Required skills: when it’s too much (or too little)

Recruiters sometimes throw themselves into it when they write up a job offer, specifying a host of criteria sought, numerous assets and long experience. The result: fewer irrelevant CVs… but is it really a sensible strategy?

Supervisory ability, developed oral and written communication aptitudes, mastery of software, multilingualism, excellent analytical skills… In the job offers, the list of skills requires is sometimes long, much too long. “When you want everything, its like you don’t want anything at the same time, it’s too vague,” says Xavier Thorens, president of Thorens Solutions, a Quebec headhunting firm that handles more than 300 positions per year. Although a high number of requirements can reduce the number if irrelevant CVs received, it can also dissuade good candidates from applying. Especially if these skills are not really necessary for the position in question.

A candidate who can do everything, who has universal skills and has the ability to hold two positions at once does not exist. In reality, the more criteria are required in the advertisement, the less attractive it becomes. Similarly, requiring too many skills dilutes the relevance of the posting itself. “This can also give a bad image of a company who has difficulty setting out what it wants, or that it wants everything,” adds Mr. Thorens. In summary, the description of the position must simply match the true nature of the job. A major challenge for recruitment by posting, the list of skills must be drafted strategically and with care.

Determining the dominant skills

“When you are very precise, it’s reassuring to candidates,” explains Mr. Thorens. He advises doing a thorough analysis of the position to determine what the dominant skills are. Targeting a dozen different skills – or more! – is useless. “Those that must be emphasized are those that are predictive of performance by employees,” he points out, adding in the same breath that brevity and clarity are essential to a good posting.

According to him, regardless of the position, skills that are predictive of performance can be counted on one hand. Thus, to build an effective description, determining between three and five criteria is the best strategy to adopt. 

Conversely, in some cases – more rare – the criteria are so narrow that the candidate is likely to strongly doubt the credibility of the advertisement. So be careful not to fall into the opposite solution of being unable to determine a sufficient number of required capabilities.

In conclusion, Mr. Thorens adds that it is becoming increasingly difficult to uncover relevant candidates solely by what postings say. “The phenomenon we are seeing is that candidates who are struggling to find a job send their CV everywhere, without regard to the relevance of the offer in respect of their profile,” he notes.

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