Recruiting and Staffing

Get Rid of Job Descriptions and You’ll Hire Better People

Jobdescription

For the past 30 years I’ve been on a kick to ban traditional skills — and experience-based job descriptions.

The prime reason: they’re anti-talent and anti-diversity, aside from being terrible predictors of future success.

Some naysayers use the legal angle as their excuse for maintaining the status quo.

To debunk this, I engaged David Goldstein, a pre-eminent legal authority from Littler Mendelson (the largest U.S. labor law firm) to compare the idea of using a performance-based job description to the traditional job description.

Why a performance profile is best

David has agreed to present his findings in a webcast next week (on February 19). (I’ve included a summary of his white paper in one of my recent publications, and we’ll be happy to review his complete white paper upon request.)

A performance-based job description (aka, a performance profile) describes the work that a person needs to successfully accomplish during the first year on the job. Most jobs can be fully described in 6-8 performance objectives.

These are in the form of “complete the detailed project plan for the new automated warehouse in 120 days.” This compares to the more traditional: “Must have 5+ years of logistics and supply chain management experience in high-volume consumer durables, plus 3 years of supervisory experience.”

This comparison alone should be enough to demonstrate to any recruiter the fallacy of using traditional job descriptions for finding and assessing talent. There are about 100+ other articles I’ve written for ERE over the last 10 years describing job descriptions as fundamentally flawed and counterproductive.

My Top 6 flaws of job descriptions

Here’s are my top six (out of about 20) reasons why:

  1. While some level of skills is important, the “amount” written on a job description is arbitrary, misleading, and capricious. Certainly none were developed via a detailed job analysis. From a commonsense standpoint, it’s obvious if a person can do the work described in the performance profile they have exactly the level of skills needed. It’s what a person does with his or her skills that determines ability, not their absolute level. In fact, a person with the least amount of years of experience and the ability to learn quickly are the top performers who everyone wants to hire. Why would anyone in their right mind want to exclude this people from consideration?
  2. A performance objective that describes the work including the measures of success is equally as objective as some absolute level of skills and experiences. This is the legal aspect David will cover during the webcast. He’ll point out that performance profiles are not only more objective and better predictors of success, but they are also non-discriminatory.
  3. A recruiter who doesn’t know the real job requirements is quickly branded as a gatekeeper by any talented candidate. Knowing the job is essential for a recruiter, at least if they want to find, recruit, assess, and close passive candidates. Hiring managers also treat recruiters without real job knowledge as vendors, box-checkers, and paper-pushers. As a result these recruiters have little influence on who is actually interviewed and ultimately hired.
  4. Traditional job descriptions prevent diversity candidates, high-potential lighter candidates, returning military veterans, and highly qualified people with different but comparable results from being considered. All of these problems are eliminated using performance profiles.
  5. Attitude, cultural fit, team work, organizational skills, drive, and consistency are easy to assess using performance profiles. Measuring these without consideration of the performance requirements for the job and the underlying environment (manager’s style, resources, constraints, challenges, and pace) is an exercise in futility. For proof, consider why all of the competent people who have been hired later underperform.
  6. Top active and passive candidates are not looking for lateral transfers. This is exactly what a list of “must haves” implies. The only differentiator then becomes the compensation package. Using performance profiles as a benchmark, the interview can be used to demonstrate the “opportunity gap” between the candidate’s background and real job needs. This opportunity gap can then be used as a tradeoff for a big compensation increase.

This should be enough to convince anyone why traditional job descriptions should be banned if a company wants to hire more top people, expand their diversity hiring programs, hire some great people who bring a different mix of skills and experiences to the job, and implement a robust military veteran hiring initiative.

You’ll be able to stop making excuses at the webcast on February 19.

