What The Job Specification Really Means

As a job seeker, a well-written job description should give you enough insight and knowledge into the employer’s vacancy, the duties within the role and the expectations they have of the successful candidate in the role.

Although they may look easy to write it’s not always the most joyful of tasks for some and that can result at times in something with not as much information as you would like or need to decipher if you want to actually apply for it. Worse still, some can be filled with jargon terms which are very generic and can look the same as lots of other roles advertised online leaving you unsure which one best suits what you’re looking for.

So, how can you de-code those job specs to uncover the truth behind the jargon? You may see the following terms within the duties and person spec and below we uncover what they really mean:

Job Spec:

“Competitive salary”

This should normally mean a starting salary that’s above market rate, however, the lack of an actual number behind ‘competitive salary’ can be of concern and off-putting as you don’t know what you’re applying for. It could be that you are wasting each other’s time if the salary is less than you’re looking for.

In order to ascertain whether the salary level is right for you, you could put a call into the business to find out their salary banding but it may be dependent on the level of experience each individual brings to the table.

In any case, if the role is of interest it’s advisable to apply for the role and include a cover letter detailing your suitability and salary expectation so the employer can make an informed decision on whether they want to proceed to interview on that basis. You’d like to expect if they did that they would be prepared to pay the salary you’ve mentioned.

“Fast paced team/working environment”

This often means working in a busy environment where there may be little downtime and multiple tasks to do at any one time. The employer is being clear here in what to expect in terms of the pace of work and conflicting priorities which may be for you, or may not.

“Flexibility required”

Flexibility in the workplace can mean different things to different people making it difficult to decode.

Flexibility may be in hours worked – you may be required to start earlier, work later or through your breaks on occasion. It may mean flexibility outside of the duties within your job specification – such as when your co-workers are on holiday and you may need to do your role and cover part of theirs.

Often it’s covered in being flexible to cover all aspects of the role and business needs. If this is a cause for concern it’s worth discussing what flexibility means to the employer at an interview.

“A ‘highly prestigious’ firm”

This term refers to a business who are most likely well known, highly profitable and respected/admired. If the name of the firm isn’t within the job advert this terminology gives you a rough idea of the size and desirability of the firm.

“Contract type – permanent/temporary/fixed-term/contract”

The type of employment will determine whether you wish to apply or not. In simple terms permanent is employed directly with the employer on a permanent basis (this could be full or part-time).

Temporary is employment is normally for a shorter period of time perhaps to cover staff sickness, holidays or a heavy workload. It’s most likely you’ll be employed by a recruitment agency working on behalf of an employer during this time.
Fixed term employment is normally direct with an employer and traditionally is to cover periods of time such as maternity leave. Typically fixed-term contracts range from 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.

Contract roles (which can be confusing in regard to the previous two employment types!) are for self-employed candidates who contract themselves out to an employer on a day rate for a period of time. These candidates handle all their own invoicing and tax.

Person Spec:

A ‘self-starter’ – someone who is self-motivated, ambitious who can work on their own initiative with little/no direction.
Good communication skills – refers to both written and oral communication with customers, colleagues and senior people within the business.
Customer focussed – someone who is customer focussed puts customer service high on their agenda and the customer at the heart of everything they do. If you’re customer focussed you will do your utmost to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction and be motivated by great feedback from your customers.
Able to think ‘outside of the box’ – the employer here will be looking for a creative thinker. Someone who doesn’t accept and challenges the norm. Thinks differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective.
Target driven – this tends to lend itself to a sales environment where you be working towards targets set by the employer. These key performance indicators (KPI’s) are an integral part of your role and most likely what you will be measured against. Target driven may also be applicable for other roles too but less reliant on making actual sales to achieve them. They may be more customer service targeted, or specific to a role/industry.

Job adverts will vary depending on lots of factors, one of which being who is responsible for writing them. It could just be a re-written template to save time. If the role is advertised with the direct employer you should be able to learn more about the business from the advert or at the very least do some detective work yourself on google.

For recruiters, most of the time the job specification withholds the specific company information which could be because the employer has asked for initial confidentiality, or to prevent other recruiters targeting that client knowing they are recruiting. After all, if the business is recruiting they are unlikely to have lots of time to take recruiter calls. However, the job and person spec should be enough for you to decide to apply and a good recruiter will run through all of the company details with you after ascertaining suitability.

If you’re an employer who would like support in creating a job advert that best sells the opportunity or a candidate who needs support in understanding a job specification you’ve seen online drop one of our talented team of recruiters a line on 0114 321 1873.

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