why companies don’t say what they really want in job ads

A reader writes:

I’ve been working for the same company for over 7 years, and recently I applied for a position posted on the company website. It was a training position and I met the qualifications that were listed and it seemed to me I would be a good fit for the job. However, the HR rep emailed me back a week after I applied to inform me that I didn’t meet the qualifications. She listed four qualifications that I did not meet, but none of these were listed on the original job posting.

Is it a common practice to vet prospective candidates based on undisclosed qualifications?

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 80 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    I’ll add a reason. Internal politics prevents posting a really accurate ad. I hired in an organization with a lot of turf issues and we were not ‘allowed’ to claim certain things about what we did but we needed people who had skills and experience outside our core to work on particular projects. We would have to obfuscate in the ads mentioning those things as if they were desirable rather than minimal requirements. Say we made mostly fine chocolates, but had a chocolate tea pot program but the division across the way was a specialist in tea and coffee pots. We had to soft pedal the teapot manufacturing training and experience by burying it in a broader vaguer ad.

    We always got people with 20 years fine chocolate making experience who couldn’t understand why they were not getting an interview since we only wanted people with training and experience in chocolate tea pot construction. I mean — didn’t we make chocolates? But yeah, this particular program was an outlier.

    It was stupid. We should have been able to be very specific and save the 50% of our applicants who no matter how wonderful were immediately discarded, but the internal politics of the organization did not allow it.

    1. MaryMary*

      I came here to post on the same issue. In my office, we have an ongoing disagreement on if a college degree is needed for our support and service roles. It’s not unusual in my industry to find pretty senior people who never completed a four year degree, and technically nothing in the service and support roles require advanced education. Good communication and analytic skills, yes, but we all know people who have a four year degree (or more!) and somehow never acquired those skills. Other people in my office feel strongly that in this day and age, not going to college shows a lack of initiative and/or intelligence. I’m of the “degree preferred but not required” camp, but there are people on both sides of the issue who are not willing to budge. It makes hiring much more difficult than it has to be.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Other people in my office feel strongly that in this day and age, not going to college shows a lack of initiative and/or intelligence.

        It’s a class marker. You may be losing some very talented people.

        1. Another English Major*

          Agreed. Man fuck those people. And I say that as someone with a degree.

          Apparently they are not intelligent enough to reason out that degree=/= intelligence, that plenty of intelligent ppl don’t get degrees for myriad reasons including socio-economic status, and plenty of not-so-intelligent ppl get degrees because it’s expected of them, paid for by parents and not any initiative of their own.

        2. Jessa*

          It can also be an age marker for people who were in the job long before college became an issue. If you’ve been doing this successfully at various levels for 10+ years, you didn’t get the degree because when you started in the industry nobody wanted one. So it’s a class and possibly race marker and also an age marker as well. All things that are likely to be protected legally (the class marker very often correlates with race.)

        3. jag*

          It’s certainly classist, but less so than it used to be since a larger percentage of people go to college.

            1. jag*

              In other words, applies to fewer people. That seems to me to be a form of “less so.”

      2. Hlyssande*

        That’s incredibly frustrating.

        My department has started requiring a 4 year degree for everything. They didn’t when I started here 9 years ago, and anyone who was already here without the degree can’t be promoted at all or even make a lateral move within the department. Even if they have years of experience.

        I’m not sure if it’s the company overall requiring this or if they just decided to change it within our department or division, but I’m sure they’re losing out on lots of great candidates with the requirement.

        1. Cinnamon Biscuits*

          I’ve been in a department like this before – it was dysfunction junction!

          First they instituted a blanket “degree required” rule for all managers. It didn’t even matter what degree you had, you just had to have a BS or BA. This resulted in an instant tank in morale, as typically these managers were hired from the debt collectors which were mostly highschool grads. Month’s later, as the incumbant managers moved on to new roles, it resulted in a talent shortage because there was no one with 3+ years of debt collector experience who also had a four year degree. This further drove down moral as there were not enough supervisors to support the debt collectors, and eventully senior management had to give … but instead of giving on the “degree required” portion they started hiring managers with no debt collection/call center experience. These managers had zero credibility, and quickly burned up most of the debt collectors goodwill. I left at this point.

