Job Specification
and Job Description Compared

Learn the basic difference between job specification and job description, especially if you are at the managerial or supervisory level. Getting the two mixed-up does not do justice to the organization. Wrong understanding can lead to wrong decision with dire consequences.

If you check out advertisements on job vacancies, you may see a list of "things" that supposedly enumerate the tasks as per the job description for the would-be-holders of the vacant jobs.

Upon checking closer, you will notice that the list does not seem to show the duties and responsibilities of the vacant jobs concerned. A clear indication that too many people are not very sure of the difference.

The sample advertisement below illustrates this.

Job Vacancies
We have a number of vacancies for people who have the right credentials.

Job Description:
1. Customer-oriented
2. Passionate
3. Creative
4. Team player

None of the things listed tells about the job itself, that is, the job description. All of these are job specification or the description of the qualities that the organization is looking in any one or more of the job applicants. HR people need to facilitate a proper understanding of this matter in order that those recruited fit the vacant jobs. This includes those responsible for approving appointments as a matter of recruitment policy.

Some job advertisements list out what falls under "The Job" and "The Person".

Under "The Job" are listed (The Job Description)
1. The Job Title
2. The Superior's Job Title, and
3. The Duties, and
4. The Responsibilities.

For example, an Executive position may report to an Assistant Manager, a Manager, Senior Manager, or a Divisional Head. In most cases, each of
these other positions reports to the next higher position in the hierarchy. All of them will answer to the overall head usually called the Chief Executive Officer or General Manager.

Some of the main duties and responsibilities are usually found in the advertisement for vacancies. Examples of duties include:
1. Conducts monthly inspection of safety installations
2. Prepares working papers on staff requirement on a quarterly basis
3. Chairs monthly management meeting
4. Approves contingency funds

You can see that these are very different from the things listed under "Job Description" above, which actually describes "The Person", that is,
job prescription.

Illustration how job specification differs from job description

Safety concerns every stakeholder. The organization may look for someone who is customer-oriented, namely, both internal and external customer. An applicant with relevant qualification and experience in safety would, somehow, fit the description of the person the organization is trying to recruit for the position. (The Person)

One of tasks that the person recruited for the position is to conduct regular safety checks, to play an active role as a member of the
safety committee, to conduct safety drill, and so on. (The Job)

A person who is passionate (about the job), is creative and is a team player describe the qualities of the prospective employee. Further,
the advertisement may state, "Able to work under pressure" and / or "Willing to travel", "Can work alone", and so on, depending on the job.

Job responsibility (under job description or "The Job") may look like this:

  • "Responsible for the smooth running of the Finance Department"
    "(Responsible for overseeing)
  • To oversee the effective running of the entire production process
  • "To formulate strategies to reduce downtime."

You may wonder whether people in management realise that many people continue to refer to job specification as job description or vice versa.
This is fairly clear by the way job vacancies are advertised. If nothing is done to correct this, organizations will not get the people whose personal qualities, qualification and experience fit the job.

If you happen to hold a position having connection to human resource management, you may have to take steps to put things right.
Keep in mind to recruit the person who is right for the job, give him (her) the right training and orientation, and you will reap the benefits.

(First created on December 28, 2013)

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