The job spec is a key component of every search process―but often, it’s overlooked. The reason is, recruiters tend to think of the job spec as a simple, straightforward task―a box that needs to be checked and dismissed. In reality, though, the job spec has to accomplish two difficult things: it needs to accurately describe the role and adequately intrigue potential candidates.
But even if it’s not always overlooked, this is a step that’s still too often rushed through. The unintended result is that recruiters end up less equipped to go out and do what they’ve been hired to do: find and land the most qualified candidates. Here’s why the job spec is so important―and how to go about writing an excellent one.
Creating the job spec benefits you as a recruiter because you’re able to get from your client what you really need to be successful in your search.
Here’s the truth: as a recruiter, if you don’t start your search off with a well written job spec, you run the risk of allowing the search to fall apart down the road.
A job spec is not merely something you whip together and publish to blindly gauge interest in a role. It's an opportunity to elicit important information from your client that you need to do your job well.
Drafting a thorough and informative job spec is like laying the foundation on which you’ll later generate your research and outreach strategies―how you’ll go about screening, assessing, and interviewing candidates. It all comes back to what’s in the job spec.
In this sense, the job spec defines the path you’ll take in completing the search. It’s a guide.
Accordingly, if you think through that path carefully in the beginning, you won’t ever have to backtrack. It’s less likely you’ll lose your way.
The first step in the job spec is figuring out and outlining what the expectations are for the potential hire.
So the question now becomes: how do you create a quality job spec?
To start, you need to identify and detail the expectations and requirements for the role you’re trying to fill. In doing so, you’ll need to be as specific and thorough as possible. One mistake recruiters often make is assuming they know how to fill a role based on past experience. For example, in writing a job spec for a director of marketing role, they’ll prematurely conclude, “Great! I already know what this role entails because I’ve completed searches like this before. I’ll just use a template and send it to my client for approval.”
The problem with this approach is marketing, as a field, is multifaceted, and each company conducts the practice in different ways. To assume that any two director roles are the same is shortsighted and will ultimately set your search up for failure.
Instead, what recruiters need to do is identify and outline the little details. In our marketing example, it means asking where the company in question is growth-wise at this time; whether the company is building their marketing department from scratch, or if the department’s already a well-functioning machine; and also, what the goals and priorities of the marketing department are. Recruiters need to identify―line by line, piece by piece―what the role they’re seeking to fill actually entails, what the expectations are, and what the candidate will ultimately be responsible for.
Being so specific is key to not only eventually identifying the right person, but ensuring the recruiting team has enough information to start searching in an informed and purposeful manner.
Demanding such specifics as a recruiter can be beneficial for the client too, since sometimes, they might not have thought through what exactly they’re looking for. Encouraging honest examination and reflection on their part will help guarantee you and your client are aligned in your expectations and goals moving forward.
The job spec also serves as a safeguard for you.
Speaking of alignment―of avoiding confusion and client-dissatisfaction―the job spec is your first opportunity to ensure that you and your client are on the same page regarding what you’re looking for and why.
Hopefully, the process of collaborating on the job spec will guarantee that you and your client agree on and are aware of the requirements of the role you’re filling. But just in case wires ever do get crossed and the client begins to believe that you’re not conducting the search as initially agreed, the job spec can also serve as evidence that you’re doing exactly what the client hired you to do. If the client believes that you’re not looking for candidates with enough experience or with high enough qualifications, you can point back to the job spec as proof that you’re screening clients against the agreed-upon requirements.
One goal of the job spec, in this sense, is to help you as the recruiter stay consistent to a process that you and the client collaboratively create up front.
As such, it pays to not only take your time creating the job spec, but to document all that information in a platform that makes the information transparent and accessible for all parties. One example is Clockwork. In Clockwork, for each project, there is a “position” tab where the job spec can live. Clients and recruiters alike can reference it whenever needed. There’s also a “requirements” tab, where the requirements from the job spec can be inputted and stored.
You want to be as open and honest as possible in creating the job spec.
Of course, there’s a bit of an art to creating the job spec too. It’s a mistake to think of these important documents as coldly economic.
The key is to write the job spec in a way that’s not overly salesy, as people can see through that. Plus, that style will attract people who likely aren’t right for the position. There are various acceptable approaches, but the best strategy is to focus your writing on the company―on the role, the responsibilities, and the requirements, along with other important details, such as location, culture, and perhaps compensation.
The goal is to write a job spec that presents the opportunity in an honest yet attractive light. Your style should appeal to people who actually want that kind of role and genuinely want to work for that kind of company.
Of course, you will be selling the role and the company a bit here, but that’s the art of it: finding that essential balance between information and opportunity.
As you can see, collaborating on and then publishing a job spec is not as simple as many think. It’s a critical—albeit early—step in the search process. It necessitates care and consideration.
But the good news is, if you lend it the credence it deserves, the search will be more successful for it.