Lou Adler is the president of The Adler Group, a training and consulting firm helping companies find and hire top talent using Performance-based Hiring. He is also a noted recruiting industry expert, national speaker, and columnist for a number of major recruiting Internet sites including SHRM and ERE.net. Contact him at at lou@adlerconcepts.com.
  • LarryEngel

    I love the idea of a shift to “performance profiles” instead of job descriptions. That’s also the way I’ve presented myself in job interviews. It makes so much more sense to talk about what you’ll do or bring to the first year of the role rather than what experience you’ve had in the past.

  • http://twitter.com/JPatrickJobs J. Patrick & Assocs

    Great stuff Lou…I wholeheartedly agree on JDs screening out some great candidates, who might be more productive and have higher ceilings. JDs are also indicative of the problem in hiring of “too many cooks”. Too long an interviewing process with too many decisionmakers having a vote. I place a lot of sales and sales engineering people and I’ve seen great candidates get passed on because a non-hiring manager peer in another department wrinkled his nose at one thing the candidate said. Black-balled by a non-stakeholder, and then the hiring manager loses his nerve. Hiring managers need decide what success looks like from this role, not just a check-box approach to hiring. thanks again!

  • http://twitter.com/BigTentJobs Big Tent Jobs

    Lou – you nailed it! As one of our first questions, we always ask our clients about what the #1 key to the position is for them. Typically, that’s an easy thing to answer, and we use that to get at the core requirements.

  • Mike

    Lou, you are absolutely correct. The clear break from the common hiring process needs to be made. From the other side candidates need to show what they are best at with sites such as http://www.linkedIN.com and http://www.careerrating.com/ that allow others to rate you.

  • Dusan G.

    I agree, potential of young community is being underestimated for their lack of experience, making the change in hiring process would be great.

  • Ganesh

    I agree, the JD should be simple and actual work in the job should be more when you join any new company but most of the time the JD will ask more and the real job would be much simpler. It should be other way round…

  • ChristyDipzinski

    As a recent college graduate, I understand how difficult it can be to get a job because I do not have the “experience” required. Great article!

  • http://fundless-sponsor.blogspot.com/ Capitalistic

    I agree. The job descriptions are based on what the hiring manager WISHES he/she had .

  • Gina

    While I do agree that jds currently supply a narrow view of whats needed Id say that its only a portion of the issue. A hiring manager would have to appoint based on what is immediately required for a role if the business was not sufficiently manned to provide mentoring and training for the new recruit. In this instance current jds fit the bill. If businesses wish to recruit with people and company growth in mind then they need to couple amended jds with innovative perfomance programs, a measurable framework to rate transferrable skills and sufficient and ongoing training and support. There could be negative results in evolving jds without the supporting structure when recruits join the business.

  • Tina M Donde

    I totally agree I have hired people based on their
    Certifications or education level and felt totally
    Frustrated at their work performance. I later had no choice
    But to let them go and tried to higher someone based on what
    Was needed to get the job done and was much more satisfied at
    The work performance I received. I have since sold
    My business’s and am now working for others at yet at times
    Feel the same frustration in the persons that are hired (since
    Most times I find I’m the one doing the training over and over )
    Since the person they hire wasn’t worth the effort I had put in.
    I believe all that should be posted is what the job entails and what
    The potential employee would be doing rather then what how long they held
    A specific degree.

  • Rachel Laurie

    I prefer when less is written within a job description. Sometimes, job descriptions give you 100 adjectives that they think describe the best candidate, leaving very little for you to do but parrot them back. Even when I want to chance a different tactic, I usually feel constrained to agreeing, “Yes, I am detail-oriented, helpful, fun, and a little rebellious.” Here’s an example…

    I would use as few words as possible. Just describe the end results as mentioned and see whether the person knows how to reach that result.

  • http://acorn-review.blogspot.com/ acorn

    Performance indicators are not objective in any sense. First, they depend on the skill of the person(s) drafting them. This skill level varies enormously. Second, they speak about future achievement. No one can foresee the future, so the ‘peformance indicator’ is really a target. Is it feasible? No one can really tell: it is a guess based on the assumptions that current conditions will continue to prevail and that no unforeseen events occur. The longer the timeframe the greater the level of unpredictability.

