Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hard-to-Fill Jobs As a Management Trick

Howard Adamsky sheds more light on the “hard-to-fill job”, from a recruiter’s point of view, in a post from yesterday:

The laundry list of bulleted requirements for this position is 22 — and I can assure you that these are not easy-to-find requirements. They’re all action words and full of responsibility for everything under the sun. (Yes, advanced degree required.) Perhaps God can do this job but in terms of mere human beings, I do not see it happening.

Looking at probabilities and the way job requirements are usually written, any list of more than six independent requirements is likely to rule out everyone in the history of work. I’ve written previously about how employers create unrealistic expectations by combining jobs that don’t go together, like the factory assembly job that requires computer programming ability. In a recession, a desperate factory worker would learn computer programming just to qualify for that job, but it’s becoming more clear that employers, and especially hiring managers, aren’t always writing job requirements in good faith.

Often, employers and hiring managers are intentionally posting job openings that are impossible for any available worker to qualify for. A job opening with eight separate requirements might be explained as an excess of exuberance in writing the job description, but if there are 10 or more, you can be pretty sure the employer has no intention of filling the position. And some job positions have 15 or 20. I have seen these myself.

The hard-to-fill job could be a budget gambit by a hiring manager, trying to protect a budget item without actually spending the money during the current quarter, or creating an excuse to hire a contractor where company policy requires in-house staff. Some job descriptions are custom-tailored for a specific candidate, and this can easily be written tightly enough to make sure that no one else fits. (That position you saw that requires an economics degree, entertainment industry experience, and data warehousing skills was likely written specifically for me.) Or the job description could just be a portrait of the last person to hold the position (and good luck hiring that person back!). Sometimes two jobs are thrown together without any planning or thought.

Regardless of the details, it’s a sign of lazy senior management if hiring managers get away with any of this. If the executives in a business can’t be bothered to notice the tricks their managers are pulling behind their backs by posting hard-to-fill job positions, they could at least give the human resources department the discretion to veto any job opening with more than five separate requirements.