Recruiter Insights #3: 3 Reasons why Job Descriptions are Utterly Useless

By: Shriram Shanmugham, Founder – – The People Empowerment Platform

Reading time: 3 minutes

Since our company’s inception, we have interacted with more than 1200 recruiters across all industry sectors and services, and questioned them on challenges that affect quality and faster turn-around time of recruitment.  Therefore, with a strong conviction, we are proposing a new definition for job descriptions (JD):

Job Description (JD) – The best example of an ironic document, which genuinely obstructs quality recruitment, but used extensively as an important parameter for talent search

“Despite technological intervention, JDs are not serving its intended purpose”

While we have analysed several reasons to justify the impediments of JDs, the following 3 reasons form crux of the problem:

  1. JDs are (illogically) over descriptive: Over the past 10 years especially, JDs are composed in the 300-1000 words range. There are detailed JD sections on job roles, followed responsibilities and requirements. Recruiters argue that they bombarded with job applications ranging in thousands for a single designation, and hence justify that overly detailed JDs will automatically filter out best qualified candidates. However, this is not the reality.

By making an overly detailed description, the following situations happen:

  • Genuine candidates who meet 60 – 70% of the job requirement don’t apply to the position because they do not meet all required criteria. This is primarily due to many points listed with “MUST HAVE” requirement. It is impossible to screen one candidate matching over 10 “must have” requirements. This is one of the major reasons why time-to-hire has been evidently getting longer over the past decade.
  • Those people who are desperately looking for jobs – despite not meeting the prescribed job requirements – apply anyway, with hope to get interviewed. As a result, recruiters are still bombarded with high volume job applications

The case in point is, overly long JDs are really not serving its intended purpose.

  1. Most hiring managers and recruiters don’t even know who composed JDs: In many cases, hiring managers or recruiters don’t bother to check age old JDs or make necessary edits before advertising. This could be a description that previous staff wrote a few years ago, or outsourced to a third party who customized the same based on previous company requirements. Invariably this affects the quality of candidates screened.
  1. Candidates pick key words / phrases from JDs and position it at random places in their resumes: This is done so that automated systems calculate key word matches in resumes, job applications and JDs. The burden is still on the recruiter now, to evaluate quality candidates, despite technological intervention.

Recruitment is a people-centric job and it isn’t easy. Relying on technological interventions to filter out qualitative candidates, on a subjective, over-exaggerated job description written by humans will yield unproductive results. Yet, we continue to follow status quo, and refuse to think of other solutions. The good news is, there are solutions.

The Solution – A matter of the heart

In previous articles, in addition to long JDs, we have seen how predefined experience and resumes are major road blocks for screening quality candidates. Major solutions were proposed in these two articles and the same goes for working around JDs too, i.e. recruiters must genuinely – from their heart – try to understand a prospective candidate’s experience and aspirations. They should also sit with their hiring managers and comprehend the latter’s challenges and long term vision. In fact, the successful recruiters are those who are already executing this, based on our research. JD’s can be kept simple and short, mentioning objective requirements pertaining to skills, subject expertise, industry background, tools, language and top 3 – 4 personality requirements. It’s imperative, moving forward, that recruiters work around JDs, resumes and strict requirements on predetermined experience – not only to hire qualitative candidates faster, but invariably reduce attrition.