    This is not to say current JDs are any better. They suffer from the same problem as the first issue raised above. Often they have been written by several people and end up looking like a patchwork quilt with little internal consistency. Almost all are far too long.

    I think it would be preferable to focus on skills, e.g. ability to complete a project plan for a new warehouse to a deadline. This allows the applicant to refer to experience where this has been achieved, and is verifiable by checking up on referees.

    • Debasish

      The most important part of experience must not be years of experience, but accomplishment density – how much the candidate has performed per year in the past. Year is a unit of time, not a unit of experience. What matters is what the person has done in those years. It is also futile to ask the person to guess what he/she would do in the future, the person may just give an optimistic answer to get the job.

  • Loredana Ladunca

    Hi Lou and thank you for sharing with us these interesting findings.

    A performance profile will be assessed based on past experience and/or candidate’s potential?

  • Angeles Reyes

    Thank you! Finally someone making sense! Job descriptions feel like a prison for profiles like mine, and this isn’t just beneficial for the graduates but also for the mature worker, whose experience feeds prejudice as well. Thank you so much for trying to change this model of recruitment.

  • Joe Romello

    Interesting proposition and I somewhat agree with the issues around JDs and the current process but I am not prepared to swing the pendulum to the other extreme! If I hire based on the work ahead in the first year, is the proposition that I hire year to year? Using the example of the cited for the warehouse, I would expect that the population of folks that could complete the plan in 120 days would be large. However, I would want someone who has experience in successfully operating an automated warehouse to be putting my plan together; and, frankly that population is not very large. But, according to the performance based proposal, that past experience is somehow not relevant to the actual job to be done. Possibly a compromise would be to add performance objectives to enhance JDs rather than wholesale replacement of JDs. And, as a hiring manager, how would i possibly make an assessment of the potential to do the job if I don’t look at past experience?

  • http://twitter.com/ChristineKarel Christine Karel

    Makes total sense!
    This would also help the job seekers from wasting time applying for positions
    their not qualified for. I teach my clients to list value based descriptive
    examples in their resumes, rather than listing their responsibilities, seem
    only natural that the employer does the same.

  • Jenalynne

    There are jobs that I do want to try but I can’t since my experience is not in line with those fields.

  • http://www.facebook.com/balakrishnans Balakrishnan Sivasankaran

    Interesting.. I like this shift to Performance Profiles because JD describe the job only to certain extent but I think a blend of JD and PP (Performance Profile) will be effective.

  • Anirban

    I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that HR in most organizations are pretty toothless or backdated.

  • Filipo Maea

    As a 20 years experienced Manager I firmly believe that Performance Based Recruitment as a supporting recruitment tool is the way to go. It will bring out the best candidates if they are given an opportunity to present on how they intend to approach the role. It will also weed out the pretenders, regardless of how many qualifications or how much experience they have. Many job descriptions however are often too generic and therefore lack the necessary detail to do this. Providing appropriate job scope detail will enable potential candidates to pick out the critical elements more effectively, and also provide a more meaningful proposal to demonstrate their relevant qualities. The key decision makers, both client and recruiter need to ensure that they do not restrict themselves by imposing criteria such as ‘has managed a minimum of x… stores’ as this is promoting ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’ and assumes that such candidates are effective managers based on this magic number. Thanks Lou for facilitating this change.

  • JR

    Except your lack of specifics in job posting will make it harder for candidates to figure out if they can actually do the job. You’re making quite a leap of faith in assuming that. Look at your example. Completing a detailed project plan suddenly involves supervisory experience? That’s pretty subjective right there. What about software? Oh, I have all my experience coding in C, so I’m afraid I won’t be writing your code in Java. K-sry!

  • Patrick Goonan

    I think this is brilliant and would result in better hiring choices.

