Position Description vs Person Description

Position Description vs Person Description

This is part 4 in a 6 part series

When a firm is seeking a new person to join their team, they immediately look for the technical requirements of the role. Admittedly, technical skills are paramount. Personality and people skills are also important. If you’re working with a particular client base, you want the person coming in to have the personal skills to be able to deal with them. You want this person to fit in with the culture.

Every person joining your team affects the culture

Position Description

Having worked with professional services firms for 6+ years, we’ve occasionally seen a position description. Very rarely do they offer insight further than the technical aspects of the role. Even when describing the technical requirements, they tend to glaze over the particulars such as client base, complexity of clients, or the compliance to advisory ratios.

A thorough position description should highlight exactly what the role will entail. People seeking to join you, will want to see what the work they will be doing looks like.

  • Are you working with more complicated groups?
  • Are you specialising in a particular sector?
  • Are you working with clients embarking on exciting endeavours?

Position descriptions should visualise the nature of work being completed and your EVP

You don’t necessarily need to be working with the biggest clients around town. You don’t need to be working on the most complex tax matters. You don’t need to have the largest team in town. What you need, is to be true to your Employer Value Proposition and find people who compliment that.

Position descriptions written well, are excellent at showing someone what they will be doing today. A lot of people want to see what tomorrow looks like though.

  • Where will this role take me?
  • What are the benefits of this role compared to where I currently am?
  • How does this compliment my personal long term goals?

These are the questions that a lot of people ask, and what it really comes down to. At the end of the day, it needs to resonate with them – else what is the point in moving?

Person Description

Once you’ve ascertained what this person will be required to do, it’s essential to look at who will fit the team. So far, you’ve undertaken gap analysis and therefore realise what skills you need to bring in. Then you’ve looked at your EVP and culture and that will define who will fit into this role. Creating an avatar around what the suitable person will look like helps you identify them when you meet them.

If you’re seeking someone at the Manager (or above level):

  • Are they someone who is more introverted or extroverted?
  • Are they a finder who can win work, or a minder who can manage clients?
  • What type of personality would fit with the team?

The who is imperative to building your team and developing your culture. Your EVP should be authentic. It should resonate with the person looking to potentially join you. This isn’t necessarily something that happens over one or two meetings – it takes time. You want the assurance that you understand how this person thinks – as do they.

If you’re looking for someone who can be in front of clients, you would require that their personality fit with your client base. If you’re seeking someone who can be a conduit between yourself and the team, you would prefer their personality complimented yours.


Position descriptions define what . Person descriptions define who .

In Practice

Recently, we were working with a Partner who needed a second in charge. This particular Partner is an exceptional business developer and has a very high standard for everyone they work with. Being a mid-sized practice, they were able to leverage that to win work from larger and smaller practices.

The problem? They were perceived to be quite demanding. Staff felt that they weren’t being adequately briefed on jobs and weren’t receiving sufficient training to complete work as required. Receiving updates and review points from the Partner at 10 pm was getting a bit tiresome.

After examining the role and the opportunity at hand, we challenged what the Partner was seeking. The position description simply outlined that the incoming Manager would need to be able to manage files, train staff, manage client queries, and achieve their KPIs. Defining the person description demonstrated that we needed to find someone who could be the intermediary between the staff and the Partner; someone who was even-tempered and not overly fussed by how the Partner was. Someone who had patience and would be able to show the team what they needed to understand.

Defining this meant that we were able to identify the right people thereby saving the Partner time. The person who fit both the Person Description and Position Description is still there and has implemented systems to improve efficiencies internally.


Working in Professional Services, the who is crucial. Having the right skills ensures that you complete engagements accordingly. People are the foundation of your business and considering the amount of time we spend in the office, we want to ensure that we’re working with people whom we get along with. We all have our idiosyncrasies and ‘interesting’ traits. It’s what makes us human. Combining these traits and personalities creates diversity. Having them united towards the same vision builds culture. It builds a firm that people want to come to. It builds unity.

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