Most companies spend a great deal of time developing job descriptions that cover the requirements of each job. Things like work experience, educational level and technology knowledge are all standard elements that appear on job descriptions. These criteria are then transferred to job advertisements, with the idea that qualified candidates will take the time to apply.
But could well-meaning job requirements actually be eliminating candidates who otherwise would make a great hire? Emily Elder, practice development manager at RiseSmart, thinks so. HR Dive spoke with Elder about the problem of candidate exclusion based on job criteria.
RiseSmart mentioned a Rockefeller Foundation and Edelman Intelligence report which found that 70% of hiring managers screen entry-level applicant’s resumes to ensure they have a bachelor’s degree before considering them for hire, but that could be missing those who have the right skills gathered outside the traditional paths.
What’s driving the use of too-strict hiring criteria?
HR Dive spoke with Ray Bixler, president and CEO of SkillSurvey, about the increasing concerns that recruiters have when evaluating the qualifications and backgrounds of candidates. Bixler explained how the costs of hiring the wrong candidate can be astronomical, even more so than employee turnover.
"Candidates who are a poor fit for a company can destroy the company brand because they lower morale and reduce client loyalty," he said. This reasoning is why companies are requesting deeper data on candidates, and may be an indicator of why companies may be enforcing stricter hiring criteria in an effort to weed out potential problem employees.
According to the above report, 40% of the employers requiring bachelor’s degrees for entry-level positions say high employee turnover is driven by workers feeling overqualified for their roles. The irony is employers may be creating their own problem because the criteria for hiring leans towards over-qualified employees. Such employees are more likely to realize that they are settling for a job that’s below their capabilities.
Many employers rely on college degrees as a sign that candidates have the right skills, but this mindset needs to change.
“Asking for college degrees causes companies to miss out on a large population of talent, therefore hiring managers need to be looking more to soft skills like strong communication, time management which are better indicators of candidate success,” Elder said.
Elder also points out that hiring managers should look at other criteria, such as years of experience, which don't always track with what people are actually doing. Managers need to examine any criteria that is added to a job advertisement and ask: Is this relevant?
Creating better job descriptions
When writing job requirements, it’s critical to ask, "Why is this important to the company?" The why should correspond with: corporate culture, the objectives of the job itself, and the goals of the company.
Having a job description that reflects the company's culture — how it functions and does the work — can lead to better conversations between recruiters and candidates overall.
Candidates that are more willing to talk about the company and the position allow recruiters the chance to better discern their fit for the position, rather than rely totally on their perception of the applicant as a person. Interviewing is no simple task; anything an employer can do to take bias out of the process (such as focusing on the demands of the job instead of other topics) can improve hiring clarity.
Selecting the best candidates
Elder challenges hiring managers to consider training initiatives rather than eliminating candidates who don’t have a degree. Additionally, when recruiters are seeking candidates, they can be looking at other criteria such as the activities and interests that candidates have. Reviewing candidate hobbies, community service, and other aspects of their lives can help secure better hires. So too, using the right screening tools that are flexible and adaptable to the needs of each job type can produce hires that more closely match the corporate culture.
When candidate screening isn't so strict, it can also bring in candidates from more diverse backgrounds, leading to a more inclusive employee population overall.
In a current job market that's facing major talent shortages, it's beneficial to be able to offer on-the-job training that can offset any shortcomings (like a college degree). Future success of a candidate is rarely tied to any one particular past experience, but it is connected to a candidate's willingness to learn new things. A good fit into the culture and objectives of a company is worth investing in.