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Taking a Fresh Look at Job "Requirements"

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By Luke Moran, Aerotek Director

Does the customer service job you’re hiring for really require an undergraduate degree? Do you need a candidate with 10-15 years of experience for a mid-level engineering position? Employers in recent years have been missing out on quality talent by enforcing an overly rigid set of standard requirements.

One possible culprit? The swift rise of automated talent technology. Recent research found that “companies piled on job requirements, baked them into the applicant-tracking software (ATS) that sorted résumés according to binary decisions (yes, it has the key word; no, it doesn’t), and then found that virtually no applicants met all the criteria.”

No matter what the reason, it’s a good idea for employers to ensure that their job postings accurately reflect the qualifications needed without overreaching and unnecessarily restricting their talent pool.

Accurate job descriptions

Updating job descriptions frequently is time-consuming, but absolutely necessary. A vague or incorrect job description will cause a host of downstream issues, including potentially turning off skilled candidates, hiring people who aren’t qualified to do the job or hiring people who are overqualified and will become unhappy in the role.


Instead of relying on an extensive list of requirements, think about the best employee currently doing the job and base the job description on that person. Make sure you communicate the long-term growth opportunity up front. Setting clear expectations is the best way to curb attrition.

Given the supply and demand of today’s labor market, employers have to get creative, especially if they can’t afford to pay more. Many companies realize the benefits of hiring candidates who are a good fit within the company philosophy and culture, and who are excited for the job opportunity.

Rethinking candidate potential

Organizations across industries are becoming more nuanced in how they view a candidate’s potential. Where once they only recruited from competitors in the same industry, companies now cast a wider net. At times, they’re hiring based on capability rather than exact experience. They’re evaluating a candidate’s aptitude to learn what they need to do versus displaying where they have done it.

To measure aptitude, some companies have incorporated problem-solving, math or dexterity tests into their application process. This allows the employer to quickly assess whether the candidate has the core skills to learn the unique and specialized nature of the work they’ll perform. The organization is still required to make a financial investment in the onboarding, training and development of the employee — but they can feel confident that the investment will produce a return.

In the medical device industry, employers might search for assemblers with years of experience. However, when they hire less-experienced workers, employers find they train the workers in the protocols needed and can still achieve the performance required — at the same time creating greater employee satisfaction and lowering attrition.

That scenario can really pay off if you have highly effective leaders conducting the training. They need to be really invested in talent development and maximizing workers’ potential.

Balance competing recruitment needs

Employers have to balance the need to hire quickly with the need to hire the right person the first time, according to Aerotek Director Paul Robinson.

Inflating job descriptions can prolong the candidate search, causing internal stresses. “If it takes too long to fill open positions, your current employees get overworked and start job-hunting themselves,” he says. “Then you need to fill multiple positions instead of just one, exacerbating attrition instead of reducing it.”

Hiring workers who meet the inflated job description can also cause issues. Employers may think that hiring people who are overqualified will get the job done at higher quality or more quickly. “But if you hire someone who’s overqualified for the job, you will probably lose them. They’ll feel underutilized because they’re not using their degree or their skills.”

Hire for current needs

Sometimes employers fail to distinguish between current and future needs “You may require all new hires to have an undergraduate degree because they’ll need it if they get promoted to management,” Robinson explains. “But do all employees move up to management? You may be neglecting solid candidates for the current job by concentrating on a future that may or may not happen.”

Candidates switch jobs more often now, he notes. “So should you even be making assumptions about where every new hire will be in 5-10 years?”

However, Robinson says, “if you do hire someone with an eye toward moving them up into a higher-level role, make sure you let them know that timeline upfront so they can make an informed decision.”

Either way, he says, hiring managers need to manage expectations.


It’s never a bad idea to take a fresh look at your job descriptions, to ensure they’re hitting the mark with regard to the skills, experience and education needed to fill your open positions. Some companies might be inclined to be more flexible on eliminating non-critical requirements if they can do so without compromising the quality of the employees they’re bringing on board.

Want to know more about updating job requirements? Contact Aerotek now.