You Lack the Necessary Qualifications to Read This

You need at least four years of experience to read this post

Also, a Master’s degree is not required but highly preferred.

I was out of work for about six months last year.  Lots and lots of applications, a fair number of phone interviews, some interviews, and finally a great job that turned out to be a step up from where I was working before, anyway.  So, now that I’m back on the preferable side of the interview, a few things are fresh in my mind.

An awful lot of the minimum qualifications in job postings are wrong.  They’re unnecessary, and potentially harmful.  They’re not helping us – they’re stifling our ability to find people.  Here are the biggest problem areas.

Degree.  If you’re building a bridge, I want you to have a BS in Civil Engineering.  An electrical engineer isn’t going to cut it for me, and neither is an interpretive dance major.  Bridge fall down, go boom.  But in accounting?  Someone with a degree in medieval literature who’s been a controller for ten years has probably figured the job out by now.  Don’t knock her out for not having an accounting degree; she can do the job, and is probably more interesting to talk to than the accounting major.  Moreover, we should start asking the larger question: does the position you’re trying to fill need a degree at all?  Before saying “of course, it does”, list for me the specific things that you learned in college that will now make you a better insurance salesman.  If you can’t, don’t list it.

Background.  This happens inside of HR routinely.  Financial services companies only want HR professionals with a background of supporting financial services; ditto for higher education.  As an HR professional coming from manufacturing, the military, and automotive service, maybe I just couldn’t fathom the complexities of a bank?  Or I might track mud across the floor?  Or, (more likely), hiring managers don’t want to take the time and effort to train someone new.  This extends to other functions within your company as well, but it starts at home: when you preach the benefits of a diverse workforce, it doesn’t just mean demographic characteristics.

Experience.  There is a difference between no experience and twenty years of experience.  It’s at the margins that things get interesting.  This job needs five years of experience, you say?  Does four and a half work?  Do internships count towards that five years, or does it have to be full time professional?  To the point above, does it have to be five years of experience in this special field, or just in this function?  And, does the candidate learn just that much more in those last six months to make the cutoff?  Would an internal candidate need the same amount?

Obviously, I’m not advocating shifting your hiring exclusively to new High School graduates.  However, these minimum qualifications are where HR needs to push back on the hiring managers and understand their intent, and challenge them.  If we don’t do that, the kids we have screening incoming resumes will knock out candidates with nine and a half years’ experience because the requisition calls for ten years.  Never mind that the hiring manager would have liked to see Ms. 9.5 years, and she would have been perfect for it – the hiring manager set a rule, and your contract recruiter is not going to violate it.

The result can be that your hiring manager gets frustrated with the lack of “qualified” talent that you’re finding, learns that HR really can’t accomplish its core functions, and next time advocates hiring an expensive outside recruiter.  Your organization loses out on talent that could be developed, and you’re once again relegated to enforcement of the “no bare midriff” policy.

FOT Background Check

Steve Gifford
Steve Gifford, MBA, SPHR, is the Director of Human Resources for OEM America, a PEO of more than a hundred companies and more than two thousand employees. His company gives small businesses the buying power and HR expertise of a big company, but without the bureaucracy! In the past, he’s been the HR guy for marketing, manufacturing, retail, and government organizations. His first HR job was in the US Army during his second tour in Iraq, where every employee in his client group carried an automatic weapon. It helps him keep the problems of employees who show up to work late in perspective.

24 Comments

  1. Becki G says:

    “An awful lot of the minimum qualifications in job postings are wrong. They’re unnecessary, and potentially harmful. They’re not helping us – they’re stifling our ability to find people.”

    This part got me–the same “rules” that are supposed to HELP are actually HURTING! We are almost always our own worst enemy. (and by We-I mean HR).

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Kelli L. says:

    I think that this is a terrific post. I find that many job requirements need to be re examined, because you’re right, sometimes hiring managers just think they NEED those skills. Additionally, you got it right with companies not wanting to train people and they won’t pay people what they’re worth when they have the “required” skills. Companies need to wake up, select those skills which are %100 necessary to start doing a job as Required, and for skills that a new employee could learn in a few weeks/months, make those Preferred. Hire for talent, train for skills, and give them experience.

  3. Steve Guine says:

    And the congregation said, “Amen”

  4. Dawn Jameson says:

    What a wonderful article! I thought you were writing specifically about me! Although I have a BS in Psychology, I do have almost 9 years of experience in federal tax incentives. Not having the appropriate degree knocked me out of several great positions. I, too, had been unemployed for a while and experienced these same insane scenarios. How frustrating it is to qualified candidates. Thanks for your insight.