  • http://twitter.com/Amar_Kulkarni Amar

    I like the concept of Performance based JD’s as it is much more intuitive for the candidate and hiring manager, furthermore it is easier for the hiring manager to produce as it can easily be extracted from the manager’s project plans. The one thing that I would be uncomfortable in providing performance goals for the candidate is that it does not take into account variables such as shift in plans and change in business direction. If I hire a PM to do a project and that is their biggest asset, and the project gets descoped, I would prefer a candidate with better all around skills that is flexible rather than a perfect PM. A great candidate provides less risk and more flexibility and I am not sure if this can be achieved through either just a performance based JD or traditional JD. This is where assessments and practical exercises come in very useful.

  • Shubha

    As an experienced freelance editor who had been editing for some reputed organizations, I still got rejected for a job once because the recruiter could not see past the fact that I don’t have a degree in English. In my opinion, it was entirely his loss!

  • Keith McCurdy

    Reminds of 5 years ago when I was interviewed at Google for 3 days and met 12 people, including some VPs. They claimed they didn’t have a specific job in mind for me, and that they just thought I was “interesting”. I am not sure still to this day I believe that. They must have had some ideas, but I do believe they didn’t have a job description. https://twitter.com/KeithMcCurdy

  • Dave Hoder

    So True. At my last job as a senior engineer for a large corporation, they developed written job descriptions. The entire engineering dept. agreed that not one of us was qualified for the job and would not even have applied due to the requirements.
    It’s also a sad fact that no one in HR or management actually knew what I did.
    Later they created an executive level position (I forget what it was called) and posted the job description. We all agreed that no one could possibly do what was required. We were right.

  • Catherine Mallet

    Having “performance profiles” is a clever idea. I believe it takes the pressure off of the employer and candidate. Also, if a potential hire knows exactly what is expected of him/her in a certain timeline, then everyone can be on the same page.

  • Martha Ware

    Love this article. I’m a big advocate of performance profiles as well as recruiting candidates with great achievements instead of the “7 years of experience” one. I mean, if you are recruiting a manager, who should coach and develop talents, would you rather hire one with 10 years experience on the job but was never able to promote any of his employees or one with 2 years that prepared and was able to promote 4 employees? Personally I don’t believe on the “years of experienced with a master”s degree” description- I look for accomplishments, adaptability and culture compatibility. Great points, Lou!

  • Wafa Dajani

    I totally agree with this approach. In my view it is all about team management and employing the personal skills of employees in a complementary and supportive manner. The traditional job description approach kills innovation and creativity.

    I am currently managing a newly established industrial park in Jericho, Palestine. I have built up a core management team based upon the skills of the employees, each in his own field of specialization but with an eye on where they can complement and consolidate each others’ skills in projects and special assignments. I actually tailored a new position for a candidate in order to bring him into my team and benefit from his broad skills and experience.

    For example, I am utilizing my financial manager to assist the marketing manager in his marketing campaign and field visits to convince potential customers to invest in the industrial park by quantifying the benefits in dollars and cents. I am also utilizing my commercial operations manager’s networking and connections to help the marketing manager in attracting new customers.

    And guess what, this approach is working wonders: it creates a wonderful team spirit, a shared vision, cross pollination of ideas and learning experiences. Above all it is generating a very positive and cooperative working environment.

  • Fast

    disagree here on seveal points: the amount of content is most definitely not arbitrary, misleading, or at all capricious. Synonyms for capricious: whimsical – wayward – fickle – freakish – crotchety.
    While there may be some out there like that, I think it’s definitely in the minority. Most JD’s are put together pretty carefully, by pretty reasonable, well educated and informed managers and HR professionals.
    Performance based, as noted by another poster, are not objective. Plus, in most cases, to acheive performance objectives, it is almost a neccessity to have requisite experience and past performance. Past performance is a great indicator of future performance. If you’ve done it before, in all likelihood, you can do it again.
    The least experienced candidates who can quickly learn are hardly “top performers who everyone wants to hire”. This is pure fiction. Not that they’re bad or anything like it, but experience counts.
    I could go on. Basically, it’s no wonder Adler has been after this for 30 years. It’s embellished theory based on hyperbole.

