Essential documents | Christian Vocations

Essential documents

Once you have completed your job analysis, you can start work on the essential documents ready for recruitment. These documents are the job description, person specification, job application form, and information about your church / organisation. If these can be provided all together in one 'pack' for the applicants, it will help in making the recruitment process go smoothly. 

1. The job description

The job description should clearly describe the job - including its main purpose, key tasks, and how it fits into the existing structure.

A good job description lays a foundation for writing the person specification, allows potential candidates to work out whether (or not) the role is actually suitable for them, and also helps with performance management.

How to write a job description
  • The main purpose of the job – ask yourself, what is the job intended to achieve? Aim to outline this in one or two sentences maximum, summarising the overall purpose of the job in an attractive but clear and factual way. 
  • Main tasks – clearly list the main duties of the post and also the results that are expected. Be specific, and do mention the boring bits!  It will either help people de-select themselves – or prepare them for what is really in store when they arrive.
  • The extent of the job – give more information about how important the job is and how it fits into the overall purpose of your organisation/church, as well as any further duties and responsibilities.
Discrimination alert

When putting together the job description be careful not to inadvertently discriminate. For example:

  • If you are asking for a particular sex (male or female) is that an essential and justified requirement of the role, rather than a mere preference?
  • Because it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because they hold (or do not hold) a particular religious belief, you should avoid asserting that a post-holder must be a Christian unless it is clearly justified in your job description. (See How should we go about recruitment and selection by Mark Mason for a suggested recruitment procedure for an organisation with a Christian ethos.)
  • If you cannot assert that the postholder must be a Christian, be careful that you don’t include criteria that make it harder for people who aren’t Christians to meet them - unless they can be clearly justified.
  • Does the job definitely need to be a full-time role or could it be two part-time roles/a job share?
2. The person specification

The person specification is just as important as the job description, but is different.

What is the point of a person specification?
  • Whilst a job description outlines the main tasks, the person specification outlines the main qualities which the person will need in order do those tasks well. It is basically a picture of the ideal person for the role.
  • The person specification is crucial - you are most likely to get the best person for the job when your initial shortlisting is based primarily on the person specification. (And if so, make this clear in your paperwork, for instance, “the following specification of essential and desirable attributes will guide the selection panel in their shortlisting - applicants should address their application to these”.)
  • The person specification also enables potential candidates to work out whether (or not) the role is actually suitable for them to apply for.
  • The person specification provides clear criteria to help those who will shortlist the applications.
How to write a person specification

The person specification should be written after the job description (and not before).

Split the person specification up into main areas: (but do note that these can be termed or structured differently if you wish*):

  • Skills and abilities – for example ‘good oral and written communication skills’ or ‘strong research and analytical skills’.
  • Knowledge and education - include only necessary professional or academic qualifications for the role, for example ‘CIPD qualified’, or ‘knowledge of and competency in Microsoft products, especially Office 2010’.
  • Relevant experience – for example ‘previous office and administrative experience’, or ‘experience of contributing to the development of HR Policies and Procedures’.
  • Personal qualities / other attributes / aptitudes – for example, ‘diplomatic skills and tact’, ‘self-motivated’.

*For example, other suggestions include:

  • Qualification, experience, skills, knowledge, competencies
  • Qualifications and experience, skills and knowledge, personal qualities, special conditions

Person specification criteria must be:

  • Relevant - you should be able to see a direct connection between what is on the person specification and the duties outlined in the job description.
  • Justified - can you objectively justify your reason for the requirement? Is a particular qualification really necessary, or is experience just as relevant? Be careful not to include criteria beyond those really necessary to do the job – it might rule out otherwise suitable candidates.
  • Measurable – you need to be able to test or measure the criteria in some way. Some things such as enthusiasm, attitude, etc. are difficult to measure.
  • Non-discriminatory - be conscious of both direct and indirect discrimination (see examples in ‘Discrimination alert’).

But don't have more criteria than necessary - you might end up restricting the pool of suitable candidates.

Once you have decided on your criteria you then need to decide if they are essential or desirable - but take care to avoid listing requirements as essential if they are not actually essential, as this adds to the potential for discrimination.

  • ‘Essential’ criteria are those attributes or qualifications without which a person would be unable to adequately perform the job. Anyone who does not meet these requirements can be ruled out straight away.
  • ‘Desirable’ criteria include anything that is not essential but that contributes significantly to effective performance. Anyone who meets these criteria is likely to be able to do the job better. Desirable criteria can help you choose between good candidates who all meet the essential criteria.

Finally, you need to think about how the items in the person specification can be measured and tested. There are some key ways you can do this, and it is helpful to think of measuring each aspect in more than one way if at all possible. Suggested areas are as follows:

A = application form      I = interview       T = test or exercise     P = presentation

It is helpful for candidates applying for the position if the way you will be measuring the criteria is flagged up in the person specification. For example, by adding in the initials at the end of each description: “Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including writing for and understanding different audiences and channels" (A), (P), (T)

Discrimination alert

When writing the job description and person specification, be aware of possible pitfalls:

Sexual discrimination

  • The job title you use should not be gender specific — for example, ‘waitress', ‘salesman', ‘manageress' and ‘Headmaster’ should be avoided. If you wish to include something gender specific in the job title you must have a clearly justifiable reason for doing so (see below). 

