Job specification: definition, features and examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Job specifications can help employers and HR professionals determine which skills and qualities are important when assessing candidates. It can also help prospective applicants establish whether they possess the necessary experience, education and personality traits to apply for a particular role. Understanding more about the various components and details can help you create an effective job listing that attracts the most qualified applicants. In this article, we explain what a job specification is, why it's important, what features it typically includes and provide examples of each.

What is a job specification?

A job specification, or job spec, is a list that defines the skills and qualities that a company requires for a position. While the job description contains information such as the job title, responsibilities and summary, a job spec details the knowledge, abilities, traits, education and experience. This helps an organisation's recruitment and candidate selection process, and it explains what capabilities are necessary to execute the duties outlined in the job description.

A job specification offers more information regarding what skills an employer may require for a specific role, rather than simply listing the responsibilities of the role. Employers can create a job listing to encourage the most suitable candidates to apply for a role. Recruitment or HR professionals often look to this list to better understand the specific qualifications, education and skills the employer is looking for when they're helping to fill a role. This can help an organisation find and employ the most suitable individual for the role.

Related: HR job titles in a typical human resources department

Benefits and limitations of job specs

There are many benefits and a few limitations when creating a comprehensive specification list for an open role. Below are some examples of each:

Benefits

Benefits of job specs include:

  • details all the particular requirements necessary to excel in the role

  • provides recruiters and HR managers with a framework that they can use as a basis to identify the best applicant

  • saves time when a role receives several applications by making it easier to select those who best match the specifications

  • provides a benchmark that HR managers can use to evaluate employees and provide them with the necessary training

  • assists organisations with performance evaluations and promotions

Limitations

Limitations of job specs include:

  • might be time-consuming, as it's essential to be comprehensive

  • might change according to advancements in technology along with evolving knowledge and skill requirements

  • might only provide a framework of emotional characteristics and personality traits without specifying experience or predicting complex issues

Related: What is human resources? (With duties, skills and tips)

Common features of job specs

Though the specific elements can vary depending on the exact role, there are some common features you can expect to find, such as:

Experience

Job requirements often highlight the kind of work experience an employer is looking for in a candidate. It may be experience in a specific role or industry or relevant experience in similar roles. For instance, an entry-level role may note that it doesn't require any specific experience, while a role for a senior manager may state that the company is looking for candidates with more than five years of work experience in management positions.

Related: [8 recruiting methods and how to use them to attract talent](https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/recruiting-methods)

Education

A job listing may stipulate the specific education or qualifications that employers require. This may include general achievements such as GCSEs, A-levels, undergraduate degrees or a master's degree. It may also include a specific degree or area of study. An employer may include this information to ensure that an employee has adequate knowledge to execute their job responsibilities successfully.

Certification or credentials

Some roles may require certification or licensure instead of or alongside formal education. This can vary according to responsibilities in the job description, as a business may require you to have specific credentials before you can execute certain tasks. For instance, a job description for a mechanic may list working with heavy machinery or lorries as one of the responsibilities, or it may require that a candidate has a specific certification to execute certain tasks.

Related: Why work in HR? A guide to careers in human resources

Skills

Employers, current staff members, HR professionals and recruiters may work together to determine the skills they prefer candidates to possess. These skills may be what people require to perform certain duties, and they can focus on how a candidate might fit within a team or suit the culture of the organisation. Skills can also vary depending on the level of the role. For example, entry-level jobs may have fewer required skills because employers are more likely to expect new employees to develop them on the job.

Personality traits

Personality traits are the qualities that reflect a candidate's character rather than skills that are more technical or specific to how a person performs their responsibilities. For instance, professionalism is a trait that refers to a person who understands appropriate workplace conduct and is helpful and respectful to their colleagues. You may require this trait for a job in a formal office setting. While it may not be essential to match every personality trait, it can help to explain what attributes may make it easier to perform well in the role.

Related: What does an HR recruiter do? (Roles and how to become one)

Physical demands

A job listing may also state if there are physical demands associated with the job. For instance, if a warehouse job description mentions carrying packages from one location to another, the job listing may state that it's essential that the candidate is able to lift boxes up to 25 kilos. In this case, the specification defines how much weight the candidate is able to carry to make sure they can fulfil the requirement. Likewise, an office job may entail working for long periods looking at a computer screen, so proper eyesight would be a necessity.

Job spec examples

Employers may write different variations in job requirements depending on the specific role and the industry the company is in. Here are some examples:

Essential experience

Below are some examples of different types of work experience with various specifications:

Sales associate: a minimum of three years of experience with field selling and one year of inside sales

Senior Director: eight or more years of experience in senior management positions and a proven track-record managing diverse teams

Waiting staff: no experience necessary as training happens on the job

Essential education

These are examples of education requirements for various types of jobs:

Entry-level role in publishing: an undergraduate degree in literature, English or a related field

Marketing manager: an undergraduate degree in marketing, business, management or a related subject as a minimum, with a master's degree or MBA from a reputable institution being highly preferable

Essential certifications or credentials

Below are some examples of jobs that may include certifications in their specification:

Junior accountant: undergraduate degree in accounting or related field and Certified Professional Accountant certificate favourable

Nursery assistant: CPR and first aid certification and a level 3 diploma in childcare

Essential skills

Here are some examples of specific skills for different types of jobs:

Social media manager: has proven experience managing social media accounts

PR assistant: has demonstrated written and verbal communication skills

Administrative assistant: has shown proficiency with MS Office programs

Personality traits

Below are some examples of specific personality traits for certain jobs:

Chef: able to remain calm under pressure

Project manager: able to problem solve without additional supervision

Lawyer: able to maintain confidentiality and use discretion in all interactions

Physical demands

Below are some examples of physical demands for various types of jobs:

Crane operator: ideal candidate can operate heavy machinery and work in inclement conditions

Video editor: ideal candidate can view screens for long periods of time

Sales associate (retail): ideal candidate can spend many hours standing

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