          What I find crazy about this whole debaucle is that senior management kept holding “moral meetings” behind closed doors and blaming “lazy millenials” for the moral and talent shortage problems. 1) I and several others on the operations side of the management team were millenials … sitting in the room listening to these hour long grip-fests and 2) why did management expect that millenials with 4 year degrees would apply to minimum wage hourly positions in a call center? Don’t most people with degrees want to actually use there degree in work outside of college?

          My understanding is that 2 years later there is almost an entirely new team of leaders there.

      3. MaryMary*

        I almost edited that part out because I suspected it would upset people! I agree with you all: it’s classist, arrogant, and short sighted to require four year degrees for positions that don’t need them. When some of my workers talk about hiring “the right kind of people,” I cringe.

        For what it’s worth, one of the people who is most adamant about hiring people with college degrees is also against advanced degrees. It comes down to “we should hire people just like me, because I am awesome.” This is how we end up with workplaces with very little diversity (racial, ethnic, gender, religious, socioeconomic, regional, etc) even if leadership insists they want a diverse employee population.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        It’s also short sites because I’m this day and age a lot of techy types especially are self taught I know a couple of coders like this

        1. Lindrine*

          Yes back in my day, we were excited just to have a graphical web browser. There were no real web design tracks at most colleges. While I did go back and get more training, my original degree is pure art/design. Completely non-technical at first glance. I too know a lot of smart, experienced people who don’t have a degree. It is short sighted of companies.

      5. Rose*

        This is total bs. I spent my first two years out of college working for a well know company as an admin. They only hired liberal arts grads with degrees from fairly selective schools. They wound up with a cohort of bored people who left ASAP because they either felt like their education wasn’t being used or couldn’t pay back their loans on that salary.

        Admin work requires a lot of organization and time/task management skills, which aren’t things you learn in college. This trend of needing to go to college to get any kind of office job drives me nuts.

  2. Dr. Pepper Addict*

    This is a pet peeve of mine. I applied for a job at a company this week, where I checked all the boxes in the description. A friend of mine works in that department and I told her afterwards that I had applied in case she could put in a good word for me. Well, she tells me they’re looking for someone with at least 10 years experience. That wasn’t on the job description/qualifications AT ALL.

    Companies whose HR department post these job descriptions need to realize that not only does it give people false hope of a job they think they fit, they would also save themselves the time of sorting through stacks of resumes from people who do fit the description they posted but not the hidden qualifications they’re looking for.

    1. Artemesia*

      Part of the rationale for that is that while they hope to get their ideal candidate they know they may have to compromise based on the pool they get and so don’t want to discourage someone with say 5 years experience who turns out to be the best of the pool.

      1. Rose*

        I think you’re right, but in this job market that won’t be an issue in most cases if you’re offering a salary commiserate with experience.

  3. James M*

    If a company is inconsiderate and disorganized to the point of posting misleading ads, then wouldn’t you, the job seeker who is considerate and organized, be a poor fit at that company anyways?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, maybe. But there are great teams and great managers working at companies saddled with bad HR rules and which aren’t terribly affected by them outside of things like this.

    2. Mike C.*

      But you don’t know that until after you’ve gone through the trouble of applying in the first place.

  4. Rat Racer*

    I’ll add one more: the company has templates for job descriptions that they don’t let the hiring manager alter, so the hiring manager has to pick the template that is the best fit, even if it’s only a 70% match on what they’re actually looking for.

    1. Mimmy*

      I can see why template job ads are used, particularly with large employers, like hospitals or universities. However, they can be annoying too because the more position-specific information tends to get buried in the boilerplate parts.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I was going to say something similar except maybe the busy hiring managers aren’t aware how outdated the templates HR is using are

  5. Lucy*

    It’s even better if you get all the way to an interview! </sarcasm

    Or maybe I'm just bitter because I had an interview on Monday for a Teapot Marketing Manager position and the first thing I was asked was "So tell us about your experience in Coffee Making and Research." Uh, you mean the thing I have absolutely no experience in, isn't on my resume, and isn't mentioned anywhere in the ad?

