An Argument Against Stringent Job Descriptions

By Jim Coddington on June 26, 2017

Why Strict Job Descriptions Alienate Qualified Candidates

Most hiring authorities today create new job descriptions by listing all the qualifications the candidate needs to have. Many of these qualifications are culled from old descriptions or pooled together by a committee. In the end, the job description is often long and convoluted, drastically limiting the types of applicants who will apply and yet failing to communicate what is most important to the hiring managers.

A highly qualified candidate for your position might look at a job description that requires 15 years of experience and think: they’re looking for someone who is junior to me, I’ve got 25 years of experience, and they only need 15. I have seen many experienced candidates turn down opportunities because the job description listed a qualification that they felt was too low for their level of experience or skill. In our experience, a strict job description can alienate over half of the qualified candidates right off the bat, whereas an open description attracts people.

Start with a more general outline that reflects what you value most in your employees, and as you meet with promising candidates, determine on a case-by-case basis which of their skills and experiences could add value to your organization. This will communicate to prospective candidates that they are going to have a unique opportunity to make an impact in your organization, and that their professional goals are going to be met by this move.

Scale the Role to Fit the Strengths of Your Top Choice Candidate

Every candidate is unique. If you want to attract the best, don’t create a template for each position. Build some amount of flexibility within every facet of a job description. Make the job interview a conversation with the candidate, to discover their strengths and goals so that you can scale the role in a way that will be mutually beneficial. Scaling the opportunity to match the candidate’s priorities is a much more effective recruiting approach than predefining all elements of a role.

The Best Job Descriptions Are Often the Simplest

As you are creating your outline, try to answer the question of what problem you are trying to solve with this position. Be general with the title, and describe the concept of the role. For example: “Seeking a Senior Vice President for our healthcare division in Philadelphia, PA. Looking for candidates who are interested in making a positive difference at our company.”

By using generalized job descriptions to attract a wide range of qualified candidates and then scaling the job to match the strengths of your top choice candidate, you can position your company to secure a stronger, long-term hire than you would through any standardized process.

Read Jim Coddington’s recent article Identify Key Psychological Components of Candidate Attraction, in which he shares tips on how your company can reengineer your hiring process in order attract the best talent.

The Author

Straight from the desk of

Jim Coddington

Jim Coddington

Executive Vice President

Jim began his career at Kimmel in 1997 and has played an integral role in the success of our firm. He created a vast network of contacts and clients in the Northeast market and has dedicated his career to serving this market.

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