Person Specification Lingo (from KSF)

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Person Specification Lingo (from KSF)

Post by Peach »

Sometimes when you read through a person specification or job description there are certain phrases which seem a bit hard to understand. Often these have been lifted directly from the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) that is used to score jobs under Agenda for Change. So, we decided to compile a list of the ones that people often ask about on the forum, and what they might actually mean in practise, along with some discussion/explanation of how you might demonstrate meeting those compentencies.

'Ability to communicate sensitive information to patients, carers or colleagues.'
I think that almost any job involving people probably involved communicating sensitive information so I'm sure you do have experience. Whether it's something relevant like a support work job or something completely different like in retail (I know I had to deal with lots of stroppy customers!). Just try to think of a few situations where you've had to be careful how you word something so someone doesn't take offence, or where you've disagreed on something, or when you've passed on a difficult message. What did you do?

I got asked about this in an interview once and I gave an example of working as a support worker and having a clients' mother ring up frequently for updates on her very unwell son- I obviously could only disclose a limited amount of information (that had been agreed by the NIC), had to be sensitive to her needs and at times this meant that all I could do was arrange for someone more senior to call her back. When I discussed it in the interview I reflected on how I felt about it and what I would do the same/ differently and what I would transfer to similar situations if they arose

“Demonstrates an understanding for the need to use evidence based psychological therapies and how it relates to this post”
I am a little confused because isn't all medication/therapy evidence based? To some extent? I'm not sure how it relates to my role very well either.

OK, for this one:
Imagine you are about to begin some work with a client, and have the choice of using one of two therapeutic interventions.

:arrow: Intervention A is something which you've overheard a couple of former colleagues talking about, which they'd adapted from something they'd seen presented on a CPD event; they've used it in kind of similar-ish cases to your current client, and thought that it mostly worked pretty well, on the whole.
:arrow: Intervention B is something which has been the subject of 15 published papers in the research literature, using a variety of different client groups/ages/cultures, including the demographic to which your client belongs, and focusing on its effectiveness for the nature of the difficulties which your client is currently experiencing. 12 of these published studies have been able to demonstrate statistically significant results indicating effectiveness.

Which one of these interventions, A or B, are you most inclined to use? Why is this?

Evidence based practice is important because I guess it helps professionals recognise whether or not something works. If it has no evidence then why use it? I guess with other therapies other than CBT I think they have a more mixed base of evidence for whether or not something works. Evidence based I guess is preferable because then it makes the use more reliable. As a PWP you help facilitate self-help CBT (which has a lot of evidence supporting it's usefulness). I guess that's the relation.

“Ability to be self reflective, whilst working with service users, in own personal and professional development and in supervision”

Are there any other roles (support worker or volunteer work anywhere) where you have had contact with service users. Perhaps reflective refers to what you have learnt. I think it links more to do with how you focus on improving your own personal practice. Certainly, mention of how you have used supervision here to think about the interface between the personal and professional would be one example.

"Knowledge of evidence-based methods of changing behaviour/challenging behaviour"
The Tizard Centre at the University of Kent contains academic expertise into autism, learning disabilities and challenging behaviour (as well as changing behaviour). Might be an idea to look at publications from the authors listed below (they've uploaded their publications on to the website). ... brown.html

Challenging behaviour: a unified approach from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Think about all your undergrad stuff on behavioural principles, how you apply that in your current role, how it could be used to promote behavioural change and what non-behavioural factors might impact on this. It might be worth mentioning behaviour change interventions or models, such as motivational interviewing and the theory of planned behaviour.

Things I'd be thinking about:
• Why do we need to intervene when there is challenging behaviour? (particularly the social cost i.e. carer stress, social exclusion, being stuck in hospitals and long staff facilities hence not being able to live in the community)
• Valuing people - choice, rights, inclusion - how can we promote these values in our interventions (e.g. offering more choice to someone who has challenging behaviour in a day service - is it the person who has the problem or what the service is offering?)

Mansell report (Tizard centre) - more relevant to community teams
Jeff Sigafoos text on CB applies/illustrates the information really well.
Emerson is also good but a bit harder to digest, John Clements is good too

"Knowledge of psychological models of mental illness"
I'm struggling to come up with anything to demonstrate this, other than simply repeating explicitly the fact that I have knowledge of psychological models of mental illness, or by going into a little more detail of the models and thereby demonstrating my knowledge of them - I feel like both these approaches are far too simplistic and have an air of 'painting by numbers' about them. I have tried to suggest that my interest in core theoretical models of psychopathology and their operationalisation in clinical practice has led me to becoming aware of formulation and the importance role this has within the duties of a clinical psychologist.