    • Eric Hebert

      You’re way off here. Job descriptions are rarely updated by anyone even when the time comes to look for new people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a 10+ year old posting go out to the public at places I’ve been. I’ve seen this happen in the IT world which is ridiculous. You post a job with skills and descriptions for extremely outdated technology and what you’ll get is: #1 great potential candidates passing over the job because the job looks easy/far below his or her level, #2 you’ll end up hiring someone that fits the description but can’t perform in the actual job/environment.

  • http://twitter.com/LouA LouA

    A point – this post gets better comments than ERE! Real point to someone who disagreed re the capriciousness of the skills listed. The problem: most of them are pulled out from some old job spec, and there are plenty of people who have a different mix of the skills who could do the work extremely well. Unfortunately they’re excluded from consideration by someone who is box checking. That’s capriciousness to me.

    • Jacque Vilet

      Lou — please reply. I agree with Perf. Profiles. A candidate would have to convince the recruiter that he/she could do the job —- walk them through what they would do at each step during the interview. But you/I know that candidates can come up with a logical plan but they are IN REALITY not able to pull it off if given the job. You have not said how the recruiter would decide if a candidate could do the job. Would it be via behavioral interviewing? Asking if a candidate had ACTUALLY done such things itemized on the PP??? That would be looking at past performance. If not, then how would you be able to see through the glib convincing candidate that could make up a credible plan — but not have a clue as to how to pull it off???? Please show the link between the PP and how the recruiter would make a decision!!!!

      • Clark Morgan

        I agree with this observation, was thinking this very thing. And it is not a criticism of the article or the author’s point of view – these are all spot on. But how, particularly with a job that does require complex technical skills or a proficiency for the same, do you simultaneously get at the performance goals and the interviewee’s ability to meet them?

      • Natalie Prigge

        Lou and Jacque – I am in agreement all around. But regardless of what is written in the JD or the Performance Profiles – the key to fully qualifying a candidate is in the interview. Not only are Behavioral Interviews not used as much as they should be, interview teams / hiring managers are not always prepared to interview the candidates.

  • Richard Lindenmuth

    Great article and thought process. Too often job descriptions and requirements simply reflect the person that was previously in that job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.bradley.5855 Eric Bradley

    From the applicant side, I can agree completely with this assesment. Twelve years of automotive service experience means very little when put to test against standardized job posting requirements in business development and marketing. No matter how I spin my ability to communicate, build teams, understand clients, and provide vision and direction to improving systems; the box still isn’t checked. I understand the need to find qualification, but that only hits a minimum. These very concise targets leave little room for ingenuity that comes from looking at challenges and opportunities from a different view. Do employers just want the same thing again and again, or do they want the opportunity to grow that diversity of thought provides. By finding skill and innovation, a company can exceed the standard. Performance profiles allow a problem to be adressed from a more productive angle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Norm-Higgs/561615108 Norm Higgs

    The only problem I see with this article is that you keep referring to apples as oranges. That is, what you refer to as “Job descriptions” is actually “Job requirements”. As someone who is actively seeking work, I am constantly reviewing job postings and they almost universally list both a description of the work that will be done (at least in the technical postings I review) and requirement for candidates. But I whole heartedly agree – the traditional ‘Job Requirements’ should be done away with as it needlessly filters out many of the best, ‘hungriest’ candidates. Just because a candidate has 2 years of experience doing ‘xyz’, does not mean he can’t do the job because the HR person wrote ’3 years required’.

