Job Descriptions – It is all about the Requirements

June 14th, 2013

No IT organization would ever tackle a major initiative without a complete requirement and a plan of attack, including realistic expectations.

When looking to hire top talent, job descriptions are the closest thing to a requirement, and if done correctly, they can serve as the requirement.  Fundamental Job Descriptions are static, built around skills and experiences the candidate must possess, never discussing what they will do. If we started a Job Description discussing positional responsibilities and followed with what needs to be accomplished over the initial timeframe (say first year), we can back into the competencies, track record, and experiences the candidate must possess to get the job done.

Traditionally, open positions have been created based on trigger events– a new product rollout, an employee quit or retires, or departmental growth.  When this happens, a job description is pulled together quickly and inaccurately or an old one dusted off the shelf.

Top-tier candidates, on the other hand, are interested in what they get to do and the potential they will have in the role and with the company.  They want to know about the future, not what they skills they have to have.

The current candidate pool of talent wants to know about growth prospects, their value in the company, career opportunities, company culture, and even something that explains why these open jobs are important to the company’s future. They want to know about the work that needs to get done.

Static, traditional job descriptions do not describe the work that needs to get done.  Because of this, traditional, standard job descriptions exclude high-potential candidates, the quick studies that learn new skills.  With a simple listing of skills and educational requirements, the top passive candidates aren’t the targets, they are either excluded in the screening process (lack of skills, etc) or they aren’t being provided the information necessary to get excited about the opportunity.

When a job description’s requirement list focuses on skills, you will attract a person who is a match for all the skills, experiences, industry background and educational qualifications listed, but they still may not be able to deliver the needed results.  To determine success in a role, a job description needs to focus on requirements – in the form responsibilities, success criteria, 1st year expectations, and competencies necessary to do the job, and what they can learn. This information will attract top-tier candidates and interest them to the opportunity.

Competencies are the next level above skills.  A candidate who lists a skill in Oracle Financials is simply stating that they have knowledge and can work in that application.  A high-performing candidate with competency in application management rises above the “skill level” and would be effective in any financial applications software environment.  And if the caliber of candidate is the focus, as well as, past performance, they will learn what they need to know to adapt and excel in the new environment.

The key to change is education and knowing what attracts the top performing, passive candidate. When writing a job description, knowing the requirements – the goals of the job is a necessity.  What are the challenges and hurdles?  What does success look like?  Top tier talent becomes interested in positions because of the work they will be doing and the potential it brings them, not because of the absolute and finite skills they possess and the fact that they get a small lift in compensation.   Providing a much more complete picture of the job will always attract more high-quality talent than a simple, static listing of skills.

At Honer & Associates, we know how to attract top talent to opportunities.  We have specialized in talent acquisition for over 30 years, having filled over 1,000 IT positions.  To discuss this topic or others, please contact us at your convenience.

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