    It was a very short interview.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yup, been there, done this one. I wouldn’t have wasted their time applying if they’d just said they want X, which I have zero access to even learning ahead of time.

    2. Xarcady*

      At one job interview, for which I met every single criteria listed in the ad for a trainer, they started talking about translating training documents into Spanish.

      I don’t know Spanish. The ad said *nothing* about Spanish or translation or bilingual abilities.

      But, you see, I had worked in a translation agency. Apparently, the HM thought that meant I knew Spanish, and could solve their on-going problem of getting all training materials translated into Spanish for the part of their work-force that needed this.

      It quickly became clear that they were disappointed that I didn’t know Spanish and that they were not ever going to consider me for the job. They spent half an hour picking my brains on how to get good translations done cheaply, while I struggled to get the interview back on track. Then I gave up, answered their translation questions and left.

      Still think I would have been a good fit for the job, but once their expectations of a free translator were dashed, there was just no going back. They never once asked me a question about any other aspect of the job.

      1. TCO*

        I once got rejected from a job because I didn’t speak Vietnamese (which is not an especially common language in my area). Language requirements were never mentioned anywhere in the job posting, and the online application system didn’t ask about language proficiency until AFTER I uploaded my carefully-customized resume and cover letter. I answered “no” to the Vietnamese question and got an immediate rejection.

      2. CAsey*

        Ha, and here I thought you were talking about translational research. Internally I went ‘neat, I’d love to pick her brain!’. Oops?

      3. matcha123*

        As someone who does translation and has a number of friends who also do translation full-time, that company will get what they pay for. Yes, Google Translate is great with individual words, but if you are trying to sell something to someone, you really need knowledge of what will move people.
        See Taco Bell Japan’s translation fiasco: “Cheesy something or the other” was translated into Japanese as “Cheap Chips.” Their website was down for close to a week while they went about re-translating everything.

    3. Mimmy*

      Been there, done that too! Back when I used to send blind resumes, I got a response from a special education school system–I believe the job they called me in for was a transportation coordinator. It was 15 years ago, so I don’t remember specifics, but I do remember being asked about any experience I had in accounting-related functions. Nope, nope, and nope! Where on my resume does it say that I have an accounting background??!

    4. nyxalinth*

      Yeah, I’e had this! And almost inevitably, i would think “then why call me for an interview?”

      Alison touched on one thing though: fit. I am an introvert, though I get my chatty times. My awesome boss where I’ve worked for the past month now is even more introverted, and everyone in our department is introverted. I can guarantee that if she’d gone based on skills alone, I might not have gotten in: I have the bare minimum on typing speed and kph. She recently told me she knew I’d be a great processor and she was happy to have me! If I’d been a more chatty outgoing type, I would never have made it in, skills or no.

      So sometimes it also just comes down to fit, both for the role and the culture.

  6. Meg Murry*

    It could also be that the 4 unlisted qualifications were on the “wish list but not requirement” list, and they have a lot of candidates that have applied those 4 qualifications, so they have become the new qualifications. For instance, if you have 5 great applicants who all have certification ABC, which would be valuable for the job, it would be fair to turn down the OP for not having certification ABC – although most companies do this in a more generic “we’ve decided to go with someone with more experience” kind of way. Or in the case I’ve seen a lot of, technician positions that only ask for an associates degree in Teapot Engineering, but there are a flood of applicants with Bachelors or higher in Teapot Engineering, so all other things being equal the unofficial requirement to be considered is the Bachelor’s Degree.

    If it’s an internal posting, it could also be an issue with classification that isn’t clearly spelled out in the posting – for instance, there might be a requirement that all people above level XYZ10 have a 4-year degree, and this is an XYZ12 posting. People with common sense will list out the general requirements for level XYZ12 (or a link to them) in the description, but that isn’t always the case.

