November 02, 2022

Skills to Leave Off Job Descriptions

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In a competitive landscape for talent, we’ve observed some of the biggest mistakes in recruiting begin with published job descriptions.

Job descriptions are often the first impression an employer makes with a candidate. A poorly written description could turn talented candidates off, which could have ripple effects for business success in terms of talent, retention, and referrals.

While the industries we work with (accounting and finance, information technology, marketing, digital, creative, human resources and corporate support) may indeed require specific technical skills to apply for positions, here are some requirements to eliminate from job descriptions so you can widen the talent pool of those who apply.

1. Years of Experience

Though not technically a skill, this job requirement could cause otherwise qualified candidates to avoid applying if they’re even a year short of what you’re requiring. For jobs in IT industries, for example, mastery of specific software matters more than actual years worked. A talented two year professional may be just as qualified in a technical skill as someone who has a couple more years of experience on them.

2. Communication

Communication means different things to different people. An introvert who prefers communicating via writing may view a job description that requires “communication skills” as a position that’s best suited for someone who loves to talk. With this skill, it’s better to be specific about what communication the position requires. For example, you might list “writing reports” or “leading team meetings” as a skill requirement rather than communication.

3. Collaboration Software

Every company uses its own set of project management tools and communication software. Just because someone has primarily used Zoom in their last position, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to master Microsoft Teams for your company. For collaboration tools like task management tools (Workfront, Asana), email clients (Microsoft Outlook, Google Suite) and online communication (Slack, Discord), assume not every candidate will be familiar with everything you use. That’s OK – you can train them and get them up to speed.

4. Teamwork

Unless the role is completely autonomous, it’s assumed a worker will have to respectfully work with coworkers and collaborate on finding solutions to problems. Employees know they may have to work with people in similar roles, report to a manager and attend group meetings. It’s better to discuss the culture and personality of the team, which employees the professional will typically be working with and what kind of work they’ll be doing.

5. Diversity

For companies that are focused on improving their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, bad job descriptions could also negatively impact the talent landscape. You may have heard the much-debated “women only apply to a job if they meet 100% of requirements” stat, popularized by the Harvard Business Review and former Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. While the validity of that stat is oft-debated, LinkedIn research did confirm:

  • Women are 16% less likely than men to apply to a job after viewing it.
  • Women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men.

That’s only one example of inequity in job applications today. One reason applicants may self-eliminate before applying could be unclear skill requirements in the job description. 

Specific Skills to Remove Based on Industry

You can increase the number of applicants for your open jobs when you focus on essential skills that are related to the work the position requires. Or, better yet, eliminate skills that make your job description too long, and just focus on the actual work.

Here are some examples of redundant and generic skills you can eliminate from job descriptions. These skills are baked into these industries, so it’s better to list specific work duties so candidates understand they’re a fit for the role. If you list them, a candidate may be confused, may be turned off by the length of the requirement or may not want to apply.

1. Accounting and Finance Skills to Replace or Remove

  • Specific accounting software that employees can be trained on
  • Math and calculating
  • Communication
  • Organization

2. Human Resources Skills to Replace or Remove

  • Specific human resources software that employees can be trained on
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving
  • Organization
  • Time management

3.Information Technology Skills to Replace or Remove

  • Specific internal technology that employees can be trained on
  • Computer skills – any qualified candidate would already have these skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Multitasking skills
  • Communication

4. Digital, Creative and Marketing Skills to Replace or Remove

  • Specific marketing technology that employees can be trained on
  • Creativity 
  • Teamwork
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical skills

5. Corporate Support Skills to Replace or Remove

  • Specific corporate technology that employees can be trained on
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Administrative skills
  • Organization skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Be Specific and Be Concise

An effective job description will illustrate what a day in the life of an employee will look like. That helps a candidate realistically consider whether they’ll be able to succeed in that role, based on their experience and skills.

It’s important to eliminate obvious skills since they can weigh down a job description and cause candidates to tune out. Worse, they could confuse candidates and cause otherwise talented workers not to apply to a job they’d be qualified for.

Stick to must-have skills and requirements so that you both ensure you’re getting qualified candidates, as well as not excluding any, especially those who are underrepresented in your industry. Inclusive job descriptions based on essential requirements can help you attract better talent.

Need to hire qualified talent for your workforce? Contact the AccruePartners recruiting team for a free consultation.

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