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Should Employers Relax Job Requirements in a Tight Labor Market?

Relaxing Job Requirements to find the purple squirrel

Your obsession with finding the perfect employee is admirable, but it’s also time-consuming and unrealistic. At worst, it’s a complete waste of time. The “purple squirrel” you’re looking for doesn’t exist, and if they do, they usually have at least five other job offers.

Increasing pay, sign-on bonuses, unlimited PTO— employers have tried a wide range of options to get people through the door. While that may have worked for some, most employers are left wondering how to hire quality candidates without going bankrupt.

This has led many employers to relax job requirements as a way to encourage applications. Even Google, Netflix, and Apple ditched the requirement for four-year degrees, as it was excluding otherwise highly skilled workers from consideration.

The question for Hawaii employers is, “Should our company relax the job requirements to increase applicants?” The short answer: sometimes.

Your Job Requirements May Be Hurting You

Look at the job description for your hardest-to-fill position. Is there a long and complicated requirements section? A hefty laundry list of requirements may discourage people from applying for your position.

“Candidates tend to screen themselves out for a position if they see they don’t meet all the job requirements listed,” says ALTRES Staffing Manager, Emy Yamauchi-Wong.

“So even if a candidate has nine of the ten requirements listed, they may not apply for the job and you could lose out on an otherwise really great candidate.”

“Even if a candidate has nine of ten requirements listed, they may not apply for the job and you could lose out.” – Emy Yamauchi Wong, ALTRES Staffing Manager

For some positions, it simply can’t be helped; you need candidates who have a certain amount of experience or who have acquired a specific set of skills. But, in other cases, you could benefit from considering candidates you may be overlooking.

How to Get Candidates through Your Door without Sacrificing Quality

The good news is, you don’t have to overhaul your entire job description. Start by looking at the position and ask yourself these questions:

  • What parts of the description ask for skills that aren’t really needed on day one?
  • What skills could be left off this list and learned through on-the-job training?
  • Could I lower the requirement without sacrificing legitimate skills?
  • Do I have current employees who could be trained to fill this position?
  • Do I have the means to provide training for a less qualified candidate?

Again, the perfect candidate rarely exists, so you want to keep an open mind.

Related: Should You Include Salary Information in Your Job Postings?

When rethinking job requirements, pay close attention to industry experience, specific hard skills, and soft skills. This is where employers typically have room to make adjustments that result in job ads that are more attractive to job seekers.

Industry experience

Depending on the job, could previous work experience within another industry suffice? This is especially likely for entry-level positions that don’t require many hard skills. Industry-specific operations, processes, terminology, and lingo can often be learned on the job—assuming you have the time required to get new employees up to speed.

Hard skills

If a hard skill is not absolutely necessary right away, or is not a core part of the job, consider removing it. Or perhaps it could be listed as a desirable requirement? Familiarity with specific software applications or various programming languages are types of hard skills that often get listed but are very teachable. Of course if a particular skill is essential to the job, leave it on the job description.

Soft skills

Employees either have the soft skills you need, or they don’t. No amount of on-the-job training can make a person change their natural work style to be more creative, friendly, or detail-oriented. For more technical positions, listing soft skills as requirements may discourage candidates who know their worth is tied to their specific skillset. Think about what soft skills are absolutely required and don’t bother listing “nice to haves.”

Related: How to Bridge the Skills Gap When Qualified Workers Are Scarce

Every employer has felt the struggle of hiring new employees over the last few years. Ever since 2016, the state unemployment rate has remained below three percent with the current rate steady at 2.8 percent: great for employees, very hard on businesses.

Your goal is not to overhaul your entire job requirements section, but slowly decrease what isn’t necessary to get more candidates through your door, train them up, and get them to work.

Have a question for one of our HR experts? To learn more about this issue or to schedule a free consultation on the advantages of human resources outsourcing, contact simplicityHR.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.

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