Time Well Spent

New research exploring the volunteering experiences and perspectives of people from the global majority. Find out more

Designing the role

This page is free to all

Use this series of pages to guide you through the steps to take when recruiting staff. This includes designing, advertising, shortlisting and interviewing for the role, offering the job and inducting new staff.

First, you need to design the role(s) you want to recruit to. You’ll need to establish:

  • the job that needs to be done
  • the knowledge, skills and experience someone needs to do the job well
  • the desired duration of the work
  • the salary
  • the budget available.

You’ll need to document this by writing a job description and person specification.

Writing a job description

A job description describes the type of work to be performed. There’s no one right way to draft a job description, but a good one will set out the following.

  • Job title: Keep it concise and targeted. Include key phrases that accurately describe the role.
  • Type of contract: Ie fixed-term or permanent.
  • Hours required: Ie part-time or full-time.
  • Salary: It can increase appeal to offer a salary range, indicating the lowest and highest salary your organisation offers for the role.
  • Location: State the work location and, if relevant, whether there’s the option to work remotely.
  • Which role the post reports into.
  • Where the post sits within the organisational structure.
  • Overall purpose of the post.
  • Around eight to ten key responsibilities.
  • Level of flexibility you require: Ie whether the successful applicant will sometimes be required to carry out duties that fall outside their role.
  • A bit about your organisation: Ie its culture and values.

A statement setting out how and when the organisation reviews its job descriptions. You can also make it more accessible by using:

  • straightforward, plain English
  • short sentences and paragraphs
  • clear, logical headings.

Writing a person specification

A person specification sets out the knowledge, skills and experience needed for the job. It will help you decide who to shortlist for interview and who to appoint.

It can be helpful to include a list of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills required.

  • Hard skill example: the ability to produce website code
  • Soft skill example: problem solving

Draft your person specification carefully – a good one means you’re more likely to recruit the right person for the role.

How to get a person specification right

  • Specify clearly which criteria applicants must have (essential) and which could be acquired after appointment (desirable).
  • Specify the criteria you’re looking to see in submitted application documents (which you’ll use for shortlisting), and the ones you’re seeking to see at interview.
  • Never include age restrictions. This is discrimination and is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Avoid stating the number of years’ experience you’re looking for because people learn and gain experience at different rates. It could also constitute discrimination on the grounds of age. Instead, define the specific experience required.
  • State that the required experience may have been gained from paid or voluntary work.
  • Only ask for qualifications if they’re necessary for the job. For example, ‘A level standard or above’ could be made more specific by explaining that you need someone with the ability ‘to analyse information and produce logical conclusions’.
  • Consider how you describe your criteria, to avoid discrimination. For example, requiring a GCSE in maths could discriminate against people who’ve done other qualifications based on age, or nationality. In this case, you’d need to state: ‘GSCE maths or equivalent qualification (or experience)’.
  • Avoid subjective words like ‘dynamic.’ Instead, describe the specific skills someone needs to do the job. For example, ‘the ability to manage and organise several tasks at once’.
  • Avoid jargon. If you’re looking for ‘good interpersonal skills’, define what you mean by this. For example, do you mean ‘able to deal with a wide range of people in a courteous and helpful manner’, or ‘able to present proposals in a logical manner, argue a case and resolve conflict’?

Example person specification for a personal assistant

Adhering to employment law

Under the Equality Act 2010, you shouldn’t make recruitment decisions based on any of the nine protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marital or civil partnership status
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

However, if you can show that a protected characteristic is central to a job, you can stipulate in the person specification that only someone who has that protected characteristic will be considered. This is known as an 'occupational requirement'.

An example would be if you wish to stipulate that only women can apply to work in a women’s refuge.

If an occupational requirement is to be applied to a job, this must be stated in the recruitment advertisement.

  • For further information, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
  • If you’re unsure about when to apply an occupational requirement, NCVO trusted supplier WorkNest offers expert employment advice. NCVO members are eligible for a free advice call with WorkNest each year.

Further information

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

Back to top

Sign up for emails

Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services