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Potential applicants certainly need to know what skills, traits, and qualifications your company desires of them for a given position. Many hiring managers feel that candidate characteristics and abilities are the most important guidelines they can publish in a job description. Here are a few we see regularly:

  • Knowledgeable of Microsoft Office
  • Can routinely lift 10-50 lbs
  • Ability to bend, stoop, or sit frequently
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Ability to multitask

In fact, many hiring managers even feel that these things are the most important criteria for choosing a candidate. Are they really though?

Hiring expert Lou Adler disagrees. And who are we to disagree with him?

Fun Spontaneous Company Seeking Talented Candidate for LTR

Job descriptions often end up becoming more like candidate descriptions and Adler is continually dismayed by the job postings and candidate profiles he encounters, including those of top companies. According to Adler, too many companies focus solely on describing the candidate they’re looking for instead of describing the actual job. As a result, they lose out on excellent candidates and instead hire people who have particular qualifications or experiences, but who are not inclined to perform well at the job in question.

While it is important to list skills and educational requirements in a job description, it is equally, if not more important to understand the position you are hiring for. The duties, responsibilities, and goals of the position should be communicated to potential applicants so they know and can fully understand what they’re in store for.

A list of skills can only be developed by understanding the job in question. Describe the job responsibilities first, then consider what skills are required to perform those successfully.

Do Your Candidates Have It?

A candidate’s exact skills and experiences may not be a perfect match for a job description, but any knowledgeable manager should learn to recognize transferable abilities and signs of good performance. Adler tells of finding highly successful candidates who have the skills needed to do the job, but not always in the exact combination companies are looking for. He recommends that companies not get caught up in hiring candidates who have the exact same qualifications as their past employees.

Actual ability must be considered over specific qualifications like degrees or past job titles.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that skills and qualifications aren’t important, but they can’t be the sole focus of your candidate selection. Instead, focus on the evidence provided by the candidate’s past experiences and performance.

Adler states that in many companies, “80-90% of the people who get promoted internally into these same spots don’t have the experience, skills and academics listed as required for someone hired from the outside.” Yet those companies are perfectly happy with those internal hires. This is because their employers already know that they are trustworthy, have the capacity to grow, and have suitable, if not perfect, experience levels. It can be difficult to take this risk with outsiders, but it can pay off when done intelligently.

Adler states, “The worked [sic] required to be done determines the skills needed, the skills needed don’t define the work required.” By including “key performance objectives” in the job description and evaluating candidates accordingly, companies can improve their hiring success rate, encourage diversity, and snag top talent that may have otherwise slipped by.

The Multifaceted Approach

Adler’s job description recommendations are part of the multiple-measure approach to hiring. He and other experts have found whole-picture consideration to be the most successful means of talent acquisition. Use multiple means of evaluating candidates rather than simply scanning resumes for certain qualifications or multiple pre-employment assessment tests. By focusing on the job responsibilities, you will be using an evidence-based approach that can help build your company on solid ground.

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