  • http://twitter.com/earlvarona Earl Varona

    I agree. It’s like title vs competency. I know that in the Web industry, there are so many professionals that have the ‘senior’ title but performs like a ‘junior’ and there are also some that are considered ‘junior’ but has so much more talent and skills greater than the ‘senior’. The ‘diamond in the rough’ employees are those who are just starting out but have so much passion in their trade that they learn and grow ridiculously fast — their 1 year experience equates to others’ 5 years — and traditional description will eliminate them as good prospects (what a waste). IMO

  • http://datasystemics.com/ Joseph Weaver

    Experience indicators are even less objective than performance indicators. I have 10 years in technology and 7 years in financial services. I tell people that because it seems important to them. The sad part is that it doesn’t matter. At all. I’ve brought completely fresh faces into the industry that have, in a matter of weeks, trounced established players with many years of experience.

    I completely agree with this post, and have been building “ideal candidate trait profiles” for a while.

  • Samir Sogay

    I have always been in favour of performance based recruitment because you know they will get the job done. They are not those who say, they are those who do.

  • jesper Frovin Jensen

    Well, this would open for a lot of ‘right potential’ to be taken into consideration. Not only for young talent, but also for the more mature, who might have experience that is truly relevant, but where the formal entry requirements for a certain type of position has changed over time.

    Let me use myself as an example: When I graduated from University in the eighties, you could not even take a ‘Master’s’ degree in Denmark. Degrees were different, called something else. In most jobs that are relevant for me, a Master’s is required or a Bachelor with added relevant experience.

    Today, when applying for a job, I cannot use my degree to show anything, as it is non-existing in other countries. As a consequence, I have had to ask the university officially to downgrade my exam and issue a new certificate for a Bachelors’, which is comparable.

    So, yes – I would love to see the performance profiles instead!! Then I could be ‘me’ and relate that ‘me’ to the tasks ahead…

  • Mike

    A performance based job description, if properly described, is more likely to draw real, focused, interest from candidates who have the aptitude or natural skill for the desired results described. Where experience based asks “Have you done the following?”, performance based asks “Can you do the following?”. For me neither approach precludes certain basic criteria particular to an area of work. When it comes to performance evaluation of a position, with a performance based job description, you have continuity. There are no surprises. This makes sense to me.

  • j4a

    Job descriptions are passe, sure, but a level of skill is required to get the job done, not to mention experience. What you describe is a future where short term employment is the norm, perhaps you do four or five jobs in a year at different companies. Say goodbye to benefits and bonuses if you cant live up to the false project timelines. Welcome to the next wave of paid slave employment.
    J4a

    • Jason Thompson

      While, yes someone needs to have some skill, I have found that even in a high technological position each job wants to ‘teach’ you what they want and how they want it done. They end up training you to do the job and in many instances anyone could have done the job as long as they could be trained.

  • BigSully

    Good article, and I agree “partially”. With 30 years as a high performer in IT, I was interested in changing positions but couldn’t because I lacked the “experience”. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of people come in stating they could build systems without a clue where to start and poor follow through. Hard call without actually gettign to the interview step. Still, great article.

  • wjca

    I’m not certain that Performance Profiles are the answer, but Job Descriptions definitely are not.

    One thing anyone recruiting technical people rapidly learns is that HR people (and, I suspect, most recruiters) are utterly clueless about what your people do, or what skills they might find useful to do it. So what they do is filter on buzzwords. If a resume has those words, it may get thru; if it lacks even one of them (even if it says exactly the samething in slightly different words), it gets filtered. You’ll never even know that they applied.

    Which means that anything you ask for specifically had better be a skill that it is both absolutely impossible to do the job without and which you cannot even maybe stand to have the new employee pick up on the fly. Because, even if she walks on water routinely and gives policy advice to God, if her resume doesn’t say the exact word “xxxx” that is in the job description (or performance profile) you won’t even have a chance to think about it.

    This is, also, why professional relationships and networks are so important. You can find people who can actually do the job for you without letting HR filter them out. You don’t let HR send you candidates; you send them results. Of course, that’s rough on those without pre-existing contacts. And on those who have earned a bad repuration somewhere else — even nationwide, it’s a very small world we all work in.