    One other thing I’ve seen is that the job description is the vague, generic job description – for instance the “Technician” job description that all employees with that title have, but that the department where the position is open in has certain qualifications to work in that department – experience with spout testing might be key in one department, while chocolate tempering might be necessary in another but not needed in the spout testing department.

  7. Garrett*

    It just seems that if something is important enough to have and you would be disqualified if you didn’t, then that probably should be on the job listing. I realize there are reasons this doesn’t happen (as Allison pointed out) but I would hope a company would revisit their policies if this happens.

    1. Sunshine*

      But it’s not always a case of being directly disqualified. If there are other strong candidates who posses the “desired” skills in addition to the “required” skills, they become the bar by which others are measured.

      1. jag*

        Exactly. I was hiring for someone to work with me, and one candidate had something the others didn’t. Even this candidate hadn’t been available, we could have gone with others. And putting in what she had as a requirement or even highly desired might have narrowed our pool far too much.

        Hiring, like job seeking, especially for mid- and higher-level position can’t be too rigid.

  8. YandO*

    Also, it is possible that they just simply did not want to hire you for reasons 1 through 6. Yet, they were not willing to disclose their reasons and since you are an internal candidate, they could not just say nothing, so they came up with reasons 4 through 10.

  9. Steve G*

    Thank you for this post, I’m looking for job, and finding ads/applying for jobs is very time consuming. I spent 10 hours on Wednesday and only did 9 applications.

    The only type of items I’m not understanding in job ads are the requirements to have experience in niche industries for roles that aren’t specialist jobs. For example, “must have internet gaming experience” for a Financial Analyst role. Do I ignore these requirements because they are pretty unrealistic (how many Analysts from a game-producing company are there looking for work at any given time) and not a great way to weed out candidates?

    Conversely, I just saw an ad that was very, very explicit about what it wants (4+ years progressive financial analysis experience in an engineering/energy company, preferably startup) and it has 175 applicants according to linkedin premium. There are not enough energy companies to be producing so many candidates, and there are also about 40 entry level candidates even though it is definitely not an entry level job. I think that as long as people are going to keep applying to jobs they don’t qualify for, then employers are going to be forced to “play games” with the way they write ads.

    1. YandO*

      “I think that as long as people are going to keep applying to jobs they don’t qualify for, then employers are going to be forced to “play games” with the way they write ads.”

      I applied for a job I was not qualified for. Not even kind of sort of maybe. I got to the last round. They picked someone with more experience after all, but they considered me seriously (flew me out last minute and paid for my very expensive hotel of their choice)

      After 6 month+ of job search, I have realized that it matters more what company you apply to than the position itself. You want to be in the same ballpark naturally, but more importantly you need to have a compelling reason why 1 – you will fit in with the culture 2 – you care about their mission 3- your experience fits with the business objectives

      I will keep applying to positions I may not qualify for, as long as I can make a compelling argument why I am the right person for the company.

      That’s hard to do though. I had to drop my 1 app a day rate to 2 apps a week. It’s hard to find positions to apply to and hard to write such unique cover letters. I have not been successful yet at finding a job, but I have successfully figured out what jobs I don’t want. That’s valuable, as far as I see.

      1. Steve G*

        I’m looking for a job too and am not an expert on any of this, I am trying to figure this out (because job hunting is NOT one of my skills!).

        When I said “not qualified,” I meant woefully not qualified, as in entry level and applying for mid level jobs. I don’t even know how to quantify “qualified” anymore. I read all of these ads asking for dramatic and extensive experience with so many software programs and experience with work typically done by quite senior staff members, then I look at the company on Linkedin and see that the people in the position now (or a similar role) are like 3 yrs out of school, and I just can’t match the job description with someone with so little experience. It really makes me think that I’ve wasted time applying for jobs I’m overqualified for, without realizing it (because I met every requirement in the ad, and they really want someone who only meets 70% or so and then grows in the role).

