Creating a Person Description – Know What You’re Looking For


When you go into a recruitment interview, as the recruiting manager, do you know exactly what you’re looking for or do you rely on ‘knowing it when you see it’?

Many managers tell me that they get a gut feel for the right candidate pretty much as soon as they walk in the door. But is this really the most reliable way of selecting the best candidate for the role and for the organisation? I would argue that it’s not.

Relying on gut feel alone can result in a poor recruitment decision and this can have widespread impact and cost for you, your colleagues, your customers and your organisation. And that’s not just the tangible costs of the recruitment process but the intangible costs of poor performance, bad customer service, disruption to others, damage to the organisation’s reputation, the morale of the rest of the team . .  . to name but a few.

So, if you want to make the right decision, you’ll need to spend some time considering what you are looking for from each candidate by identifying your selection criteria. These can be broken down into four main themes:


What skills and competencies will the job holder need to perform the role?  For example, commercial focus, presentation skills, analytical skills, customer service orientation, etc.



What work experience and knowledge do you expect the candidate to already have? Is work experience in the industry required? Do they need knowledge of a specific market or technology?


What education and qualifications should the successful candidate have? It’s quite common for job adverts to say, “qualified to degree level”, but is this necessary? Do you want to immediately discount everyone who doesn’t have a degree? There may be a perfect candidate out there with the skills and experience you need and no degree. If you do need a specific qualification, e.g. Prince 2, a software development/coding qualification, be clear about why it’s necessary.


Special Requirements

What circumstances and special requirements are there for the job? Does it require shift work, unsocial hours, international travel? Do they need a full driving licence? Do they need a DBS check? In keeping with employment legislation, you won’t be able to ask questions about their personal circumstances, but you will need to let them know what will be required of them.


And one more thing to bear in mind. . .



Ask yourself “Which criteria are essential, and which are desirable?” If they’re essential it means that you won’t consider a candidate if they don’t meet them. Desirable criteria are those which you would be prepared to help them develop. Whilst the perfect candidate might meet both essential and desirable criteria, there may not be enough development opportunities for them to grow in the role.

In using selection criteria, at the end of the process, you may discover that your ‘gut feel’ wasn’t perhaps the best choice. Or it may show that your ‘gut feel’ was right after all and if that’s the case you’ll have the benefit of demonstrating, to yourself and others, that you’ve used objectivity to make the decision.

Now that your selection criteria are clear, you’re ready to prepare the questions you will ask candidates against each of the criteria. Our blog ‘Questioning Techniques for Selection Interviews’ will help you with this.

Good luck with your next selection interview.

Posted by Julie Turner

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