  • Grenac

    Just sounds like a short-cut to writing the job descriptions that should have been done correctly in the first place. But, of course this will become yet another misapplied “new idea”. I’ve un-blocked numerous recruiting backlogs just by paring the specs to “the bone”. I work in IT, so “arm’s length” lists of essentials for “recent graduates, with 10 years experience” are an every day occurence. I can count 20 skills I don’t have that were on my job spec, and I have never had to (or will) use. Think of it like googling for a candidate, type in “the” (1.5 billion matches), “theology for dummies” (1.5 million matches) and “theology for dummies who are bald” (no matches). You want the book, and you don’t care who is going to be reading it. So you just need to find the “goldilocks zone” job description and you should get the kind of candidates you need (if not, shift the search space an increment). I once managed to get a CCNP and an Oracle DBA working as basic application testers (with actual experience in testing).

  • freehand

    In my mind some of the “article” sounds short-sighted…

    “In fact, a person with the least amount of years of experience and the ability to learn quickly are the top performers who everyone wants to hire. ”

    Interesting logic; least amount of experience + ability to learn = top performers?

    Based on this: IF you are old = have experience + ability to learn quickly = you are not a top performer + nobody wants you.

    Doesn’t sound right to me nor should it sound right to anyone. It easier to learn when you have knowledge and usually experience gives you knowledge.
    It almost feels like age discrimination.

  • jesnsissl

    This idea of performance-based job description is very good providing THE ONE WRITING IT IS COMPETENT AND KNOWS WHAT HE’S TALKING about. My boss is completely incompetent and comes to me wondering why we have not finished a job HE HAS NOT provided staff to do???

  • Sabbir Asgar

    I like the idea where it says most recruiters are incompetent with the explicit requirements for a position. IMHO, recruitment should be limited to few very special skilled people and also limited based on industry-specific jobs. That is if one recruiter is popular for hiring Java positions, the same may not be skilled enough to hire for ERP positions. Similarly, someone hiring both functional and technical analysts may not perform equally. A better policy is needed for recruitment industry itself.

  • Tim

    So to debunk the ‘traditional skills’ technique, you engaged someone that you described with a ‘traditional skills’ technique? Interesting….

  • Old Willum

    I agree with Lou Adler. The HR people did IT a great injustice when job descriptions took hold. I worked on my first mainframe in 1959. Looking back, about 30+ years ago the rate of systems change and quality of IT department performance took a noticeable decline.

  • Sabine

    I love your idea. I totally also think that current job descriptions don’t give people a chance who are talented but want to change direction or who want to step up and subsequently look for a job where they can grow and not just do the same as before. The issue is though that a log of recruiter compare current job descriptions and CV like check boxes, ticking off skills to quickly go through all applications. With your proposal this wouldn’t be possible anymore because a recruiter then has to envision the potential of a candidate rather than checking he has all required skills and experiences. How do you see this working for recruiters?

  • Pierre Bernardi

    Very, very good article, but why would anyone want to “implement a robust military veteran hiring initiative”?

  • Patrick

    Great common sense article, something lacking in today’s world. The concept of performance profiles is great, certainly puts the “best person for the job” back into hiring. I’ve worked IT for many years, mostly self employed. I have had a number of occasions as a subcontractor to work next to the degree and certification carrying techs who really cannot do the job. It’s frustrating. Obviously they looked good on paper, but they lacked the competency to efficiently do the work. I often see ads for IT, and it’s obvious that whoever is recruiting has no clue of what the job entails based on the generic descriptions, that tend to just have a long list of “skills and degrees needed”, with no real description of what the job really entails. I’m amused when I see ads that have such a long list that it’s almost impossible for anyone to have all of what they ask for, and it’s for an entry level position paying slightly above minimum wage.

    A process that really does evaluate the job applicants actual ability to do the job being hired for would certainly be a huge plus.

    I could go on and on, but many of the other great comments have already said it.