It would be helpful to think about how the public or media construe 'mental illness', how it has been seen through a medical model and what psychological ideas can add to that. I'd be wanting to not just say 'these models say this about this diagnosis', but also how that can help the clinicians and the service user to understand the problems differently, reduce stigma, suggest how change might be possible.

"Ability to communicate sensitive information to patients, carers and colleagues in a way that addresses psychological resistance."
"Ability to overcome psychological resistance to potentially threatening information".

It’s a word that comes from the Agenda for Change banding criteria. As I understand it, it is designed to show that the person isn't just communicating something simple like directions or test results, but is talking through difficult and emotive issues.

As it's only 'the ability to' I wouldn't worry about being overly descriptive, but at least you've got evidence to prove it. I think it's just about being diplomatic etc which they're more likely to judge from interviews

I would guess that you are being asked to demonstrate that you are aware that psychological resistance can occur on many levels in a variety of situations, not just within the therapist / client context. I would try to give concrete examples of when you have had to impart sensitive information e.g. as part of your formulation perhaps or when you have been in a multidisciplinary meeting where there have been differing opinions about a case for example. I am assuming that they will want to hear that you have not just boldly stated your views / opinions in the example without having considered how this will be received and as such moderated the way you have delivered the information. If you haven't worked in an NHS setting, then I would suggest that you give an example where, in a work environment for example, you have expressed a view that is opposed to others.

"Please say something about your personal development and state how this may (if at all) impact on your work."
It’s a very broad question and very vague! I think what they are getting at is, have you had a major learning experience that has impacted on how you think about your work? So this might be about gaining experience with a particular client group that has challenged some of your previously held prejudices about that client group. OR it might be that you've had some personal therapy that has helped you to think about the client's perspective. OR it might be that life events have challenged you and made you see things differently e.g. having to care for a relative, or dealing with bereavement. There are many possibilities so you should think carefully about what you want to disclose and how it helps your case.

Yeah, this is a broader question about what has influenced you during your personal and professional life. Its a chance to demonstrate being reflective, and to slot in any personal exposure to issues that has been influential.

"Demonstrate experience of developing psychological interventions"
"Brief details on previous training you have received in the clinical practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or other structured Psychological Intervention (give dates and place of course, workshops etc and who provided these)."

Mention any form of structured therapy you've done, even on a single case basis. I'm guessing they'd like to hear of one fitted to a model with evidence base, but this could be STR or DBT or graded exposure or whatever. How about if you have adapted/developed an intervention to be used in a group setting? Especially if you have used outcome measures pre & post intervention and then gone on to refine the programme and run the group again.....

I guess you could demonstrate doing this in two different ways.
i) Showing an example of where you did develop a psychological intervention. The sort of thing that could count may be setting up a therapeutic group, developing a therapeutic sub-service previously not offered (e.g. you offering panic attack sessions during a primary care placement), which are things that trainees can sometimes be asked to do. There you would talk about identifying the need, doing the background research, scoping the resources, coordinating, implementing it and auditing it.

ii) If you don't have that kind of experience, you can get around this by showing how you have experience of above steps, only separately. E.g. Your service related project may identify a given need, your PhD as evidence of your ability to do background research, your clinical experience showing you can implement therapy, your audit experience etc. You therefore show the skills even if you have not done that task in the past.

You could also demonstrate it if you have completed a functional analysis of challenging behaviour, formulated, and then developed an individualised intervention based upon that.

"Experience and knowledge of general practice and primary care"
Primary care is defined by DoH as: the term for the health services that play a central role in the local community: GPs, pharmacists, dentists and midwives. Primary care providers are usually the first point of contact for a patient. They also follow a patient throughout their care pathway.

If it's a post in mental health, then trying searching this site for 'IAPT' - These threads will have lots of info on primary care mental health services (which are often in GP practices)

"Ability to identify and employ as appropriate clinical governance mechanisms for the support and maintenance of clinical practice in the face of regular exposure to highly emotive and challenging behaviour."
I'd guess at as meaning "use supervision to cope with the stressful material that people share with you, and use the appropriate local pathways to deal with the problems that you can't help people with alone". But I think it’s to earn points on KSF for coping with emotional stress, and using autonomy, judgement, and self-monitoring - so why not check out the definitions in the KSF handbook?

It looks like an amalgamation of at least 2 KSF descriptors - one to do with using Clinical Governance and one to do with working with complexity/emotive/challenging stuff. I would really struggle to address a point in the person spec that was worded as convolutedly as that!! I wonder if you can get a KSF guide of some sort from your workplace, or look online.

