Uses for National Occupational Standards

NOS have many potential uses and are available for a wide range of occupations, for example:

Hairdressers – NOS set out what you must be able to do to cut, colour and style hair competently and what legislation and health and safety requirements you need to know and understand to maintain effective and safe methods of working in a salon.

Painters & Decorators – Identify what you need to be able to do to prepare and treat surfaces for painting, apply paint and hang wallcoverings and what you need to know and understand to dispose of waste and handle emergencies and any health and safety equipment required.

Mechanical technicians – Find out what you need to know for tasks such as carrying out routine vehicle maintenance, servicing vehicles, disposing of waste materials and reducing risks to health and safety.

Animal grooming  – Identify what you need to be able to do to prepare the animal ready for grooming, using the correct techniques and equipment and promote the animal’s wellfare at all times and what environmental, animal health and welfare legislation and codes of practice you need to understand.

role profile captures a set of competences that are most relevant in a particular job.

Role profiles are a useful way of looking at the functions required both for a particular role and across a range of roles.  By comparing roles, profile differences and commonalities can be clearly highlighted. The outcomes of this comparison can be used by organisations and individuals for a range of practical purposes. For example, whilst information could be used by a manager or organisation to identify common work functions in order to plan training and development activities, it could also be used by an individual to assist in plotting career pathways and identifying skills and knowledge that would need to be obtained to progress from one role to another.

Step 1:  Determine the purpose and requirements of the job

  • Start by identifying the job role – what tasks, activities and relationships with others does it involve?
  • This information may already be in a job description, however, check that it is up-to-date and adequately reflects the work activity. There may be other activities associated with the role that should be included. It would be appropriate to use the job title at this stage to look for the NOS on the NOS database.

Step 2:  Identify standards that relate to the role

  • Take each task or responsibility in turn, and identify the standard(s) that appear most relevant.
  • For each standard identified, examine the summary, outcomes of effective performance and knowledge to identify the most relevant 
  • In some cases standards will match individual tasks, duties or responsibilities well.  In other cases standards will be applicable to more than one task, duty or responsibility.
  • Some tasks, duties or responsibilities will require more than one standard for complete coverage.  If there are no standards appropriate to that task, duty or responsibility in that set, it may necessary to consider another set of standards.

Step 3:  Identify standards from other sectors where required

  • Decide whether the tasks, duties or responsibilities are being considered and likely to be covered in a different set of standards.
  • Use the NOS database at  to search for appropriate standards to inform the tasks, duties or responsibilities not already covered.

Step 4: Produce a role profile for the job

  • Once all the relevant standards have been identified, a draft role profile can be produced, i.e. a list of the competent performance criteria as derived from the standards that relate to the particular role.  
  • The knowledge derived from the relevant standards can also help to inform a person specification or minimum requirements for the role.  A role profile should be reviewed periodically to ensure that it continues to reflect the job role in question.

NOS can be used as the basis for recruitment.  They will allow for a fair and effective recruitment process, with candidates and employers clear about what is required.

The following steps are suggested: 

Step 1:  Identify purpose of the job

  • Establish purpose of the job – where it fits within the organisation and identify job title.  The job may have been created owing to people leaving your business and the position being reviewed and /or new services are needed within the organisation.

Step 2:  Identify relevant NOS

  • Identify the main tasks and responsibilities of the Job.  The standards on the NOS database are a useful starting point for this.
  • Identify the standards that are relevant to the job role, including any generic standards such as those for management and leadership, customer care or IT skills.
  • Once the relevant set of standards has been identified, go through the list of units within each set of standards, using them as a checklist and selecting the units relevant to the functions of the job.

Step 3:  List tasks and responsibilities

  • Look at the units in more detail and use them as a guide, together with other relevant information from the organisation such as previous job descriptions, input from current job holders and the specific requirements of the post to develop a list of main tasks for the job. 
  • It is important that the appropriate numbers of tasks are identified.  If they are too few in number then the job description may not provide an adequate description of what is required.   There will be other tasks /functions included in the job on an occasional basis, therefore these need to be acknowledged as part of the job description.

Example of a Functional Analysis that shows Key Purpose, Key Areas and Key Roles

Example of Functional Analysis

Each one of the Key Roles has a number of Possible NOS Titles attached.

Here are some examples of front-of-house functions with Possible NOS Titles (marked with *) 

  • welcoming guests on arrival 
  • dealing with reservations by phone, e-mail, and face-to-face *
  • checking guests into and out of the hotel, allocating rooms and handing out keys 
  • preparing bills and taking payments* 
  • taking and passing on messages to guests 
  • dealing with special requests from guests (booking theatre tickets or storing valuables) 
  • answering questions about facilities in the hotel and the surrounding area 
  • dealing with complaints or problems*
  • using office equipment

In most hotels, you would use a computerised system to make reservations and keep room bookings and availability details up-to-date. You would work as part of a team and you may specialise in one aspect such as telephone reservations or checkouts.

