Back to Basics: Writing a Person Specification

When preparing your vacancy documents it is easy to overlook the person specification or to use a generic or old copy, but taking the time to adapt it to your school and the specific vacancy can actually save you time in the long run.  Is your school exactly the same as the school five miles down the road?  Probably not.  So it’s likely that their Person Specification isn’t going to help you find the candidate that is right for you.

Writing a bespoke Person Specification can help make shortlisting easier too.  Clearly defined criteria will allow candidates to understand the exact requirements for the role and they should address each of the points (with examples) within their reason for application.  This in turn makes shortlisting a much easier and fairer process.

When you are faced with a blank page it can be tempting to reach for an old version, so follow our tips to help you get started:

1.  Break it down into categories.

These categories will make the structure of your person specification and keep it clear and organised.  Categories you will probably want to cover are:

  • Qualifications and Training
  • Experience
  • Knowledge and Skills
  • Personal Qualities
  • Management and Leadership (if applicable)

  Use only essential criteria

It’s tempting to include desirable criteria but this can be confusing to candidates.  Ask yourself if the criteria is essential to the role, if it isn’t  do you really want candidates to rule themselves out by assuming you won’t shortlist them because they don’t meet the desirables?


3.  Be short and succinct

Sentences don’t have to be long and overcomplicated, keep the criteria short and to the point including only the essential criteria.  Remember that the longer the person specification the longer the applications will be!  For a standard Class Teacher role one side of A4 is more than enough.


4.  Use words like “demonstrable” and “evidence”

This will show candidates that you expect them to be showing how they meet this criteria, for example:

  • A commitment to significant improvement in classroom learning


  • Evidence of significant improvement in classroom learning.

Most teachers will say that they are committed to improvements in learning but the second sentences shows that you want them to evidence this in their application.


5. Avoid language that could be seen as discriminatory

Anything that refers to a specific age, gender, race, sexuality or religion should not be part of your criteria.  Some seemingly innocent words can be interpreted this way so think about the language you use.  For example, “energetic” can be misinterpreted as “young” and can leave you open to challenge on the grounds of age or disability discrimination under the Equalities Act.


6. Avoid jargon

Overcomplicated sentences will make for overcomplicated application forms.  Write clearly and concisely and avoid using jargon.  The tone of your person specification should reflect the tone of the school – don’t forget that when candidates are reading the vacancy documents they still might not have made up their mind to apply.   


7. Think about what your school really needs

Take the time to think about the person you are looking for and then tailor the person specification to attract them.  If you need a real team player with lots of enthusiasm, use enthusiastic, positive language and emphasise the need for good communication skills and ability to work in a team.


8. Review and adapt

If you do end up having to re-advertise, review the person specification.  Is the language going to attract the wrong people for your school?  Does it really reflect the person you need?  If the answer is no, then make some tweaks before placing a new vacancy or run the risk of getting more candidates who aren’t the right fit for you.


Have you found the perfect formula for writing your recruitment documents?  Share your tips with us in the comments below! 

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