Racial discrimination

  • Where language is an important part of the role you must state that someone must be able to speak the language rather than being from a particular country, for example 'Italian speaking' rather than 'Italian'.

Age discrimination

  • Avoid words such as ‘youthful', ‘mature' or ‘recent graduate’. All these terms could be seen as excluding someone from applying for a role based on their age.
  • Asking for a certain level or length of experience from candidates could be deemed as discriminating against someone who hasn't had the opportunity to gain that experience as they are too young. There are other ways of rephrasing this, such as asking for candidates who have demonstrated experience in a certain task.

Disability discrimination

  • Some jobs do have physical requirements which are essential (for example, firefighters have various physical fitness tests to pass), but you must ensure it is a genuine requirement for the role rather than something which is ‘nice to have'.

Discrimination on grounds of religion or belief

  • It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because they hold (or do not hold) a particular religious belief. You should avoid asserting that a post-holder must be a Christian in your advertising unless it is clearly justified in your job description and person specification. ((See How should we go about recruitment and selection by Mark Mason for a suggested recruitment procedure for an organisation with a Christian ethos.)

From XpertHRAre there any circumstances in which an employer can specify, for example, the required race, gender, sexual orientation or age of job applicants?  There are certain defined exceptions in the Equality Act 2010, known as occupational requirements. These, broadly, apply when a job can be performed effectively only by someone with a particular protected characteristic, eg either a man or a woman, a person of a specific racial or religious group, a person of a particular sexual orientation, a disabled person or a person of a particular age group. To rely on the exception, the employer must show that, having regard to the nature or context of the work, having the particular protected characteristic is an occupational requirement and that the application of the requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in the Employment statutory code of practice, states that "a women's refuge which lawfully provides services to women only can apply a requirement for all members of its staff to be women".

3. The application form

The two mains ways in which applications are likely to be received are as a Curriculum Vitae / Resume (often with an accompanying letter of application) or an application form (although there is also a growing use of LinkedIn in recruitment these days).

CVs / Resumes or LinkedIn profiles

The advantage of CVs or LinkedIn profiles for the individual is that they are not restricted to a standard format and they can choose to present themselves in their own way, allowing more flexibility and creativity. They can also use the same (or similar) profile for multiple jobs. However, the major limitation in using these formats is that it is very difficult for those shortlisting to consistently rate candidates alongside each other when their CVs / profiles look so different.

Application forms

The main advantage of an application form is that it allows information to be presented in a consistent format by each candidate. A standard form makes it easier to collect relevant information from applicants in a systematic way. Those involved in shortlisting can then objectively and consistently assess each candidate’s suitability for the job, comparing the information provided against the person specification and job description, thus allowing candidates to compete on equal terms. It also encourages those involved in shortlisting to focus on relevant evidence and helps with sifting out unsuitable candidates. (It can also be used as a basis for the interview.)

For these reasons we encourage the use of standard application forms in recruitment.

Application forms should be appropriate to the level of the role, and ask only for information relevant to the job including:

  • Information about the applicant: basic biographical details, their current and previous employment / paid or voluntary work experience and notice requirements.
  • Skills and knowledge: education and training, professional or technical qualifications, training and development (non-qualification courses that support the application or on-the-job training that has been undertaken).
  • Personal statement: a section on the form that allows candidates to explain how they meet the requirements of the job description and the person specification (it will make shortlisting much easier if this section uses the same headings as those used in the person specification).
  • References– you will probably want to ask for two types of reference: a professional reference (usually from a current employer or manager) and a character or personal reference (this needs to come from an independent person, who knows the candidate well). When the job has an ‘occupational requirement’ that the postholder is a committed Christian, you may also wish to ask for a reference from a leader of the church the individual attends. Ensure you make it clear on the application form at what point in the recruitment process any references will be taken up, and ask applicants to indicate that they are happy for you to contact their referees at this point - you should only ask for references with the permission of the applicant.

Practical details

  • Keep the design, format and language of the application form clear and simple.
  • All applications should be treated with confidentiality and only those who are involved in the recruitment process itself should see the applications.
  • Ensure you have a clear recruitment privacy policy for all those involved in the process to adhere to throughout – in line with current Data Protection legislation. Share this policy with each candidate, so that they know how the details of their application are to be kept, for what purposes and for how long.
  • Make sure you promptly acknowledge each application - it is good practice and also presents a positive image of your church / organisation. It is important to remember that at each stage of the recruitment process applicants are building up a picture of your organisation or church and whether or not you are the kind of organisation they would like to work for.
Discrimination alert
  • Allowing candidates to choose whether they fill in the form in their own handwriting or type on an electronic version is important so as not to discriminate against those with disabilities that affect writing ability, or applicants whose first language is not English.
  • It will usually be unlawful to ask health-related questions at the application stage. 
  • You will reduce the risk of discrimination if you separate personal information from the rest of the application for those involved in the shortlisting stage, so that they can shortlist 'blind' to reduce the chance of bias.
4.   Information about the organisation/employer

It is a good idea to prepare some general information about your organisation / church to send to potential applicants. This is a great opportunity to share your vision with them, and to give them an understanding of who you are and what you do. Do also include links to your website and social media accounts if appropriate. 

For larger organisations you may also wish to include details of the department or office in which the job is located, and any other information related to the needs of applicants.

If there are additional documents that applicants need to see before they apply, include these in your application 'pack'.

Helpful resources - including sample documents and templates, and information about data protection and HR records.