The Disadvantages of Job Specifications

I attended my first Lean (Startup) Coffee meetup today. The idea of the meetup is to form practically sized groups, whose members each generate 1 to 3 topics for discussion. The Dot Voting method is used to decide which topics are prioritised for discussion.

One of the topics of discussion that stuck out for me was: “How having strict job specifications could impair the effectiveness of hiring processes.”

Lean (Startup) Coffee Meetup (2018/11/28)

The topic reminded me of the hiring philosophy we have at Nona:

To hire only the best, and to settle for nothing less.

The probing question was: “Is it possible for the best to exist outside of the traditional shortlisting framework?”, the answer to which was: an obvious yes. The traditional method for shortlisting candidates is centred around risk management. The method acknowledges the presence of outliers, but sees overlooking them as a necessary step.

Knowing the rarity of the best candidates, and that employers cannot afford to overlook these outliers — this raised a question: “How do we improve the shortlisting framework?”

The traditional framework, and why it still exists

Job requirements give an overview of the skills necessary to effectively perform a job.

Considering that interviewing is a costly and time consuming process; having an initial filter, which HR departments can use as a threshold for prospective candidates, prevents the risk of misspending company time.

There are two main components that almost always show up in job specs:

1. Educational qualifications

Outside of roles where requirements may be set by regulatory bodies (e.g. Accounting, Engineering); educational qualifications serve two major roles. 
Firstly, it gives companies a quantified grading of how well versed or trained an individual is for the specific role.
Secondly, an individual’s level of education might give employers an idea of the individual’s level of commitment.

2. Experience

Perhaps the most important component is experience. Experience can be used as a measure of the knowledge and understanding an individual has gained in a certain domain. It also details otherwise quantitative information about an individual such as: their passion and interest for their work domain.

The fallacy of the traditional shortlist framework

Hiring new potential

The recipe for breeding great employees, where it’s otherwise difficult to hire the best experienced ones, is to hire juniors with great potential and the aptitude to advance quickly — and then shaping them into the seniors you wish you could find.

In the case where little to no information about the candidate’s experience exists, it’s easy for employers to fall back on educational qualifications and grades. This is immediately fallible; as there is no evidence that shows the positive correlation of high grades and job performance.

“G.P.A.’s are worthless criteria for hiring.” — Lazlo Bock, Google recruiter

This article looks at some of the questions companies ask when hiring new potential.

Solving the problem of ignored outliers

Incorporate a referral system

Great people know great people. It’s likely that employees have buddies who are just as passionate as they are in their field— this is how I got hired at Nona :)

Create communities

My favourite example of this is how OfferZen uses OfferZen to find candidates. If you’re not a job recruitment company — you can still leverage the idea of creating communities.

You could:
- Host meetups with parameters that attract great people
- Host competitions/challenges to attract skill (see how Nona shortlisted high-skilled devs from across the world)

Viral Recruitment Campaign: Do you even Dev?

Advertise strategically

Perhaps it’s because of the annoyance from the flock of recruitment messages I get on LinkedIn— but you’d have a much better chance finding a great developer, for example, at a dev conference than from a process that’s entirely driven by placement incentives.

There are many creative ways to find outliers, would love to hear and discuss some of your ideas in the comments section