Step 4:  Develop a person specification

  • A person specification for the job should include the relevant knowledge and skills requirements for each of the units you have used from the standards, plus suitable qualifications and experience.
  • The person specification should be detailed enough to ensure that applicants are suited for the role, but not so specific as to exclude potential candidates who might develop into the role.  For this reason, the person specification is often separated into those characteristics and skills which are essential and those which are desirable.

Step 5:  Complete the job description

  • The job description should contain the remaining information that applicants need in order to decide whether the job is suitable for them. This could include remuneration package, summary of terms and conditions, the department in which the job is based, title of the post to whom the job holder reports and whether anyone reports to job holder.

Step 6:  Interview criteria and questions

  • The standards can also be used to prepare for the job interviews. Interview criteria and questions can be prepared which test candidates’ levels of experience, skills, knowledge, and understanding against the requirements of the relevant standards.  The competence–based approach allows for fair assessment of candidates against objective criteria and supports equal opportunities in recruitment practice.

NOS can be used to support employees in identifying training and development needs, improve performance in current roles, and to support career progression.

Training plans and training courses can be developed to meet organisational and individual learning needs.  NOS can be used to inform content of training as they specify in detail what constitutes good practice.  They can also be used to evaluate training by defining expected outcomes.

Training providers (public and private sector) can use NOS to help ensure that training programmes do relate to employment needs

Conducting Training Needs Analysis

Step 1: Identify areas for development 

Consider :-

  • Work that is vital to your organisation, your workforce and individual employees. 
  • Other work that the individual does that is important for your organisation 

Step 2: Identify relevant NOS

  • Conduct a search on the NOS database to identify any sets of standards that are relevant to the role, including generic standards – management, leadership, customer care and IT skills.
  • Once the relevant sets of standards have been identified, go through lists of units within each standard, using them as a checklist and selecting the units relevant to the functions and job.
  • Consider development needs too – are there areas of competence that need to be developed in order to build on the individual’s career.
  • Use the standards in order to ascertain the relevant knowledge and skills needed to progress in the role.

Step 3: Assess competence

  • Consider each unit selected and assess how competent the individual feels in each area.  In the areas that need developing, look at the underpinning knowledge criteria for the unit and identify whether there are particular areas where knowledge and skills can be developed in order to support the individual’s performance.

Step 4: Plan ways to meet T&D needs

  • Once agreed as to which of the tasks from the NOS the individual would like to meet, identify what T&D needs are.

Step 5: Training & Development Plan

  • Once the T&D needs of staff /entire workforce have been assessed and ways to meet them have been identified, then you can produce a T&D plan for your organisation as well as prepare individual plans for each member of staff.

The NOS can be used as part of your appraisal process, to assist with setting objectives, to help with evaluating performance and identifying training/development needs.  Using the NOS gives staff a recognised good-practice framework to work towards, providing benchmarks against which performance can be objectively and fairly assessed and supporting further development of the staff.

The following are suggested as 5 key steps in which NOS can be used in the appraisal process.

Step 1:  Identify standards relevant to the job role.

Do a search on the NOS database to identify any set of standards that are relevant to the job role, including generic standards, e.g. for Management and Leadership, IT User Skills and Customer Care. Once you have identified the relevant sets of standards, go through the list, using them as a checklist and selecting units relevant to the functions of the job.

Step 2:  Setting objectives

  • An appraisal will only be effective if it compares performance to clear and agreed objectives. All objectives should be agreed and SMART
    • Specific - Objectives should be clear about what is required. 
    • The standards are useful in defining what should be required in order to perform a certain function effectively.
    • Measurable - It must be possible to measure performance of any objectives.
    • The standards can help here in designing objectives that can be measured in accordance with agreed criteria.
    • Achievable - Objectives can be challenging, but they must be achievable and within the control of the job holder.
    • Realistic - Objectives must be realistic, particularly in terms of having resources to get the job done. 
    • Time-framed - Objectives need to be developed within a specific time frame.

Depending on the role, some objectives will have to be in the form of on-going tasks central to the job throughout the year, others will be more time limited.

Step 3:  Appraise performance

  • The standards can be useful at the appraisal meeting as they allow the job holder to demonstrate performance against objective measures (i.e. the statements within the standards) and can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify any improvements that can be made.

