designing in success factors to the person specification

Newcastle suggest success factors should;

  • improving the recruitment and selection process
  • clarifying requirements of a role in terms of behaviours
  • helping to set clearer aims and objectives to focus on (addressing how to do something as well as what to do)
  • helping to focus workplace performance on the organisation’s vision and values

They have provided some very brief guidance for success factors in person specifications (  I’d admit this isn’t too useful in explicit examples, however, useful to remember about essential and desirable. In fact I’ve selected a sub set which I’ve included as essential.

I’m currently revisiting the person spec for the ESSD role which will be advertised soon. In particular, I’m thinking how I might use the success factor approach to clarify the requirements of a role in terms of behaviours, and set clearer aims & objectives on how to do something.

The areas under scrutiny are the skills and attributes area of the current job specification. The role is a grade 7, with no line management responsibilities.

The current skills and attributes are;


  • Effective oral and written communication skills
  • Effective interpersonal skills
  • Able to prioritise, develop and implement action plans


  • Energetic and enthusiastic
  • Working to strict deadlines
  • Flexible, adaptable and able to cope with a broad workload
  • Able to take initiative and be proactive
  • Working effectively within a team

Many of the skills and attributes should be able to map across to the success factors, i.e., communication skills, interpersonal skills / relationships with others, planning, initiative and team work.

I’ve re-visited the 12 success factors (broad descriptions), and reduced these to 5 to include within the job specification. I feel these success factors incorporate the current list of skills and attributes.  These will help provide a clear and agreed description of the types of behaviours that are associated with effective performance.

In terms of monitoring, then post interview the successful candidate will be assigned a number of self factors associated with the broad success factor identified on the job description.

The success factors are;

  1. recognises the need for change and is forward looking. Promotes the benefits of change to others and regularly comes up with new ideas. Has the willingness to adopt new ways of working and to make improvements
  2. works collaboratively with others, plays a positive role in teams and establishes and grows relationships across the team where different skills, expertise and opinions are valued.
  3. manages time and resources by prioritising and organising effectively.
  4. works continually towards achieving excellent service delivery through understanding and meeting / exceeding the expectations of the team, the University, students, staff, colleagues and other stakeholders.
  5. projects a positive attitude personal confidence and enthusiasm in order to achieve organisational success.


  1. andyoutandabout

    Comments from a review by Julie included it was an improvement over the previous skills and attributes. However, she it read a little grand, and people might feel quite pressured. Which I must agree with, we thought about removing continually from point 4, and regularly from point 2. Also on point 4 I categories everyone as stake holders.

  2. Gwen vdV

    Glad you like those success factors. I do too, I think this has ‘legs’.

    Not so sure it works with person specifications though. The common expectation is that person specs are written in terms of measurables. That can be an observable behaviour, or a testable understanding or expereince you can evidence or illustrate.

    The success factors relate a lot to attitude and ethos. It may be hard to test at interview. You can however make a judgment when you work with someone for a while, and they themselves can refelct on their attitude and ethos. So for ongoing performance, these are great. But do they work for appointment?

    Maybe in a different way: are success factors the same as the person spec? Is the person the success, or is their work the success?

    I would say you give it a shot and see what the Human Resources colleagues make of it. Why not?

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