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Is Sticking Closely to the Job Description the Right Approach?

Jul 18 , 2019

Job description and job responsibility booklet.

Much time and care go into writing the best possible job description for each job opening you're trying to fill. Having an accurate job description is always advised in order to attract qualified candidates that will be a good fit for the job and have the right skills and experience.

Furthermore, most job seekers are taught that they shouldn't even apply for a job unless they meet the qualifications and have at least the skills and experience specified, if not more. But might there be times when sticking closely to the job description is not the right approach? Particularly in a labor market with growing shortages in key areas, the answer may often be "yes" for companies that hope to find the best possible talent. 

When to Use Discernment

Experienced hiring managers know that checking off all the boxes of a job description does not always guarantee the best hire. But "going with your gut" is not necessarily a better way to hire than checking boxes. Your gut can also be wrong, and the subjectiveness of hiring with your gut can open you up to accusations of bias and discrimination—even legal liability that the company will surely want to avoid.

Fortunately, some criteria can be fairly applied to tell you when it might make sense to deviate from the job description. If one or more of these criteria are met, you may want to consider the candidate for your position even if they don't seem to fit exactly. 

Job candidate interviewing for a job.

Eagerness/Enthusiasm for the Job

If a candidate is eager and has demonstrated a strong work ethic in the past, they will likely take the initiative to learn the skills they lack, knowing that their success depends on doing so. Many hiring managers would rather have an eager employee with fewer skills than a highly skilled employee who will only do the bare minimum needed to get by. 

Skills That Can Transfer

Having similar skills to those needed in the job, but in a different industry or niche, may mean that a candidate is still a good fit for your position even if they don't check off all the boxes. Interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate clearly are important for many jobs, but even technical skills can be transferrable in some cases. A person with medical billing experience in a doctor's office may not have experience in a mental health setting, for instance, but could easily apply their billing skills to that area.

Critical Thinking Skills

A relatively inexperienced candidate with a strong ability to figure things out may be a far better hire than someone who lacks the critical thinking skills that will help them grow into the position and make it their own. Candidates who can demonstrate specific times when they used critical thinking in previous roles deserve a second look.

GDH offers help with recruiting to find the best possible talent for your company. Contact us for more information about outsourcing all or part of your recruiting for a more effective process.