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Your Job Descriptions are Holding Your Company Back



Recently, Lou Adler came out with a post on ERE.net entitled: Recruiters Must Demand Their Hiring Managers Prepare performance-based Job Descriptions.  Quite frankly, let’s take this one step further: Everyone who prepares a job description should demand it of themselves to write performance-based job descriptions.

Go take a look a quick scan of a job board and you’ll see the majority of job postings decked out with skills and pedigree requirements and very little, if any, performance requirements.  Companies seem to think they know exactly what they’re looking for in a person without opening up to the fact that there may be many people who can excel at the job that don’t look like the picture they’ve painted.

So why are employers painting themselves into a corner when it comes to attracting talent?  It could be complacency in homogeny.  We like things and people that feel familiar.  If someone was previously successful in the role, we think the next person needs to be from the same mold.

Sometimes, its competition that drives us to makes lists for candidates to check off to meet our so-called needs.  The more boxes checked the better they must be, right?  But, the history of business has told us that someone with only a high school education can often outshine and MBA or that industry experience doesn’t always predicate success within one’s own industry.

And, often, we use skill requirements as a way to filter through the noise and narrow down the field of too many job applications.

To quote Lou’s own admission from his article, “I think the use of skills-infested job descriptions prevent companies from hiring the best people possible. Worse, they prevent good people with the so-called “wrong” mix of skills and experiences from getting the jobs they deserve.”

The flip side for job seekers of writing job descriptions based on skills and not performance is that it dilutes the job expectations for the applicants.  Employers already expect job seekers to jump through hoops and supply an unlimited amount of information about themselves when going through an application process, but all applicants have to go off of when deciding to apply is usually just a job description.

There is a better approach.

If an applicant knew what was to be expected of them, the actual work anticipated to perform well, they can more readily decide if the position is worth pursuing, rather than blindly applying to positions that sound like they could be a fit.  Not to mention the time it would save in the interview process being able to speak directly to how they can succeed and achieve the performance goals you laid out in the job description.

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? Applicants being able to speak directly to the role.  All too often we set candidates up to fail in the application and interview process because we’ve never actually given them enough information about the position in the job description.  We keep waiting to hear the right things, but there has been no foundation laid for the job seeker to know what we’re looking for and it becomes a game of chance.

And, all too often companies continue to post out-dated job descriptions without re-evaluating what they’re going to be asking of their new hires.  Positions may open, but business needs adapt and change.  Stop wasting your time attracting and hiring the wrong talent for your business because you’re focused on the right pedigree, rather than who can do the job.

If every hiring manager sat down and wrote out their performance expectations of the positions they wanted to fill and focused solely on that, instead of a list of skill requirements they needed to meet, not only would they attract more talent ready to do the job from their postings, they’d have an easier time actually assessing talent during the interview process.

Expectations can only be met when they’re defined.  When you wait to define them after you think you have found the right hire, you’re already behind.

Open your hiring process up to the possibility that if you focus on performance in the job description, the right candidate may be the one with a whole different set of skills than you imagined.

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Robin Rayburn

About Robin Rayburn

Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.

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1 comments
Spark Hire
Spark Hire

Great post! Job descriptions focused solely on skills are unlikely to get you the right kind of candidates for the role. You might actually be losing out on great talent because they don’t initially seem right for the job. A performance-based job description is more likely to get you the candidates you need. It will also help candidates impress in the interview, whether in person or through online video, by helping them speak directly to how they can bring value.

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