The Job Description

When they are looking to recruit new members of staff, most firms will first create a written description of the job. The effort of creating a written description helps the firm figure out what the job role will be, and the finished description is normally used to write both the job advert and the contract of employment.

Employers may call it the job specification, or job spec for short.

Key Details In A Job Description

The job description clearly sets out important details such as:

  • What the job is called
  • How many hours a week the job is for
  • Where the job is based
  • What travel requirements there are
  • Which department and / or team the job exists within
  • The name of the line manager - the person who will be the official boss of the successful applicant
  • The specific duties of the job
  • The personal characteristics that applicants need to have
  • The education / qualifications that applicants need to have
  • The renumeration for this role (salary and any bonuses)

There may also be additional details, such as staff benefits, pension contributions, probation period, and more. If they are specific to the role (senior roles often come with unique details), then they may be set out in the job description. But, more normally, they are to be found in the Employees’ Handbook.

What The Job Description Is Used For

The job description is the basis for much of the recruitment process:

  • Job adverts are written using the details in the job description.
  • Applications are reviewed against the job description to see if the candidate meets the job requirements.
  • Interviews and assessments are used to drill down into detail, and work out whether the candidate really does meet the job requirements or not.
  • Contracts of employment normally re-use the information from the job description.

Make Sure You Get A Copy

Before you apply for any job, anywhere, always get hold of a copy of the job description. You need it for writing your covering letter and for tailoring your CV. You also need it to make sure there are no surprises in it.

Many employers post the job description in the careers section of their own website, and that’s always the first place that you should look. If you can’t find it, email or telephone the employer to ask for a copy; they should send one out to you. If an employer cannot or will not provide you with a copy of the job description when you ask for it, then that should set alarm bells off in your head. It’s a perfectly reasonable request for you to make, and one that any good employer will be expecting and happy to help with.

If you’re applying through a recruitment agency and the agency provides you with a copy of the job description, go and get one from the employer as well. You cannot be sure that the agency has the latest version of the job description.

The agency may be reluctant to tell you who the employer is, which can make getting the latest job description difficult. My advice is that you should always know who an employer is before you apply for a job; never make a blind application. If the agency insists on not telling you, a quick Google search will normally turn up several other agencies advertising the exact same role. There’s nothing stopping you from applying through a different recruitment agency instead. (You can find more information about recruitment agencies later in the book).

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