Filling a Job when No One Qualifies

Sitting at your desk, you look at the job description. Perhaps it is one your company has used for years. Except lately, finding this person has been like searching for the Abominable Snowman. What do you do when no one matches the qualifications, but you have to fill the position with someone who is qualified to do the job? Here are some tips to help you meet this seemingly impossible challenge:

âÂ?¢ Are you looking in the right places? If you need writers, go to a writers’ professional organization or a recruiting firm that specializes in writing talent. Casting your net too broadly or in the wrong venues can bring in the wrong candidates. Think about your ideal candidate. What magazines would they read? Where would they go during leisure time? What organizations do they join?

âÂ?¢ Are the qualifications absolutely necessary? The original qualifications may have been written in the late 1980s or early 1990s, when many qualified people were looking for work. Those “nice to have” traits which were originally thrown in because someone could be found turned into “must have” traits, all while the labor market became tighter. A four-year college degree is a common example of one of those traits. Many jobs have been done, are done, and can be done by someone who does not possess a four-year degree. Be sure you fully understand what traits a candidate must possess, not what your employer would like them to possess.

âÂ?¢ Are the qualifications clearly communicated? This is especially important in technical positions. If you are uncertain as to what some of the acronyms and jargon means, have someone from the department edit/re-write the qualifications so they make sense to a qualified applicant. If you are merely repeating a laundry list of terms you don’t understand, potential qualified applicants may see the advertisement as the work of a company that doesn’t understand the very technology it handles.

âÂ?¢ Borrow a trick from your high school English teacher, and give an essay test of sorts. Once you have provided a job description, ask applicants to describe (yes, in three to five paragraphs) why they are qualified for the position. When you list qualifications, you are trying to see what applicants don’t know (like a fill-in-the-blank quiz). When you ask them to write such a description, you remove any hindrances those qualifications may be hiding. Perhaps you envisioned the position as having a corporate training background, but a school teacher with adult education experience writes in; if you had kept the “2 years corporate training” qualification, you might have lost a very desirable candidate.

âÂ?¢ Is the answer right under your nose? Most employees use only a small fraction of their skills performing day to day duties. Is there someone in your organization qualified for the job who is “hiding out” in an unusual place (e.g. an accountant who has been taking programming courses in the evening)? Or, are there employees who can do parts of the job? If you have a secretary who does terrific layout work, and an engineer who writes articles on the side, they could produce your company newsletter, instead of looking for one person to do the whole thing. (Be sure to provide them with help or allow them to delegate tasks, so they don’t feel that they are just getting more work dumped on them.)

âÂ?¢ If the talent and specialty are truly required, the person might indeed exist – just not in the United States. For highly talented and specialized positions, consult your attorney or contact the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) to see if you can hire someone from abroad. Check www.uscis.gov for more information.

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