        1. Koko*

          There’s definitely a certain amount of title and responsibility inflation, in real life and on LinkedIn. Not long ago, my team discovered a contract worker was grossly misrepresenting herself on LinkedIn. We’d hired her as a temporary contractor for a new project with the possibility of a full-time role if she’d done well – the contractor role was a “Coordinator” level title and she reported to a more senior “Coordinator” position, but she’d leapfrogged right over “Manager” and “Senior Manager” given herself a “Director” title on LinkedIn. In her bullet points of achievements she was essentially taking credit for organization-wide accomplishments as if they were her own doing, when in reality she had little to no involvement in many of the projects she cited achievements from. I’ve also worked at small shops where everyone was a Director because they directed an area of responsibility, but there was only two tiers of staff – the Big Cheese and all her Directors.

          There’s also the state of the job market, with more companies today being more willing than in the past to give a lot of responsibility to a greener candidate who will work for less than the more seasoned professional. This also happens a lot at small shops – Big Cheese hires young, inexperienced folks who can be had for a bargain and holds their hands a lot more than an older and more experienced person would expect in a Director-level role.

          That said, the advice I was always given was to apply for a couple of “safe” positions where you meet all the qualifications and a majority of “reach” positions where you meet most of the qualifications and feel you could reasonably learn the rest. I would definitely encourage you to use a similar ratio…I’ve made my biggest professional leaps when changing jobs and learning the skills I was lacking in the first several months on-board (of course always making it clear that I lacked those skills in the interview process and would be learning them on the job). If I’d never applied for “reach” positions I’d be considerably further behind not just in pay but in my actual skills, because the growth you get once you’ve been in a role for a few years is much more incremental.

          1. Steve G*

            You’re giving me motivation to apply to more jobs instead of thinking that some of the ones I saved are wastes of time.

            FYI I was the young/inexperienced person who did work way above my pay grade, but without hand-holding, and without ever getting a high title, which I feel is holding me back a bit because I see/am meeting so many people with Director titles who did the same things as me…..I just always worked at places (particularly my last company) that deflated – not inflated – job titles. But I guess there is no use to keep kvetching about that and I just need to get on with job apps:-)

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yea I didn’t used to but the last couple times I was job searching I applied to a few where I didn’t meet the req 100% and a few called and one hired me!

        2. Koko*

          Another thing worth noting – the numbers you have access to through LinkedIn Premium reflect what I saw as a resume screener for years. The vast, vast majority of applicants to any job we posted were under-qualified…and most of them were resume-bombing at that. Maybe 1 in 4 applications looked like it had been thoughtfully considered and a reasonably good match for what we were asking. So don’t assume that just because 75% of the applicants are underqualified means that the company *wants* underqualified people and you’re wasting your time by applying. It’s just as likely that you’re one of the 1 in 4 and your odds are actually about 300% better than you think they are because 75% of your competition isn’t really competition at all.

          1. Steve G*

            This is good info, you’re giving me some motivation to apply to the jobs I saved on Linkedin but never applied to because there are “too many” applicants (which I don’t know why that bothers me anyway, 2 of my last 3 jobs had 200ish applicants and I ounce made it to the top two of 500 candidates, though the other person was a better fit and got the job).

        3. V.V.*

          “…because job hunting is NOT one of my skills!”

          Wha…? 9 applications in 10 hours? You are not giving yourself enough credit man! I wish I knew your secret. It takes me all 7 (if I am lucky 6) days of the week to locate, vet, and apply for 3 jobs… if I am lucky.

          I am very fortunate if I can get 2 applications submitted in the amount of time that you are spending on 9. I think you are doing something right.

      2. Kristine*

        “I have realized that it matters more what company you apply to than the position itself. ”

        This is SO true. That is why I suggest (below) requesting an informational interview. The OP already works for this company; maybe she needs to move on if this is how they treat her.

