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How to get job requirements right (and improve your applicant pool).


Meredith Stack


A recent article published in Harvard Business Review had an eye-catching claim in its headline: Your approach to hiring is all wrong.

That’s a pretty bold statement; however, the author’s argument is worth a read. He describes how, in the past, the hiring process was built on a strong foundation of detailed job evaluations conducted by HR experts. Qualifications outlined in job postings were realistic yet specific enough to track the right type of candidates. The pool of applicants was manageable enough for recruiters to review all resumes and to continue conversations with the best candidates. The hiring process was deliberate, thorough, and handled mostly by experts.

Now, the author argues, the recruiting function has been gutted. Experts have been replaced with the machines or outsourced talent that cast the net too wide, resulting in unqualified applicants clogging the pipeline. Finally, once candidates are in the pipeline, organizations are not adequately screening for job fit.

Reasonable job requirements are few and far between.

With companies reducing the number of experts, companies may not have a team of in-house recruiters who can conduct a job analysis or challenge hiring managers about their list of "must-have" attributes.

When job requirements are lacking, you start the entire recruiting process on the wrong foot. You waste time on the wrong candidates and miss the right candidates. Ultimately this results in poor candidate experience, reduced retention, and increased turnover.

Build better job requirements.

One way to meet the challenge of finding and hiring talent is to revisit job requirements and craft them in a way that realistically reflects what’s required. With more realistic job descriptions, automated screening tools can be programmed to focus on the most important qualities and keywords, so that the best candidates rise to the top.

  1. Refer to O*Net for insight. With job requirements and worker competencies for more than 1,1000 jobs, the Occupational Information Network (or O*NET) offers a wealth of relevant occupational information to consider when identifying reasonable job requirements.
  2. Look to assessments for success indicators. To hire a great employee, you need to know what success includes. A hiring profile like those Berke offers helps organizations determine what’s required in each role. When determining job requirements, assessments—based on data and research—offer insight regarding the most critical personality traits and abilities needed for an employee to succeed.
  3. Ask team members for their input. If you want to validate if your job requirements are reasonable and accurate, put them to the employee test. Ask people in the position what they would change, add, or remove. Those are the people who have a real-world view of what you can reasonably expect from a candidate.

If your requirements are unreasonable not only will you attract fewer candidates, the people you do hire may leave because the job won't meet their expectations. Start by reviewing the jobs that are most often open--a few changes in requirements can make a difference. Taking the time and putting in the effort to revisit your job requirements is worth the investment and will ensure your hiring approach continues to evolve.

A team looks over their hiring requirements

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