The truth about job descriptions is this: companies purposely set a high bar in the full knowledge that most likely, no one candidate can reach it. But why do they do that? And why is it essential that you don’t let them scare you off?
I recently wrote an article about why a Jack-of-all-trades won’t necessarily be the most successful in a professional sense. However, when candidates read job descriptions written by potential employers, they often expect that they need to be an all-rounder even to apply.
But what really stands behind an employer’s high demands? We reveal why employers list such exhaustive criteria, and how they define them.
Companies want applicants from as many different backgrounds as possible
The listed skills for any position are, if you like, a wide margin in which candidates can move. One candidate for a Communications Manager position for example, might have a lot of experience in traditional PR, while another might come from a Content Marketing background. A third however, might have more of a social media background. While quite different, all experience profiles stand to be very relevant to the job on offer. Now, it is up to the employer to find the candidate that shows plenty of development potential and best fits into the team. Ultimately, a comprehensive job description ensures that companies receive a sufficient number of applications.
Companies plan for a tolerance range
Just because a company states that it is looking for a candidate with three to five years of experience, doesn’t mean that an applicant with two years of experience will be weeded out, per se – provided that the person fits the profile and has, for example, implemented interesting projects in those two years. The same applies to the list of skill requirements.
For you as a job seeker, it is important at this point to be able to distinguish between a ‘must-have’ and a ‘nice-to-have’. For example, a person who wants to work as a PR Manager for a German company, in a German-speaking market won’t get far without a little Deutschkenntnisse. However, if you’re applying for a startup job, whether or not you have already worked for a startup, or in a similar industry for a medium-sized company, isn’t a deal breaker as such.
Companies have an image of the ideal candidate…
…and know that realistically, they are unlikely to find them. You could compare this to your own idea of what your perfect job would be, and your knowledge that you’ll probably have to compromise on certain points.
In principle, it works a little like salary negotiations. You say: “I want to earn €45,000 per annum.”, and mean “€45k would be the dream. €40k is the absolute minimum – otherwise I would decline the job – but €42k is probably realistic.”
Perfection doesn’t exist and that’s okay, but at the very least we need an idea of what perfection might look like.
There is always room to grow
Last but not least, companies are looking for employees that are happy to learn in their new position. As an applicant, you don’t need to already fit the bill of listed requirements, but you should give the impression that you can develop, and would very much like to.
So, the truth about job descriptions is: even within companies, things aren’t always what they seem. Don’t let high demands in job descriptions deter you from applying in the first place! If you are convinced that the position would suit you, apply! You have nothing to lose.