    2. Hummingbird*

      I’ve been exploring options that might allow me to move up the ladder faster than my current employer is able to promote me, and I’m immediately remembering everything that makes job-searching so tedious and awful. My #1 complaint of course is lack of salary range posted. I’m reasonably well-paid in my current role and it’s so tough to try to figure out if it’s even worth putting together an application and a cover letter for a lot of these jobs. Pay can vary so wildly in my skill area and industry but I wouldn’t even consider leaving my current job for less than a 15% bump over my current pay. I’m certain my current employer can get me up 10-15% in another year, and biding my time here for another year would certainly be easier and more comfortable than jumping into a new role and spending the next year learning it. I’ve been trying to use “years of experience” and apply for jobs requiring slightly more experience than I have but it’s a crummy proxy and there are jobs I pass over because the salary range isn’t given and the years of experience is too close my actual experience so I speculate that the pay is also too close to my own pay, and I’m not going to invest a couple hours tailoring my cover letter and resume for basically a job I already securely hold. I want to know for certain that it’d be the next step up.

    3. Mike C.*

      I would ignore it – either they’re complete idiots who’s labor pool will soon resemble the genetic diversity of a nearly extinct species or they’ll realize that expecting a replacement hire to be just like a car part to be installed and work at 100% is completely unreasonable.

      When you hit the company that is in the latter group, I think you’ll find that they’re good about employee development.

  10. Kristine*

    While I agree that contesting the decision does little good, accepting this silly and unprofessional “explanation” at face value makes things worse, especially when you are already working at this company. I would feign innocent confusion and put the HR person on the spot by asking for an informational interview.

    You can do that. It forces HR to clearly articulate what the requirements are, and you can go through your resume in this meeting, because “I’m just really interested in finding out how I can become qualified for a position that excites me and which is a perfect fit.” If your request for such an interview is refused – and I have never heard of it happening – then this place is 24-carat dysfunctional and management is only advertising jobs for candidates (probably friends) that they have chosen beforehand. Either way, polite-like-a-fox pushback cannot hurt you if you go about it in a way that is smart.

    1. TCO*

      The HR person might not have any idea why the candidate was rejected–it’s quite possible that they have nothing to do with that decision. OP would be better off to request a short meeting with the hiring manager (after the hiring process is complete) if that kind of informational meeting is accepted in her company’s culture.

      I also don’t agree that their explanation is silly or unprofessional. They clearly told her what the (unwritten) requirements were, so how can she feign confusion? Yes, it would be nice to get a more personal rejection since she’s an internal candidate, and yes, it would have been better for everyone had the job posting been more clear, but the company didn’t do anything terribly unprofessional here. Their explanation is perfectly valid and potentially completely true. If OP pushes back too hard by continuing to press for more information beyond what the company will supply, it could make her look like the unprofessional one.

  11. J.B.*

    I am living the opposite side of this issue right now where the job posting is too specific causing everyone to be screened out.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      The “purple squirrel” syndrome that Peter Cappelli talks about!

        1. J.B.*

          In this case I can assure you that the hiring manager wants some skills among a mixed bag but hr is using every last one to screen.

      1. fposte*

        I was reading this as Peter Capaldi and wondering what he was doing in hiring. Even in The Thick of It, he mostly just got rid of people :-).

  12. Allison*

    Way too often, my company will post a job, and then over time will re-calibrate the requirements but not update the job posting. I usually have to tell the recruiter “well if X really isn’t that important anymore and what they really need is Y, shouldn’t the job description reflect that?” and they’ll either say “oh yeah, that’s a good point, I’ll change it today!” or they’ll dismiss it with “yeaaaahhh but I guess what they really want is someone with both, ideally.”

    The idea that the current, posted job should reflect what the hiring manager actually wants is apparently a difficult concept to grasp for some people.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      Internal politics aside, putting out a useful job description would be so much more helpful all round.

    2. fposte*

      I had a version of this once–there was a budget window that might close soon, so they posted a position in a hurry. And while I was on the hiring committee and interviewing, they started to realize they wanted something else. Oy.

  13. Us, Too*

    I had a similar situation recently. Wakeen, the VP of a Teapot Handles, sent out an email to all staff indicating that he wanted us to refer candidates who met the qualifications for the job he’d recently posted.

