Job descriptions can cause you to miss out



Job Descriptions Can Be Causing You to Miss Out on the Best Employees


Are you sure that’s the job description you want to go with? Inevitably, job descriptions focus on the specifics of what exact skills, education, and experience are obvious requirements for the position. All others need not apply.


In fact, resume processing algorithms are keyed to spot the specific words that indicate a candidate may be suitable. If all or most of the key words are there, their resume might make it through the sorting hat. If too few are seen, the candidate never even gets a first look.


The purpose of the recruiting process is not necessarily finding the candidates with the most credentials, but rather the best candidate for the job you want filled. The perfect, ideal candidate is rarely available, and even if they look that way on paper, they may not have the unidentifiable “it” that makes them a great fit. Things like personality, leadership skills (even though they may not have management experience), inter-personal proficiencies, or other illusive traits cannot be spotted by most sorting processes.


In a 2019 publication entitled Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, author David Epstein explores what may make a generalist a better fit than a your much sought-after specialist.


As articulated in an review, “According to Epstein, the world for nearly everyone is not a place where specialization – which he argues leads to myopic thinking – is truly beneficial.” By its very definition, myopic is “lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight”. Understandably, these are characteristics that most employers would not be seeking in a candidate.


In a New York Times book review, Jim Holt examines some of Epstein’s premises. He explains that in “kind” learning environments, where patterns recur and feedback is quick and accurate, such as golf, strict specialization is extremely valuable. However, in what the author refers to as “wicked” learning environments, such as emergency-room medicine, technological innovation, and fast-paced, evolutionary businesses environments, as well as the rest of modern life, it’s the generalists, those with broad integrative skills, that succeed.


As Mr. Holt further states “Suppose science is your calling. Then, the evidence suggests, you should strive for broadness throughout your career. Students who take an interdisciplinary array of science courses are better at thinking analogically; researchers with offbeat knowledge combinations score more “hit” papers; Nobel laureates in science are more likely than their less-recognized peers — 22 times as likely! — to have artistic pursuits outside their field.”


Although it would seem counterintuitive to the HR professional, as supported in a recent Amazon review, Mr. Epstein makes the case for seeking out a candidate who, rather than spending all their professional life in a specific silo, has crossed domains into other areas – and not just those tangentially associated with their specialty. In fact, the more complex and unpredictable their field, the more the generalist is primed to excel. These people are found to be more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see. 


Clearly it isn’t recommended that we do away with job descriptions, experience, and educational requirements. Especially in heavily regulated environments, and those requiring explicit certifications or licenses, standards must be maintained. However, strict adherence to narrow, specialist requirements without any “outside the box” thinking can weed-out candidates that could just grow to be your star performers, if only they had the chance.


At ASN, we not only search for the best qualified talent, but our professionals are trained to look for those elusive qualities that algorithms and impersonal job descriptions could miss. If you would like to talk with some about how we can find you the best candidates for your positions, we would love to have that conversation with you. Just give us a call.