Why worry about writing better qualifications?
The qualifications section on a job ad is like the “You must be this tall to ride” sign at an amusement park. You see the cool new coaster in the distance and approach with eager excitement, only to find out you’re not qualified to ride. You’re just shy of the height requirement, and you’re thinking, Come on! I could ride this. What difference does a few inches make?
Then you stand there outside the gate in heavy disappointment as the taller people rush by.
To avoid that jilted feeling, most job seekers skip right to the qualifications section, often before they’ve read much about the company. It might look like a great place to work, but that won’t matter if they don’t have the qualifications they need to get in the front door.
Let’s look at it another way:
- True or false? More experience always means good experience.
- True or false? A degree provides knowledge that can’t be found elsewhere.
Did you say false to both statements? Probably, because they’re a little too extreme to agree with completely. But remember, qualifications look extreme to the job seekers reading your ad. So choose what you include wisely, or you’ll risk screening out people who would have otherwise been a great fit.
Here’s the kicker: you won’t know what kind of talent you’re missing out on because people who don’t apply when they feel underqualified never enter your candidate funnel.
How to write qualifications that don’t screen out good candidates
1. Take a hard look at your high standards
Do they really predict success? It’s easy to assume that if you require a certain amount of experience or an elevated degree, then you’ll get a high caliber employee. Not so! Look back at the true/false statement above for a refresher on this myth.
Unless you’re sure (and you’ve validated) that only a person who has 10 years of experience can succeed in this role, then loosen up your minimum qualifications. You can rely on other pre-screen tools like job-fit assessments and online reference checking to help you identify candidates who have the highest potential for success—but they have to apply first.
2. If it’s not essential, make it preferred
If you decide that an experience requirement or a degree is important to include, but not essential for success on the job, then move it to the preferred section. That way, you can set an expectation for the rigor of the role, and then use your judgment on candidates who fall short without eliminating them automatically.
3. Think beyond traditional qualifications
Consider equivalencies, or other relevant experiences from a candidate’s background that could bring the same level of knowledge or skills to the job. For example, you might find strong logistics experience in someone with a military background. So your job ad might say, “3 years of logistics experience OR 3 years of service in the military.”
4. Validate with subject matter experts
Just as you would validate your screening tools, you should make sure that your qualifications are linked to success. You need to know that your qualifications are doing their job to communicate what it takes to succeed and target the right candidates for the role—otherwise you’re just guessing, and the success of your new hires could be a lucky coincidence.
At this point, you’ve evaluated the role, you’ve removed the nonessentials, and you’ve added equivalencies. Now it’s time to enlist the help of others! For a quick check of your qualifications, find people who know the most about what the role requires and ask them to rate the importance of each qualification. This will help protect you legally, and ensure that you’re using the most relevant qualifications.
5. Get consistent across your organization
You probably have positions in your organization, like manager and director, that represent different levels within a department. The roles might be similar, but the scope of responsibility will vary by level—and your qualifications need to reflect that. Build starting-point qualifications (years or experience, education, etc.) for each job level so that requirements for managers, directors, etc. are aligned across your organization.