"Assessment and analysis skills that are transferable to the clinical arena" Is this a question about my stats and research skills?
I think it is more to do with assessment and analysis tools used in clinical work. E.g. understanding someone’s difficulties within a psychological framework, rather than statistical analysis. So, to show that you can observe things ina structured way then begin to make sense of them, even if it isn't as formalised a process as psychological assessment and formulation.

“Experience or knowledge of working with services to emotionally demanding clients”
It is a very broad criterion to meet, in my view. I think that it might be trying to get you to talk about your experiences of working with people who have had an impact on you emotionally, and how you managed that. LD is an area of work that can evoke a wide range of emotions, and the individuals themselves can be very demanding, in a variety of ways. For me it was very emotionally demanding, and a real journey. It brings up a lot of "stuff' it’s not just the clients, it’s how we as practitioners manage them, the system around the individuals, and society's prejudice towards them. Just some reflection points for you!

Yeah, this one is about showing you can work with your own response to situations, whether it is disclosures of abuse, or people who are insulting to you, or people who are injured or disfigured, or people who seem to 'manipulate' your attempts to help - lots of the work we do has a massive impact on us emotionally and its how you would contain that, what you'd do to support yourself and not feel burdened/depressed from it.

“Demonstrates understanding of anxiety and depression and how it may present in Primary Care”
Have a think about physical health complaints and how they relate to anxiety and depression (e.g. sleep problems, tiredness, lethargy in depression, or palpitations, hyperventilation, muscle tension in anxiety/panic). People may present with physical health problems that are symptomatic of their mental health problems. Obviously they may also present with other particular symptoms that are causing considerable distress (e.g. intrusive thoughts or thoughts of self-harm).

Also think about the impact on day-to-day functioning, e.g. withdrawal in depression/avoidance in anxiety, and what this means for the person (might be inability to do their job, etc). I think what's important here is to show that you know what's meant by anxiety and depression from a 'professional' PoV but also how your average person would experience it and what might make them go to their GP about it.

When we see people we usually break down how their feeling (whether it be anxiety of depression) into 5 areas:
Triggers - what situations/ thoughts/ feelings lead them to feel anxious/ depressed
Thoughts - stuff like 'I’m no good' 'i shouldn't be feeling like this' etc
Physical sensations - so in depression things like lethargy, loss of appetite/ over eating, not sleeping/sleeping too much, loss of concentration and for anxiety it could be things like headaches, stomach pains, feeling dizzy, muscle tension etc.
Behaviours - this would be things like withdrawing from or avoiding situations that make them feel anxious/ depressed.
Feelings - fairly obvious really stuff like irritability, low mood, low self esteem.

So those are things you would see in people presenting in primary care with depression or anxiety. Often people find it hard to access their thoughts when you first ask them, so will often be presenting with the physical symptoms (especially in anxiety) until you assess them and probe for the other dimensions to their problem.

“Capacity for providing services in highly constrained or adverse conditions”
I think its AfC/KSF speak for not always having ideal working environments in a physical or emotional sense. Perhaps long waiting lists, shortage of resources, clients unwilling to take part?

In a secure setting in particular, the likelihood is that the environment is going to be constrained by locked doors, security, tons of rules, home office decisions about leave etc Do you have the capacity to work in this kind of environment? What skills do you have that are relevant? How have you demonstrated those skills in the past? Think about how it might be to do therapy with people who are only doing it so that they can be released, empathy, imaginative ways of engaging people etc.

“Good theoretical knowledge of the concept and principles of therapeutic milieu, and the relevance of it to today’s practice”
I think about this in terms of the psychoanalytic therapy FRAME - i.e. the things that make up a therapy space. You can think of these at a variety of levels - therapist factors (profession, skills, models etc), time, setting, service, NHS politics ... I'm sure you can think of plenty of threats to all of these at the current time

I guess for me, I'd think of children's homes, and how some try to step beyond providing physical care, containment and safety into emotional care, containment and safety, by being more aware of the meaning of behaviour, the language that is used, the dynamics of the team and the history of the individuals. I guess for me a therapeutic milieu is a culture of awareness of more psychological aspects, and the ability to look backwards and repair, as well as manage the here and now. You see its absence in wards, schools or homes with very medical or behavioural models sometimes.

An amazon search throws up quite a lot of potential reading. I haven't read any personally. However, I know it is old, but my supervisor recommended to me "the other 23 hours" as still being relevant on this topic.

“Personal experience of using mental health services”
I would think your experience of a friend or relative should be sufficient. A job cannot expect all applicants to have had personal experience of mental health service. If 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems, not all these necessarily come into contact with services.

It would seem to me that they are being positive about applicants with a history of mental health issues. On the application I think they'd just want people to have insight about what it is like to be a service user, and to know that people who use services are just us under more stress!

