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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.
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.