In the current job market, companies are struggling to find enough qualified candidates for their open positions. According to research from Glassdoor, 76% of hiring professionals find that attracting quality applicants is their #1 challenge. The problem may be felt even more strongly by small businesses, for which over half say they receive “few or no qualified applicants” for their open positions.
We know there are a number of different ways to approach this problem – things like employer branding, candidate experience, employee advocacy, and better training and development programs. But many of these larger ideas can be hard to realistically implement because they require major organizational shifts. Sometimes you need a few ways to make bite-sized improvements in your hiring process in the short term.
One of the most tangible places to start is with the job description. The job description is often the first time a candidate learns about the position and the company. The job description serves as the gatekeeper to getting someone to take the next step and apply. Because of the crucial position it has in the hiring process, even the littlest of changes can have an impact on the number of applicants you get, as well as the quality of those applicants.
When approaching what to edit on a job description, the first step is to really ask what makes someone “qualified” for the position, and to question whether your requirements are too strong. The bottom line is that if you're struggling to get applicants, you may come to the conclusion that you need to start cutting requirements out. Obviously you don’t want to open yourself up to a lower quality applicant pool, but you do want to give people the opportunity to apply if they don’t check every box. This is especially important to keep in mind when hiring women – they are less likely to apply for a job unless they check off 100% of the requirements, while men are willing to apply when they fulfill just 60% of the requirements.
So how do you actually start slashing some of those unnecessary requirements? Here are a few places to start:
1. Research salaries to find out if you’re being unrealistic
Let’s say you know what job title you’re trying to hire, whether it’s an administrative assistant, a sales representatives, or a web developer. The job title can play a big role in what salary your applicants might expect from the role. In turn, their salary expectations can have a big impact on what requirements are realistic for that position. Fortunately, there are a bunch of different websites you can use to research the average salaries for certain job titles – sites like Salary.com, PayScale, Indeed, Glassdoor, and more. You can enter in a job title and find out what the average salary is for people in your area.
Once you have this information, compare it to the salary range you had in mind for this role. If yours is significantly lower, this might suggest that you should remove some of the requirements from your job posting so that you can attract more entry-level candidates. Similarly, if your salary range is really far off in either direction, you might even consider changing the job title itself to be more in line with the type of experience you require.
Salary information is a good jumping off point to understand if you’re at least in the ballpark for what is expected for the role. The key is to find a way to align your job posting with the expectations of applicants out in the job market.
2. Rethink the college degree requirement
When it comes to shaving off requirements, the college degree is a good place to start. Sometimes employers will just add a college degree as a requirement without even thinking about it, because it's just something they've always included in the past.
While some roles certainly require degrees, many others don’t necessarily benefit from it. When thinking about the day-to-day requirements of a position, consider whether someone would truly need to go through four years of education to be able to do them. Many employers might be using that degree requirement as a signal for someone’s intelligence, but there are a lot of other ways to assess that, like pre-employment assessments.
The college degree is one major barrier keeping a large proportion of the population from applying – if you remove that requirement, you may very well experience an influx of candidates without a decrease in quality, especially if the college degree really wasn’t that critical for the position in the first place.
3. Separate core skills from trainable skills
Many job descriptions list a number of platforms or programs that the applicant should already be familiar with – from Salesforce and MailChimp to any number of ATS platforms. While it’s great if your candidate has direct experience working in these platforms, the ability to use the platform may be easily trainable, especially if your candidates have relevant experience with similar programs.
These types of acquired skills are trainable, and they stand in stark contrast to some of the “untrainable” qualities that you likely require in your candidates – things like attention to detail, multi-tasking ability, critical thinking, strong communication skills, or leadership ability.
The goal is to list the core skills as requirements, because these are things you require your candidates to bring to the table. They are effectively untrainable, or at least quite difficult to train. And you can measure them through pre-employment tests, either through cognitive aptitude or personality assessments.
Meanwhile, the trainable skills, like proficiency with Excel, can be learned over time through training, especially if you hire smart people who have critical thinking skills. Instead of getting rid of these trainable requirements entirely from your job description, you can move them to a separate “preferred qualifications” category so that you can still signal what the ideal candidate looks like.
While no employer wants to "lower their standards" for finding great applicants, it's important to revisit what actually qualifies as a necessary requirement in the first place. By taking a hard look at how your job descriptions might be perceived by candidates, you can open yourself up to a whole new group of qualified applicants who previously were opting themselves out of the process.