    A former colleague of mine applied via internal referral. I emailed Wakeen to let him know only to have him reply stating that he already had a short list of candidates and an offer was out to one of them PLUS he really wanted someone with x years of experience (not listed on the requirements he sent us).

    Look, I get that job requirements aren’t perfect and complete in all cases, but why would you go to the trouble of asking staff to refer people for a job that was already, essentially, filled? We’re not normally the type of org to do this type of thing. How disappointing.

  14. Merry and Bright*

    Another variation on the applicant versus job fit is being interviewed by people who admit they have never seen the description you have been sent. Makes for some interesting moments.

  15. Lia*

    At my organization, at least, we are strongly discouraged from putting too many things in the required field, because we cannot hire anyone who does not hit all of the markers there. So, instead, those things go in the “preferred” field, and applicants quite likely think “oh! those are optional! I hit all of the requireds!” and then do not get hired.

    The other thing I see a LOT is omitting all of the stuff that doesn’t quite fit with the position, but that the last person did, and they would really love to have. FE, I have experience in Tea Cozy Design. Very few people in my current line of Spout and Handle Research have any expertise in it, but queries about cozies come up more and more frequently and due to my prior experience, I am easily able to handle those. If I left, putting Cozy Design on the posting would appear to make no sense — it is not related to 90%+ of the work I do, and not many people bridge the two areas, but it may well be something the management would want to have on deck in the future.

  16. Michele*

    Our HR department has a few templates, and we really have to fight with them to deviate from the template they have assigned to us. It doesn’t help that they don’t know what we are doing and will just fill the listing in with what they think we are doing, which is not nearly the same thing. We also have a problem because we are in fine teapot research, and our director strongly prefers someone with a Ph.D. and no experience to someone with a B.S. and 5-10 years of experience. However, HR only considers the 5-10 years of experience for the job, is reluctant to post that a Ph.D. is strongly prefered, and then posts the job as entry level because it is entry level for a Ph.D.

    Combine that with the fact that we do caramel teapot research, but universities are cranking out a ton of butterscotch teapot degrees, which just isn’t close to being the same thing despite outward appearances, and we have to sift through a lot of resumes that aren’t what we are looking for.

    1. Melissa*

      I’m on the opposite end of that problem – a fairly newly-minted PhD with one year of postdoctoral experience but quite a few years of experience during the doctoral degree doing research, statistical analysis and consulting work. I never know whether to look for the entry-level stuff (because technically I am entry-level, for a PhD) or for the experienced stuff (because a lot of postings will say something like “BA with 5-7 years of experience or PhD with 1-3 years of experience”, and because I *do* have experience, just that very little of it is traditional full-time post-graduation experience). I ended up just looking at both and applying for whatever looks interesting and that I can reasonably fit into.

  17. AdjunctGal*

    My husband is an art teacher with two BFAs in very specific art forms, and while he can do other media, he is much less of an expert in them. So when he looks for job postings, he knows to stay away from the job postings looking for certain art forms that are not his strong suits. But the majority of the ads just say “art teacher,” which could mean anything from graphic arts to digital photography to drawing. So he’ll sometimes call to ask more questions about the position, only to get transferred to a mailbox and never actually get a reply.very frustrating.

    1. Seconded*

      Exactly. I find this sort of thing immensely frustrating- just because I am a chartreuse teapot glazing specialist does not mean I can design your teapot website.

  18. beachlover*

    since this is an internal posting it may very well be office politics at play. We have a similar situation at my job, but almost in reverse. They post all the qualifications, but they pass over qualified applicants, because the powers that be have already picked out someone they want in the position, even if they are not the most qualified person.

  19. _ism_*

    What if it’s a secret opening that the person leaving the job doesn’t know they’re being fired and this is their attempt to keep the new job posting vague?

  20. Vicki*

    Sometimes, it’s the other way ’round. I replied to, interviewed for, and was hired for a position with a very complete and explicit job description. I met all of the qualifications. That wasn’t the problem.

