The job specification paradox

The job specification paradox

A word about Job Advertisements and Job Specifications.

We thought this would be a worthwhile topic for our blog since there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding job advertisements and job specifications.  The problem we often encounter is that candidates often tell us that careers advisors will tell them that the more applications you send out, the better your chances will be!  Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily true, and sending out repeated applications for roles you are ill-suited to could harm your chances.

A good job advertisement will be crafted to gain the attention of good candidates that are looking for a role just like the one advertised.  It should be made very clear which skills are ‘essential’, ie those that the recruiter needs to see evidence of on your CV in order to further your application.  There is seldom any negotiation on the ‘essential’ skills although if you have most, but not all of them, and the skillset is quite niche, it is worth applying for the role, although you must make sure your application is a strong one and it should include a cover letter explaining your situation and outlining why you would be a good candidate.  There may also be ‘desirable’ skills – the more of these you have, the better, but this is where the employer is willing to be flexible because he knows that the right person will be able to learn them.

So we would encourage you to base your application on whether you can honestly say you have most of the ‘essential’ skills that the recruiter is looking for.  If you don’t, it is unlikely you will be considered for the role.  Don’t see this as a negative thing though; time wasted on sending out applications for roles you are unsuitable for could be better spent searching for roles that ARE suitable for you, tailoring your CV accordingly and writing an appropriate cover letter.  Five or six well-crafted job applications for roles you are well qualified for will go much further than a hundred weak applications for roles that you are underqualified for.

Job specifications, unlike advertisements, are usually out of the recruitment agency’s control – and candidates often worry when they first lay eyes on the job specification that the role might not be quite what they had in mind after all.  We often work with our clients to create job specifications but quite often it will be the case that it will be created instead by the HR department, or someone who is similarly removed from the IT team and who has very little information to base it on.  The resultant job specification is quite often something that will put candidates off the role rather than attract them.

Our advice would be to read through the job specification (if there is one) but also listen to what the consultant says about the role and ask questions.  Don’t take the job spec to be a definitive explanation of what the company will expect you to do from day one.  It is nearly always a ‘wish list’ of skills they would love to bring to the team, that few people would be able to deliver.  And if you have been given the opportunity to see it, you are already at the stage where the recruiter thinks you are a credible candidate.  Spend time on the company’s website and pick the recruiter’s brain about their culture, and trust your instincts rather than the job specification.  If you get a chance to attend an interview you will gain a far better insight than that piece of paper could ever have given you.