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Why Less Is More When Creating Job Specifications

Simplify and improve your job specification by writing to attract a specific type of person, not just a list of skills and qualifications

Creating Job Specifications

Long and overly detailed job specifications can end up discouraging suitable people from applying.
Long and overly detailed job specifications can end up discouraging suitable people from applying.

Are your company’s job specifications turning more applicants away than they’re attracting? Many companies make the mistake of creating job specs that are long, comprehensive and too specific to attract an audience of high quality applicants.

Overly long job specifications might not seem like a serious problem, but they can have negative effects for your company’s hiring process. A job spec that’s too long and specific can often disqualify applicants that could be ideal for your company.

We recently spoke to Front of House Recruitment, a leading London recruitment firm, to learn why it’s often better to take a “less is more” approach when creating your company’s next job specification than to publish a long and detailed listing.

Shorter job specs attract more applicants

In some cases, long job specifications are necessary. If you’re hiring someone for a position within your company that requires several exact qualifications, it’s worth nothing these requirements in your job listing.

If the requirements aren’t absolute, however, adding them to your listing can often scare away applicants that might be perfect for your company. The end result is an application that fails to attract the audience of people your company needs.

If your list of essential skills and qualifications extends beyond 10 items, there’s a serious chance it’s weeding out people that are highly skilled, capable and suitable for your company, lowering the quality of your talent pool.

A shorter job specification will almost always attract more unsuitable applicants – a potentially annoying result. However, short job specs also result in a higher number of suitable applicants reaching the inbox of your HR department.

There’s no such thing as a perfect applicant

Far too many companies make the mistake of being incredibly specific and exact in their job specification, all in the hope of attracting the perfect applicant – someone with a list of qualifications and skills that’s exhaustively long.

The reality is that there are no perfect professionals. People that have fantastic skills in one field may be missing them in another. Aiming to hire the perfect candidate is, more often than not, a good way to hire no one at all.

There is no perfection in hiring – all candidates offer their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Write your job specification to fill the role you’re trying to hire for – not to attract the perfect, well rounded professional to your business.

Not all skills are as essential as they seem

Many HR professionals make the mistake of including “essential” skills in their job specifications that aren’t as essential as they seem. These skills tend to be based on an unrealistic view of the talent pool that’s suitable for the available job.

Before you publish a job specification, ask for a second opinion – preferably from a member of staff that will be involved with the new hire – to see if the essentials you chose to include in your job specification are actually as essential as they seem.

Many skills, such as the ability to use certain equipment or software, can be learned rapidly by the right candidate on the job. Listing too many essential skills only leads to fewer qualified and suitable candidates responding to your job listing.

Too many people can bloat your job spec

As the old saying goes, “too many chefs spoil the broth”. A common error in writing a job specification is asking too many different people for their input, leading to a job spec that’s ultimately asking for several different things at once.

Asking several different senior members of staff for their essential skills in a worker has an unfortunate side effect: because everyone has different needs, you could end up with a list of 20 or more skills, many of which contradict each other.

Consulting one or two people for feedback on your job spec is a good idea. However, asking too many people for their thoughts, feedback or input can result in your job spec growing from realistic and simple to overly demanding and unfeasible.

Character often matters more than skills

Is your job specification starting to grow a little too detailed a lengthy? A great way to see if your job spec is realistic or not is to ask yourself a simple question: Is this a suitable job specification for a role you’re trying to fill using an internal hire?

When hiring internally, character often matters more than skills. Yet when hiring from outside the company, character and personality is often ignored in favour of extreme focus on a person’s skills, qualifications and CV.

Simplify and improve your job specification by writing to attract a specific type of person, not just a list of skills and qualifications. Some of the best employees often have the character and attitude, not just the qualifications, to excel in their jobs.

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