Talk more about the ‘JOB’ in Job Description and less about the skills

Talk more about the ‘JOB’ in Job Description and less about the skills



Recently I read an article from hiring expert and author of the book “Hiring with Your Head,” by Lou Adler about how to build a performance-based hiring system.

Most companies’ hiring processes are horrible.  The typical job description is long-winded, boring and poorly defined.  The candidate that these job descriptions describe would be making a move to a new company for essentially a lateral transfer, getting all the hassle of changing companies for very little or no professional advancement.  Job boards promise great candidates in days yet positions stay open for months and months.  Applicant tracking software still expects candidates to jump through hoops; spending precious time on data entry that can be automated is redundant.

Skill based job descriptions don’t work.  Skills don’t do jobs.  When my team is called in to find a replacement for an incumbent, the person currently in the job usually is more than qualified.  They have the skills.  But they don’t get the outcomes the company needs.

Let’s stop focusing on skills and evaluate results.

Now, some jobs absolutely require a specific degree or certification to accomplish.  I am not saying to hire unqualified people.  Instead, let’s hire for the outcomes that define success in the role.

We should be using the same outcomes as our standard from the job posting, through the interview process, into on-boarding and finally as part of performance reviews.  There’s several benefits to this approach:

  • Better applicants. Skills, competencies and years of experience required are not inspirational.  What’s going to convince a high achiever at another company to bother applying is interesting work and real career growth.


  • Non-traditional candidates. High performers are routinely promoted faster and given assignments outside of their job description or experience level.  When we insist on a certain number of years of experience, we eliminate candidates who have been able to cram a lot of learning and advancement into short time frames.


  • More diversity. Historically, fewer women apply to positions unless they meet all the qualifications. When we add bogus qualifications unnecessary to accomplishing the outcome, we eliminate high potential candidates.


  • Less applications. When job postings and interviews are clear on the results expected in the position, people who don’t want to do that work don’t apply. That means less paperwork and time spent on candidates who want a job, but not YOUR job.


  • Better culture fit. When all the candidates can do the job, hiring managers can focus on culture fit.  Most bad hires are a result of a failure in culture fit.


  • Easier coaching. Gallup and almost every business book on management states that clarifying expectations upfront was the key to assessing and motivating people.


  • Focus on career trajectory. I’ve seen many candidates take a lower offer or even a pay cut to do truly interesting work in an environment that fits them.  It’s not always about the money.  This attracts people who are running towards achievement, not running away from a bad situation.


The number one thing a company can do to improve performance is define the work required before hiring.  When I took this approach in my own company, our recruiter’s production tripled and our turnover dropped by 2/3rds.

Hiring great people is about clear expectations and finding people with both the ability and the desire to do the job.


By: Dixie Agostino, Founder of Switchgear Search & Recruiting