Explaining the Difference Between a Job Description and a Job Specification

Explaining the Difference Between a Job Description and a Job Specification
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The quality of the workforce plays a big role in the success of any business. Good employees who have the competence and temperament to do the required job contribute to achieving organizational goals, whereas a misfit employee or an employee lacking in key competencies or attitudes can wreak havoc on business plans and objectives.

Job analysis ranks among the most critical tools of human resource management and ensures hiring candidates with the required skills, competencies, attitudes, and the right temperament for the job. A job analysis helps determine job descriptions vs. job specifications.

Job Analysis

The job description is an outline of the duties and responsibilities of the position, or a description of the role of the job in fulfilling a company’s objectives.

A properly crafted job description consists of the following elements:

  • The job title, including the designation and the level in the organization’s hierarchy
  • The reporting relationships of the designation, including who the person will report to and who will report to the person
  • A summary of the position’s major and minor duties
  • A list of tools and equipment used or machinery operated

A job specification describes the requirements to perform the job, in terms of skills, competencies, experience, and the like. It includes

  • Job title
  • Educational requirements
  • Desired experience
  • Specialized skills or knowledge required
  • A listing any other special requirements associated with the job
  • Any hazards or risks associated with the job


When considering job descriptions as opposed to job specifications, both are relevant and both become especially important during recruitment. Job descriptions help organizations determine the nature of the position – full time, part time, or independent contractor, and provide a guide to potential candidates. Job specifications on the other hand, help the hiring manager to short-list appropriate candidates who would most likely fulfill the demands made in the job description. It also provide a basis of setting standards and asking questions for the selection process.

Hiring without job descriptions could lead to the selection of a person not interested in the position, or selecting a skilled person but incompetent to do the required job. Hiring without job specifications could also lead to an incompetent person occupying the position.

Once the hiring process is over, the job description becomes the basis to assign and evaluate the employee’s work, and the job specifications become irrelevant.


Job descriptions play a major role in traditional human resource management. With the shift from traditional human resource management to strategic human resource management, the concept of rigid job descriptions have undergone significant dilution. Organizations now look at flexibility and expect the new hire to perform a wide range of diverse tasks. Organizations have also tended to grow flatter over the years, with reporting relationships and hierarchies fast becoming obsolete.

Job specifications have, however, grown in stature in the new age economy and strategic human resource management. In the old world order, hiring managers focused on filling up the numbers and looked at hiring people with the basic skill set to train them for organizational needs. With the emergence of strategic human resource management, HR managers look at an employee-organizational fit, or matching employees goals with organizational goals. As such, the attitude, temperament, the skill set, and competencies of the new hire are of critical importance for the well-being of the company, and the job specifications reflect the type of people the organization plans to induct.

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