgoing personality
Ambitious individual, driven by success
Motivated to deliver social reform
Energetic, patient, caring, creative, analytical, gregarious, strong, diligent…

What is the salary?

It is important to establish the salary at this stage as it will give clear guidance going forward. However, don’t just pull a figure out of the air. Do some benchmarking, even if the new employee will be a direct replacement.

 

Your skills audit may help ascertain the salary, if you currently have someone doing a similar role. Another option could be to review similar jobs on job boards. However, a very high, or low salary on offer from another company, could skew the average. The best approach is to review a salary guide produced by a recruitment agency. They will have experience of a wide range of roles, in a large number of industries and list the current market rate in their guides.

 

You can be sure that the prospective candidates will have done their homework around salaries.

What are the benefits of doing this job?

This element is omitted from the majority of job specifications; which is unusual, because it’s what your future staff member will get in return for doing the job at your company. When you take into consideration the fierce competition for talent and the many options that jobseekers have in the current market, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to attract them to apply for your job.

 

We’ve carried out numerous surveys which have shown that a pension is the no.1 benefit, across all age groups, that attracts jobseekers. This is followed by flexible working, whether that is flexi-hours, work from home or an early leave on Friday. It’s worth mentioning.

 

You should mention every benefit your company offers because you have invested in them for your employees’ well-being and you are trying to attract a future employee. There are other obvious benefits like healthcare and life assurance and less obvious ones such as study allowance; a bike to work scheme; free parking; a sports and social club; or even casual Fridays. They are all worth highlighting.

 

If you’re not in a position to offer these benefits at your company there might be other perks of the job such as best-in-class training and fast track promotions which are big attractions for ambitious people. Equally a beautiful office, working with the latest technology or a warm friendly environment could be persuasive.

 

The more benefits you can list, the more it shows that you care about your staff and one of those benefits might be the attraction for your ideal candidate.

Job specification visual aid

Hover on the highlighted areas of the example job specification below to view more information

Craftey
Job title: Head of Finance
Salary: €75,000 with benefits detailed below If you can include the salary it will benefit the process
Location: Grand Canal Dock, Dublin

Company Description Recruitment is a two way process, so you need to sell your company
“Craftey" is an app that provides a one stop shop for consumers to learn to learn about, source and track beer. You could say, it’s Tripadvisor meets Facebook for beer! A quick, light hearted synopsis of the business. It is the most disruptive and effective sales tool the craft beer industry has ever seen. Founded in 2010 by a craft beer enthusiast, the company has grown from one person to eighty in five years. Craftey has received numerous rounds of funding and is now valued at €25 million. This gives an indication of the company’s success to date and its current status
We recently moved into new state-of-the-art premises in Grand Canal Dock, part of the booming Silicon Docks. Promoting the premises as a selling point Reporting to the MD, the Head of Finance will sit on a management board with the Head of Sales, the Marketing Manager and the HR Manager. They will head up a team of two A/Rs, an A/P and a part qual accountant and a finance manager. Giving an idea of the company culture

Overview of the job
The turnover for the company increased by 120% last year. The aim is to reach 200% in three years. As part of this rapid growth strategy and we need to bring in a head of finance to manage a team of five but also get involved in the commercial decisions for Craftey. This very quickly demonstrates that the company needs a commercially minded finance expert.    Reporting to the MD, the Head of Finance will sit on a management board with the Head of Sales, the Marketing Manager and the HR Manager. They will head up a team of two A/Rs, an A/P and a part qual accountant and a finance manager. Senior candidates will always be interested the organisational structure

Job description The description has a brief overview and then details all elements
The key elements as the Head of Finance will include responsibility for the budgeting and forecasting, reviewing performance against targets and analysing various trends whilst also seeking and presenting potential solutions where appropriate. It will include:


  • Managing the finance team who have responsibility for the day-to-day finance activities including accounts payable, collections, management reporting, cash management, tax and all relevant statutory requirements
  • Overseeing the production and communication of the various financial reports and business performance KPIs to the management team
  • Working in close partnership with the commercial team to ensure the business is making the best possible decisions to optimise revenue and margin
  • Monitoring, reviewing and reporting on revenue and margin performance
  • Driving improvement in business intelligence reporting of revenue, margin and profitability at product and customer levels
  • Understanding the cost drivers across the business and ensuring cost movements are reflected in business pricing models where necessary
  • Financial modelling to provide a basis for sound investment decisions
  • Formulating annual budgets and targets. Maintaining and reviewing the overall system for budget development, target setting & measurement, reporting and controlling to ensure that adequate tracking and reporting systems are in place to report on performance against budget
  • Providing support, advice and guidance to the management team in the development of business plans to achieve specific outcomes consistent with the company’s strategic objectives
  • Defining and implementing financial processes and ensuring effective financial controls


Skills required
First and foremost, this is not a typical finance job, the head of finance will be getting involved in all aspects of the company, particularly the growth strategy of the company. A shy, retiring individual would not be suitable for this role, we require a strong, confident, outspoken person who will be prepared to challenge everyone on the management board, when required. This gives a good indication of the type of person required for the role.

Essential skills, qualifications and attributes


  • A strong commercial sense, good business acumen and broad financial experience Again we emphasise the importance of commercial understanding
  • You must be a fully qualified Accountant from a recognised body, (ACA, ACCA, CIMA, CPA)
  • The ability to lead and inspire a team towards agreed goals, as well as exceptional management skills These requirements also give an indication of the type of personality that would be successful in this job
  • Strong communication skills, both verbal and written, with the confidence to express clear opinions and ability to explain financial information to non-financial managers These requirements also give an indication of the type of personality that would be successful in this job
  • Pro-active & can-do attitude with the ability to build relationships quickly These requirements also give an indication of the type of personality that would be successful in this job
  • Adherence to the highest ethical and moral and regulatory standards These requirements also give an indication of the type of personality that would be successful in this job
  • A strategic perspective, with the ability to translate, communicate, drive and execute the strategy through clear plans These requirements also give an indication of the type of personality that would be successful in this job

Advantageous skills, qualifications and attributes Note how we split out the requirements that are not essential

  • You have previous experience of working in a tech company, preferably a start-up
  • You have experience in the drinks industry, on trade or off trade.
  • You are a craft beer enthusiast

Benefits
Tangible benefits include company pension, healthcare, 25 days holiday, life assurance, travel discounts, gym membership, discounted beer and beer tasting Fridays. These benefits may seem small, but if you are offering them, you should highlight them. They might be the big attraction for your top candidate
Intangible benefits include working in teams that are truly supportive and the opportunity to drive Craftey to be one of the most successful indigenous Irish tech companies in the history of the state. This should appeal to a finance expert who is motivated by helping to grow the company

The next step

The job ad

Fast track your recruitment