Could also be using mental health services to gain information for others, for example I thought my friend was changing their behaviour so I sought information from X Y or Z, even if you have had personal experience of MH services it is up to you if you disclose this in application/interview or leave it to occupational health to deal with.

“Good knowledge of 'national policy in relations to mental health”
Does this mean things like current issue with regards to mental health and what is outlined by DOH?

You could look at National Service Frameworks too. Also things like New Ways of Working, the IAPT initiative, the good practise guidelines released by the BPS, all those kinds of things.

“Experience of joint working and multi-agency and partnership working”
"Experience in a MDT"

This is about having positive working relationships with people from different professional groups, and from other employers than your own. Being able to get around the political and language barriers to put together a good service for a client.

When working as an AP you often need to speak to other organisations especially in LD or children services. I wouldn’t worry about it, I would just add a sentence about effective communication with other services/and attending relevant meetings etc

Think about things like:
Have you had conversations with MDT staff or had to listen to important information from the MDT?
Have you ever had to approach doctors for medical purposes on behalf of patients?
Have you had to find out information on behalf of a patient in terms of groups/care?
If you haven't done these, think of reasons that is vital that the MDT do engage with each other and how it can jeopardise treatment if there isn't a well established MDT who work alongside each other.

“DTP Packages for report production”
'DTP packages' refers to Desk Top Publishing packages. A wikipedia link here gives examples of software used for DTP (basically packages that allow you to combine text and pictures on the same page). I'd think it was useful also to mention if you've used powerpoint or done things like newsletters or leaflets for your service, even if you've used Word to do it.

"Knowledge of personal care and related procedures, NVQ2 or equivalent experience"
Personal care entails assisting with daily living needs. You need to have the ability to help with dressing, eating and drinking, mobility, accompanying clients in the community (handling money etc), and assist with social interaction. Job roles in residential homes (for older people, or those with learning disabilities etc) often require the ability to provide personal care of this type.

In addition to having these skills, (which it itself is rather easy), you need to be able to demonstrate knowledge of empathy, respect for privacy, equality, liberty and free will, risk assessment and so on. NVQ 2 is roughly equivalent to A level, but is acquired through work experience and a small amount of study. You can claim to have equivalent qualifications in terms of level of study, but you will, as per the advert, need to demonstrate that you have the capability to care for people. Personal experience does count, so if you have ever cared for an older relative, or a sibling, you can mention this on your form.

Some random websites that might give you further clues: ... 00386/l02/ ... eader-page

“Previous experience of working on clinical research database”
Sounds like the post may involve working on an audit, service evaluation or doing literature searches – flag up any relevant skills/research experience gained from your psychology degree or elsewhere (collecting data, using databases, SPSS etc).

“An ability to apply existing psychological knowledge to health and social service/mental health contexts”
“An understanding of psychology applied to health care”

Do people address both of these in the supporting info? What’s the difference? I've just talked about applying operant conditioning to care plans. Is that okay?

Yeah both are and social care think social services, social workers, health inequalities, foster care...and then attachment needs, just as an example. Health care you could be talking about models of health and illness, a physical setting, and there are just masses in the mental health field. Health and social care, is more to do with the bigger picture. And healthcare is more concerned with how an individual’s health is affecting them. But the 2 are far from being mutually exclusive.

How about these examples:
• 'As an ABA tutor to a 4-year-old autistic boy, I had to learn Makaton as part of the treatment approach, which used the theory of Skinner’s operant conditioning as its basis.'
• 'This role [telephone helpline volunteer] entailed offering a listening ear along the lines of a person-centred counselling model combined with some strategies derived from CBT and motivational interviewing approaches. '
• Think about core psychological models like Beck, operant conditioning, etc, and explain how they were part of your work. We apply theory all the time but often don't think explicitly about it.

You don't have much space on the form and no room to waffle so use just one situation or setting in which you applied the psychological knowledge. You only need to enable the shortlister to tick the box to say you've done it and that's fine.

“Worked in a service where agreed targets in place demonstrating clinical outcomes”
This is about collecting data from people before and after interventions to see if anything changes. The NHS is getting increasingly hot on this, and each client group has recommended measures, like HoNOS, SDQ, etc.

IAPT use data called 'IAPT minimum data set' or sometimes called 'IAPT routine outcome measures' - try googling these on the IAPT website. Alternatively Google PHQ-9, GAD7, WASA and IAPT Phobia Scale.

There might be targets within your service for the number of people who are seen to 'recover' using the above scales or those who return to work. Also, you might well have targets for the number of patients you see each week or the number on your caseload (a total number for the service may be built into their contract with the commissioners). ....can you think of a job where you have had anything similar?

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Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on 19/6/2010
Last modified on 19/6/2010
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