When it comes to the requirements on job descriptions, those of us who have seen enough candidates placed without meeting the exact ‘mandatory’ requirements for educational qualifications or years of experience know that there are certain things that can be taken with a pinch of salt – they are ‘nice to haves’ rather than essentials that the employer absolutely must see on every CV they’ll consider. However, candidates can often be less experienced in working out what is really important on a job spec, and listing something like a Master’s degree as mandatory when you know that experience can count instead for the role in question may mean some pretty good candidates won’t apply.
So what really is a compulsory requirement and what isn’t?
For graduate level positions, a degree in a relevant field is obviously a genuine compulsory requirement – someone fresh out of uni with no professional experience will only have a shot at doing the job well if their studies are relevant, so a degree in history of art can be disregarded for a job as a graduate level software developer. However, for more senior positions, often employers ask for a Masters or higher in a relevant field as a compulsory requirement, and this is almost never actually compulsory. For more senior roles, experience in similar roles is much more interesting to the employer, and usually of the other people at similar levels in the business, very few actually have the ‘compulsory’ qualifications. Someone with no degree at all or a degree in a completely irrelevant field will be hugely interesting to the employer if they have provable experience in a similar role.
X Years of Experience
It is actually pretty bad form to put an arbitrary number of years of experience with something as a compulsory requirement, and this is usually done with a rule of thumb like ‘I guess five years for a team leader, eight for a manager?’. In reality the number of years is more representative of a level of skill and confidence that is compulsory, after all two people who both have five years of experience managing medium sized teams can vary wildly in actual experience if one has been managing the same team of people on the same project for that amount of time and the other has worked in seven different companies with all different people and situations. Years of experience on job specs can really be treated as an order of magnitude, so someone with three years who is really strong can be more appealing to an employer than someone with six mediocre years.
These are two examples of compulsory requirements that need to be eyed critically. It may even be worth discussing them with your clients to see if there is a better way to say what they actually want from candidates, to avoid risking putting off people who are actually very well suited because they miss a certificate here or a year with a technology there.
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