Writing a Job Spec

The job description is a critical document for every position. A well written job description performs a range of essential functions:

  1. It describes the skills, competencies and personality type needed to perform the role
  2. It defines the job within the hierarchy of the organisation
  3. It serves as the basis of the employment contract
  4. It provides the base of performance management tools

Job title

The most important element of the job description is the job title. A great job title must accurately reflect the nature of the job and duties within the role and it should not exaggerate the importance of the role, simplicity is to be preferred when selecting the job title. It should also be free of gender or age implications and should be generic enough to be compared with similar jobs in the industry for the purpose of comparisons in pay, responsibilities and conditions.

The job title is the main keyword searched by prospective candidates suitable for the role and offers the first impression of the vacancy.

Responsibilities and tasks to be performed

The job description must contain a general list of the responsibilities and tasks associated with the role, along with the expected time to be dedicated to each task. This should be represented either through descriptive attributes: primary task – filing, secondary – data entry or through percentages (40% filing, 20% data entry)

Description of the duties should be no more than one or two sentences in lengths and should be outcome-based, containing an objective, action and purpose e.g. compiles monthly reports to allow departmental budget monitoring

The list of duties will vary in length, but as a rule, should be as short as possible, otherwise the job description turns into a manual rather than a job description.

Roles in smaller companies may have more tasks associated with them, due to the ‘all-round” nature of the task, but you should still aim to keep the list to around 15-20 as a maximum.

Skills and competences

Skills and competencies should be listed separately from each other as they refer to separate things. Skills are activities the candidate can perform based on what they have learned in the past or qualifications they have obtained. Competencies are traits or attributes you expect the candidate to display in the role. An example of a skill is the ability to deliver good presentations. It is a skill that can be learned through study and practice, whilst a competency, on the other hand is an innate characteristic displayed by a person, like strong communication.

The modern trend towards the competency based job descriptions means extra weight is attributed to behavioral competencies such as leadership, teamwork, flexibility, communication and initiative. One thing to keep in mind when writing this section is the level of generality of the skills/competencies. Use specific language.


Too GeneralSpecific
Computer literateProficient with Microsoft Word, Excel, QuickBooks
Good communication skillsAbility to communicate technical information to nontechnical audiences
Handles administrative choresReceives, sorts, and files monthly personnel action reports


It is important to include reporting lines, departments and relationships within your job description. Reporting lines clarify responsibilities of a role by showing who the candidates reports to and who reports to them. This is important, not only in relation to compliance issues, but also to give the candidate an insight into the hierarchical structure of the organisation and how their position fits into it. For example; ‘Reporting to the Head of Operations, you will manage the day to day running of a team of 8 analysts…’

Salary and benefits

Rather than assigning a particular salary to the position, work out a salary range to include in the job description that is competitive with similar positions and allows for variation in skills, experience and education.


A good job description is much more than a list of responsibilities and tasks. If well written it is a marketing document that sells your company to the best talent on the market. It is also a tool for performance measuring of the employee and shapes the perception of the role in the candidate’s mind.

Consider including information on what the candidate can achieve within the role, potential advancement opportunities, the relevance of the roles responsibilities to the organisation and the bottom line to give your job description an edge and attract higher quality candidates.

Warning – A job description is generally regarded as a legal document. Any references to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin or nationality, or physical or mental disability is illegal.


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