  5. Nick says:

    Steve, I like it. For about a year now, I’ve replaced “xx years… or degree in…” with “ability to…”.

  6. Steve Gifford

    Thank you, all! As job applicants, we’ve all had the experience of applying to a job that we *know* we’d be perfect for, in spite of it not being a traditional fit based on the stated qualifications. The hard thing to do as HR professionals is to keep that level of flexibility and open-mindedness when staring at 15 reqs with 40 resumes each!

  7. LaDonna Walker says:

    This was a good article to read cause I am in this situation right now. I have a BS along with my MBA in Business Administrative and struggling to find a job to gain more experience under my belt. I believe some companies turned down talented, dedicated and hard worker who are wanting the experiences. So the question is how are you suppose to have the experiences if you don’t get an chance or opportunity to be good at something?

  8. Christopher Curran says:

    I agree with Steve Guine. I have been pushing back on mangers about degrees and experience for years. Great article.

  9. Bruce Kestelman says:

    Hi Steve,

    Good thought provoking post.

    Just wondering though why your bio leads with your degree and certification. At least it doesn’t include years of experience.

  10. Steve Gifford

    Bruce,

    It’s just my shorthand for, “Hey! There’s a chance I may not be making all this up as a I go along!”

    Steve

    • Bruce Kestelman says:

      Hi Steve,

      So, while I agree with the points in your blog, maybe some HR leaders, like you, want some reassurance that folks they hire are not making it up as they go along. How can you be critical of HR thinking about job requirements, including credentials, yet post yours as opposed to not listing and instead include a short list of what you’ve accomplished and how you’ve made a difference?

      Seems to me some inconsistence in what you’ve written and how you’re acting.

      Bruce

      • Steve Gifford

        Bruce,

        When I’m interviewing, I have half an hour to demonstrate to the person interviewing me that I know what I’m doing. When I’m writing on here, I have a few hundred words. This bio is better than “Steve Gifford is just some random guy, you should listen to what he says.”

        Steve

    • Hjsnendkf says:

      There are definitely nuuomers particulars like that to take into consideration. That could be a nice point to carry up. I offer the thoughts above as normal inspiration but clearly there are questions just like the one you bring up where crucial thing shall be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged around things like that, however I am positive that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the impression of only a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  11. Kim says:

    This is an excellent article! It’s as if I have written it myself about my own personal situation and I’m a Human Resources professional. Unbelievably one of the best articles I’ve read in long time

  12. LebHR says:

    Love your post, as it speaks so much of reality that it is the essence of recruitment issues faced at companies! Even the last piece you have about going to external agencies, they will face the same issues with recruitment agencies that won’t be able to fulfill their needs. Hiring managers need to open up and face the challenges within their required hires skills and become a little bit more lenient, and understand degrees and exact years of experience are not the only requirements, they are good but not required, and not enough alone.

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  13. Mark Sherk says:

    Love the post… assessment testing is another area where HR is losing a lot of very good candidates. I think do to downsizing, HR is utilizing these test as an end all end all to the recruiting process. I can’t count the number of times that I have blown through a phone interview only to take the TEST and all of the sudden I am not qualified any longer.

  14. Starr Cook says:

    Hi Steve! Great meeting you at the conference last week. Great post! It’s unfortunate how many outstanding candidates are sacrificed to the often tunnel-visioned resume review phase. I find the over emphasis on experience in a particular industry is, in particular, one of the most limiting. It’s substantially easier to learn an industry or a product line then to develop or cultivate things like passion, integrity, leadership ability, critical thinking skills, writing abilities, confidence, etc. etc. When coaching managers on interviewing and hiring strategies, I encourage them to put the highest premium on the “must haves” you can’t teach and to think like professional sports scouts in a draft… focus on the stats and the abilities of your candidates. What they can do is vastly more important than where they have been or how long they have been playing. Look for the person who will bring balance and needed skills to your team. Sometimes this means making a trade for someone with years of major league experience, sometimes it means snatching up a talented rookie, and sometimes it even means recruiting someone with incredible athletic ability from an entirely different sport altogether.

  15. Rebecca says:

    Wow! What an awesome post, and how amazing that someone actually spoke up about it! It’s great to see that the applicants aren’t the only ones feeling this way. Steve, my question to you is what do you suggest to those of us struggling to get past the initial online application phase when we know we can bring significant value inside an organization, but may lack 1 specific requirement for the position we’re interested in?

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