    The job description had been created based on what all of the managers in the team wanted (it was a cross-functional support position). The description was built from the union of what they all said. So, A – Z.

    But what it turned out I was allowed to actually _do_ was the _intersection_ of what all of the managers wanted,. i/e/ only what they had _all_ said they wanted. I was allowed to do C and P.

    It was a very frustrating position and I found my way out of it as quickly as I could.

  21. Abby*

    Is limiting the # of times an internal candidate can apply a year a normal thing?

    My current employer makes you stay in a position for 6 months before applying, then only gives 3 bids a year. any time you apply you’ve used a bid. A co-worker applied to a position, and HR told her she wasn’t qualified due to something not in the job description, and she lost a bid, which I don’t really think is fair. I THINK they have to interview all internal candidates, at least they’re supposed to.

    I think a fairer system would be unlimited applications, they’re not required to interview everyone, but if you’re interviewed that counts as a bid.

    1. V.V.*

      Yeah I agree that is pretty crap (and for what it’s worth you can tell them I said so!). Someone shouldn’t have to “lose a bid” because the original job description was lacking.

  22. Knits and Giggles*

    I recently flunked a phone screen because the company was using an external firm for its HR, and the recruiter who contacted me interpreted “desired experience” as “required experience.”

    This man was utterly clueless and unprofessional in other ways
    – I missed his initial call, and he said “um” at least eight times in the message he left me. When I called back the next morning, I left a voicemail telling him to call me back, but not after 3 p.m. because I start work at 4 (evening shift at a newspaper). He calls me at 5 p.m., and I pick up anyway and run to an empty conference room, where I’m in constant fear my bosses will find out I’m looking for a new job – and of course, I don’t have my résumé or the job description on hand. Then he asked if I knew how to make cast-iron pans (desired experience), even though I told him I had experience painting teapots (required experience). The job description was “Teapot Painter,” for crying out loud! “Well, this company that hired me to go through résumés is looking for a teapot painter who also has made cast-iron pans, and you’re not what the company wants. Have a nice day.”

    It was demoralizing. Why can’t I get a (new) job, while this chucklehead is helping make hiring decisions for a company that he probably never had visited in person?

  23. R2Dw*

    >It was demoralizing. Why can’t I get a (new) job, while this chucklehead is helping make hiring decisions for a company that he probably never had visited in person?

    Because HR and Recruitment as a field is in a really bad place. Nobody has done good basic research since the 70s, when Sociology had a falling out with HR/Recruitment and essentially took its toys and went home. While the basics are still good, that means that it really hasn’t coped well with changes in the workforce since then. Also, the prestige factor of HR has been downgraded and downgraded — it used to be considered essential for executive-level work, part of the management track, while now it is seen as the final resting spot of career secretaries. So suddenly chuckleheads are making hiring decisions, because talented people don’t want to work in hiring.

    1. Iron_Thunder*

      Fascinating comment. Do you have any references I could read up about this?

  24. Sci-fi_worker_girl*

    I am on the applicants end and it is frustrating. I more than hit the minimum requirements (I blew them away) and had a great interview, and then was offered basically less than my current position in rank. When I asked for feedback I got very complimentary comments, that I was everything they were looking for except one thing- I had not been that level of a director before (which is a bit unusual. Usually directors of that level don’t leave jobs to become directors of that level, they either move up or back, it is a more unusual lateral move). I appreciated the feedback they gave. My main issue is not the work and prep or phone calls; every interview helps me hone my skills. It is the PTO for the in person interview that kills me. Had I known the requirement would’ve been to have been a previous director at that level, I probably would not have applied there and looked at that position elsewhere. I can’t get that PTO back. And PTO is limited and so incredibly valuable to us. So, I implore managers please take that into account for those in person visits. For you it is a work day interview. For the applicants it is more, maybe a holiday we can’t get back. If you have Major requirements, please post them. Might I not gone to the in person had I known about the previous director experience requirement and not used PTO? Maybe. I don’t know, and I wish I had that bit of info before making the call.

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