Step 4: Plan for the future

  • Having considered the previous year’s performance, appraisal should end by looking ahead and set objectives, using the process outlined above.

Step 5:  Assess Training & Development Needs

  • An important part of the appraisal is to identify any T&D needs required. These needs may be identified as a result of measuring performance and establishing what additional training is needed to meet existing and new objectives.
  • If standards are used as part of job design and objective setting process, they will provide a ready-made and extensive list of the knowledge, understanding and skills required for successful performance and therefore identify gaps in staff training needs.

‘Competency’ may be defined as the behaviours (and where appropriate, technical attributes) that individuals must have or must acquire to perform effectively at work.

A ‘competency framework’ is a structure that sets out and defines each individual competency (such as ‘problem solving’ or ‘people management’) required by individuals working in an organisation or part of an organisation. It provides the individual with a map or indication of the behaviours and actions that will be valued, recognised, and in some organisations, rewarded.

While competency frameworks originally consisted mainly of the ‘softer skills’ involved in effective performance, increasingly they have become broader in scope and include more technical competencies.

When designing a competency framework, only measurable components should be included. It is advisable to restrict the number and complexity of competencies - the number of competencies should not be more than 12 for any particular role. They should be arranged in clusters to make the framework more accessible to users.  The frameworks should contain definition and/or examples of each competency.

Competency frameworks are developed in a number of ways.  Methods may range from importing an existing ready-made package to developing from scratch.  It appears however that frameworks are usually developed in-house.  Many of the subjects included in employers’ competency frameworks tend to come under generic headings.

Titles/Headings found in employer competency frameworks include

  • communication skills
  • people management
  • team skills 
  • customer service skills 
  • results orientation 
  • problem solving .

National Occupational Standards (NOS) can help in the process of developing competency frameworks.  As the Standards cover activities from the operational to the strategic and describe best practice in terms of the outcomes and knowledge required of those undertaking the activities, they can inform  competency frameworks  used by organisations, either by selecting relevant standards or extracts from them.

Here are a few steps that might be followed to identify and use the relevant NOS as part of the framework development activity:

Step 1: Define the purpose of the competency framework

  • It is important to be clear about the purpose of the proposed competency framework (e.g. a framework for filling a job vacancy).  The framework should not be developed solely by HR personnel; try to involve those who do the job day to day as well as getting a variety of inputs into what makes someone successful in that job.

Step 2: Gather information

  • This is a significant part of the work to develop the competency framework.
  • Consider the methods/techniques you will use to gather information about the role(s) and the work involved in each one. As you gather the information record what you learn in behavioural statements. For example, if Raymond from Accounting is involved in book-keeping, you might break that down into behavioural statements: handles petty cash, maintains cash float, pays vendors according to policy. Other roles may have similar tasks and therefore book-keeping may be a competency within that framework.
  • Once you have gathered sufficient information, read through the behaviour statements and group them under headings. You may need to divide a large group into sub-groups or categories. This provides the basic structure of the competency framework. Then, begin to identify and name the competencies to represent each of the sub-groups of behaviours.

Step 3: Use NOS to assist in developing the framework

  • Now that you have information from inside the organisation about the role(s) it would be appropriate to consider how the NOS can help the process of developing the framework.  You may wish to consider any existing lists of competencies produced from NOS for NVQ and SVQ-related frameworks, which can be customised.

Step 4:  Identify the NOS that relate to the particular job role(s)

  • Undertake a search on the NOS database to identify any NOS that relate to the job role.  The NOS will set out a statement of competence which will bring together the skills, knowledge and understanding, and behaviours necessary to confirm competence.   In some NOS the behaviours will be listed in the Additional Information section of the NOS, along with values and skills.

Step 5: Check the relevance of the NOS to the job role

  • When you have completed the search, check that the NOS identified are relevant to the role/occupation.  Once you have completed the check, map the competencies across to the framework.
  • Check for any gaps in the list of competencies. If gaps are found, do a broader search on the NOS database to see if there are any NOS that will help fill particular gaps.

Step 6: Finalise framework

  • Refine the structure, content and language of the competency framework, ensuring that all the aspects of the job role are covered.
  • Consider how best to communicate the framework to the organisation.

Visit to find out more about the NOS specific to your business or email

How the BBC has used NOS
How the BBC has used NOS

The BBC has used NOS to target skills gaps and set up its apprenticeship scheme.

NOS set the benchmark
NOS set the benchmark

How NOS has set the benchmark for trainees at Neath Dental Centre and ensures staff have the correct knowledge 

NOS set the standards
NOS set the standards

How NOS has helped set the standards for customer service, management skills and workshop skills by Trefnant Garage