Job Specification vs. Job Description: A Comprehensive Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 April 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 and job descriptions are important tools for recruitment and hiring. Though the terms specification and description may sound similar, they refer to two distinct elements of a job posting. When you prepare a job posting, it's important to know about the factors that distinguish a job specification from a job description. In this article, we examine some comparative features of a job specification vs. job description and things to do before preparing a job posting.

Comparing job specification vs. job description

It's important to understand the differences between a job specification vs. job description to determine your eligibility for a role. While both hiring tools share similar goals of categorising employer expectations and employee standards, you can compare both with regard to their definition, purpose, advantages, limitations and components. To help you better understand the difference between a job specification and a job description, here's a list of details organised by category:

Definition

A job specification is also known as employee specification and is derived from a job description. It's a written statement outlining formal qualifications, experience level and technical skills that an employee may require to be eligible for employment. It sets the standards for hiring employees in various job roles. Hiring managers and recruiters scrutinise applications and verify eligibility based on the criteria mentioned in the job specification. It's an important text that helps a job candidate understand if they qualify for a job or not.

Job descriptions are tools that employers and hiring managers use to define job titles. It's a record that contains vital information about a job opportunity in a company. A job description also defines the employer's objectives and goals in detail. A job description may be the first document that a job candidate may come across in a job search, and it specifies what a company expects from them. It includes information regarding job duties, responsibilities, hierarchy, reporting structure, working environment and conditions for employment.

Related: Job Position vs. Job Title: Definitions and Differences

Purpose

A job specification measures an employee's qualifications for the role. These qualifications may be mandatory in some instances and suggestive in others. It's an important section in a job posting that helps an employee understand the particulars of a job role. Each job is different and may require a unique set of qualifications and skills. A job specification helps to document these variations.

A job description is a document that companies use to define employee structure and hierarchy and to fix job responsibilities. A job description helps create teams of professionals with a well-defined reporting structure. It aims to familiarise potential candidates with a work environment and employer. A potential candidate can use a job description as a guide while preparing for interviews and writing a resume. A well-documented set of job descriptions helps maintain continuity and enables a smooth transition when a new employee joins a company.

Components

A comprehensive job description lists the details of a job opening. It also defines what an employer expects from employees. While you may leave out elements that aren't relevant to your company's job posting, the essential components to include in a job description are:

  • job title

  • job location

  • job summary

  • job responsibilities

  • salary

  • incentives

  • allowances

  • working conditions

  • travel requirements

  • hazards

  • reporting structure

Before writing a job specification, you can collect useful information from the concerned department and understand if the requirements are optional or mandatory. Indicating whether a requirement is mandatory or preferred can help candidates make crucial assessments while applying for a job. The main components of a job specification include:

  • qualifications

  • experience

  • technical skills

  • training

  • responsibilities

  • personality traits

Parameters

A job and its competencies form a part of the job description. Under the job description section, a company may broadly include the measurable key result areas (KRAs) that they require for specific roles. KRAs are quantifiable metrics. Knowing about their KRAs can help candidates prepare well for a job search and perform better at their jobs.

A job specification measures an employee's qualifications for the role being filled. It can also prescribe a specific period of experience, age limits and physical parameters like height, as eligibility criteria. It can also specify tests to take and certifications to procure for improving competency.

Advantages of providing a job description

An HR executive may have the responsibility of creating job descriptions and job specifications. In some cases, they may listen to input from managers, supervisors and wage analysts. Some organisations may hire external agencies to create professional and accurate job descriptions and specifications. A company may also withhold some information they may want to like to share with candidates during a personal interview or after selection. A clear job description can:

Improve recruitment processes

A job description is a tool that helps employers, employees and candidates understand the expectations and responsibilities of a role. A company that can create a job description with clear information can expect better internal and external recruitment. They can reduce attrition and motivate and attract the best talent whose goals align with their expectations.

Related: Top Recruiting Methods to Help You Get the Best Candidates

Generate accurate salary data

Job descriptions may not reveal actual salary or compensation details, but employers may include a salary range. While assessing the market value of a role, HR executives may generate accurate information regarding the compensation structure within the company. The management team can then evaluate whether they're paying the right compensation for employees in similar roles and if the compensation is attractive to potential candidates.

Improve talent management

An HR executive can verify the database of job descriptions to identify pending or vacant positions. Too many pending job vacancies may indicate that current employee strength may be less than what the company requires. They can also identify potential vacancies due to internal promotions or resignations, and plan future hiring processes. Managers use job descriptions as a benchmark for conducting annual performance appraisals. They evaluate whether employees meet job expectations and help identify areas where an employee requires additional training.

Related: What Is Talent Acquisition? (With Steps and Helpful Tips)

Enable transparency

A job description is a written statement through which an employer can verify a candidate's credentials. It also ensures that candidates receive remuneration in a timely and consistent fashion. Since this text lists out what an employer expects from an employee, it can remove potential doubts with regard to the primary duties and responsibilities associated with a job role.

Advantages of providing a job specification

One of the primary advantages of providing a job specification is that it makes screening and selection processes easier and more effective. A job posting may attract dozens of applications, often with mismatched qualifications and skills. Recruiters use job specifications as a guideline to shortlist candidates who fit the job requirements. It also allows them to evaluate candidates during an interview process. Job specifications are an advantage for candidates as they can focus on those jobs that best suit their capabilities. They can also use job specifications to draft cover letters and resumes for an application.

Things to do before preparing a job specification

Like a job description, a job specification is a precise, concise and organised statement. It's typically not ambiguous. Mention minimum, mandatory and preferred requirements clearly using simple language. If you want to prepare a job specification, you can take the following steps:

  • List out qualifications, including optional and mandatory requirements.

  • List the technical skills, personality traits and emotional make-up that candidates may require.

  • Include special demands like specific academic credentials, work experience, skill sets and travel requirements.

  • List specific work experience for candidates and mention whether they are mandatory or preferable for the job role.

  • Organise the job specifications, proofread them and make edits.

Things to do before preparing a job description

The team that creates job descriptions for a company can ensure that they reflect the company's values and work culture. They can also take steps to ensure that each job description is inclusive. Follow these steps before creating a job description:

  • Understand the duties and responsibilities associated with the role, using information from professionals in similar roles.

  • Get inputs from other contributors like supervisors, managers and HR professionals regarding experience, qualification and compensation.

  • Fix a commonly used, appropriate job title for the role.

  • Prepare a two or three-line summary describing the role.

  • Make a bulleted list of the duties and responsibilities of the role.

  • Highlight expected qualifications, certifications and any accreditations that may be mandatory for the role.

  • List the technical skills that the company expects potential candidates to possess.

  • Describe the company in a way that can attract potential candidates.

  • Organise the points, prepare a job description, proofread and edit it.

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