  • Debbie Robinson

    To be effective, recruitment must comprehensively assess both eligibility and
    suitability, and provide an overall measurement from that assessment. Experience
    shows that the traditional HR approach tends to deal with the ‘eligibility’ factor
    effectively, but little, if any, thought is given to the issue of ‘suitability’. This is a
    serious weakness.

    “It’s not experience that counts – or college degrees or other accepted factors; success hinges on a fit with the job.” Harvard Business Review
    “The chances are good that up to 66% of your company’s hiring decisions will prove, in the first twelve months, to be mistakes.” Peter Drucker, Management Consultant

    A recent study of 20,000 new hires over a three-year period showed that within their first 18 months, 46 per cent of them failed to achieve their expected potential.
    What is disturbing, though, is why those people failed. The top five reasons why the new hires failed were:

    1. Coachability (26%): The ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers, and others.
    2. Emotional Intelligence (23%): The ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions and accurately assess others’ emotions.
    3. Motivation (17%): Sufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.
    4. Temperament (15%): Attitude and personality suited to the particular job and work environment.
    5. Technical Competence (11%): Functional or technical skills required to do the job.

    The above figures show that a lack of skills or technical competence only accounted
    for 11 per cent of new-hire failures. When a new hire was wrong for a company it
    was due to attitude (suitability), not a lack of skills. Suitability was a much more
    significant factor than eligibility.

  • http://twitter.com/jasmaniac2 Chris Edwards

    The best article on this subject I have ever read. All recruiters should read and learn…

  • citizen3591

    Sir, your sage advice is, I believe, inhumanly objective. That is, you reason from a purely analytical standpoint and within a framework of problem identification, determination of cause and effect, and efficient execution of provable solutions. Bravo.

    But conventional job descriptions are written based on the frail human notion that quantified, demonstrable experience is a reliable indicator of learning mastery. People don’t seem to understand that experience doesn’t necessarily imply knowledge or skill, or (especially) that inexperience doesn’t imply inability.

    Forward-looking, performance based job descriptions would leave hiring managers rudderless, with no way to assess the risk of their hiring decisions.

    It takes a thoughtful person like you to provide the missing guidance. Until then, I believe that your mission to “ban” job descriptions is quixotic at best.

  • http://www.waterhousegroup.com/ Steve Waterhouse

    Number 5 is spot on. Our clients use the Predictive Index assessment both for hiring and for leadership. Only when managers understand themselves, as well as the employee and the job, do you get the results you want. You can learn more at http://www.predictiveresults.com

  • EyeVeeW

    As a mature professional without a degree but with lots of current formal and informal education, I find the current job application system extremely discriminatory. I am a top performer who has earned promotions and top praise from senior management and co-workers alike. However, my job application is not passed through the web recruiter Robot when I can’t check the education requirements checkbox. The crazy thing about this is that it is rare when I find a co-worker with a degree relevant to what they are doing. Most have degrees that have no correlation to the job they perform. Not even remotely relevant degrees. Although I feel bad for others in my boat, I feel equally bad for current or recent degree seekers who are paying an extremely high price for a degree that most likely will have little to do with the jobs out there.

  • Natalie Prigge

    As a niche recruiting firm, job descriptions are essential in some ways because they ensure clarity for what both the hiring team and recruiting team is looking for in a candidate. However, Lou, you make an excellent point. JDs are only a piece in the overall puzzle and we often see a well written JD thrown in a drawer and never used. OR (even worse) a JD is written by one individual and the rest of the Hiring Team has no clue as to what is in it.

    Our firm’s qualification process is in alignment to the performance based model you have described. It would be great for all hiring managers to get start taking this approach. http://www.clinical-cra.com/clinical-recruitment-properly-qualify-job/

  • Nex

    JDs mostly suck. Most of them at best gives a general feel of the job, worst ones don’t even come close to describing the actual work.

  • Kristen Fife

    Unfortunately, compliance issues such as OFCCP, SOX, and USCIS mandates mean having actual, measurable and quantifiable requirements. When those change, so can our methodology.