Written by Jahanzaib Ansari, CEO & Co-Founder of Knockri
Millions of underemployed and unemployed people are in the middle of unfruitful and frustrating job searches, yet companies are scrambling to fill open positions, according to a Harvard report released in September.
The research team surveyed thousands of workers and executives in the United Kingdom, United States, and Germany about talent acquisition and the candidate experience. With over 40% of the global workforce looking to leave their current positions this year, companies need to evaluate why their hiring process isn’t connecting with job seekers. According to the report, part of the problem lies with an unlikely culprit: the job description.
Many job descriptions are poorly written, outdated, and deter candidates from applying. To increase quality of hire, descriptions become bloated with long lists of desired qualifications. Automated hiring software then uses these descriptions to filter out candidates who are actually suited to the role. Only 25% of job postings for high-skills jobs are created from scratch, and 88% of employers agree that they’re overlooking qualified candidates due to problematic job descriptions. In some cases, this includes looking for ‘computer programming’ for nursing positions instead of the ability to enter data into a computer or requiring ‘floor buffing’ experience for retail positions.
Including both legacy qualifications and new skills also hurts efforts to create a diverse and inclusive hiring process. This practice tends to alienate who Harvard refers to as “hidden workers,” or those who are willing and able to work, but whose job searches continuously fail because of gaps in employment history or a lack of skills and credentials. This group includes immigrants, those with chronic health problems and physical disabilities, previously incarcerated individuals, people without traditional qualifications, caregivers, neurodiverse individuals, and those from less advantageous backgrounds.
Another issue affecting over 6 million jobs in the United States is degree inflation. Companies are asking for university degrees for jobs that did not need them a few years ago, and in many cases, the person currently occupying the role doesn’t hold the degree, either. Instead, degrees are a shortcut for screening for basic communication and technical skills. Not only does it make job searching more difficult for workers who may have the required skills but not the degree, it also has costs for companies. University graduates are paid anywhere from 11% to 30% more for similar rates of productivity as their counterparts without degrees. Turnover rates are higher for university graduates, who also exhibit lower engagement levels. Limiting hiring to degree-holders also hurts diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, as Black job applicants are less likely to hold a degree than white applicants. The cost involved in obtaining a degree is prohibitive for many who fall under the category of hidden workers.
There are several ways companies can improve their hiring process by making changes to job descriptions, not only increasing their pool of qualified candidates but also improving the diversity of that pool.
Limit job requirements to the essentials. Only 21% of employers said that all of their hires over the past three years had all the requirements listed in the job posting. Invest in collaboration between recruiters and hiring managers to clarify the responsibilities of the role and rewrite the job description to match. This will also improve diversity: research shows women only apply to jobs if they meet all of the requirements, whereas men apply when meeting only 60% of them.
Move away from homogenous job descriptions. Avoid using jargon in descriptions and instead focus on meaningfully describing the work. Match the job title to the tasks instead of using something generic. Having a clear idea of what a job entails allows potential applicants to envision themselves in the role and avoids guesswork, creating a more positive candidate experience.
Get rid of degree requirements. Not only does holding a university degree not correlate with increased job performance, it also costs companies more in payroll and unnecessarily narrows the candidate pool. In 2015, 67% of production supervisor roles required a degree, while only 16% of current production supervisors held one. Think about why you’re asking for the degree: do you require certain specialized knowledge, or is it a placeholder for asking for soft skills?
Tweaking job descriptions to make them simpler, more aligned with the actual job, and eliminating exclusive language will only serve to improve your recruitment processes. Don’t let qualified candidates get away before you’ve even had the chance to speak to them — instead, deepen your talent pool and jumpstart your DEI solutions from the beginning.