How the Most Common Job Requirements are Hurting Companies

How the Most Common Job Requirements are Hurting Companies

There are many highly capable job candidates your company may never meet, and it could cost you money and frustration in the long-term.

When employers limit their candidate searches to narrow perimeters, with little to no flexibility, they are essentially wearing horse blinders, unable to see the incredible value in those who fall outside of the lines.

Many times in my own job searches, I found myself saying, “I learned Quickbooks right away but I don’t have the years they are requiring, ” or “I learned way more in the military than I ever did in college but I don’t have a degree and that’s the hard requirement”, and so forth.

Sure, one can still apply and drop a cover letter to argue the case for being able to perform the job, as I’ve done many times, but the chance of getting through the initial screening phase to present the case is next to zero. I know, because I rarely have.

For many of us who have taken to job boards and applied “anyway”, we’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how quickly we learn, how capable we are, or how good our references and track records are, on paper, we are not the ideal candidate.

Natasha Bowman, a TedX & Keynote Speaker,Trainer, Consultant, and Forbes Contributor has this to say about current hiring biases: 


I hired someone that didn’t shake my hand firmly during the interview – he rocked as an employee. 

I hired someone with three typos on their resume. – She was the most detailed oriented person I’ve ever worked with. 

I hired someone without a college degree- He was way smarter, innovative, and creative than me! 

I hired someone with four kids- Never met someone so devoted and committed to her career. 

I hired someone who had been incarcerated as a young adult. – He’s a VP now. 

I hired someone over 60- she taught me some tricks on excel that I use to this day! 

Can we please throw out all those silly assumptions and rules that we’ve made up in our head about what a person needs to be, look like, have accomplished, and do, to succeed? 

In my experience, as an HR leader and as a hiring manager,  it’s those that typically don’t get a “shot” who tend to kick butt in the workplace! 

So before you throw that resume away because they don’t have every certificate and degree – or – don’t call back that candidate because they didn’t give you a firm handshake – think about trying something new. Someone new.”

Taking the horse blinders off and looking more closely at character, transferable skills, willingness, and ability would widen the pool of candidates significantly.

Going beyond recruiting software and looking at the human behind the resume could mean more satisfied employees, more diversity with problem-solving, a richer work culture, and ultimately happier customers.

While companies may think they are looking for a unique individual when creating their ideal candidate checklist, ideal candidates look quite the same across the board. It is from seeing these requirements so often that I was able to create a list of most common requirements for ideal candidates.

They are currently employed, has at least a Bachelor’s degree with a minimum number of years of direct experience, possesses a passion for the industry, and is currently performing the same functions on the same software that the company is using.

Yes, companies need a way to gauge ability and personality, of course, but I argue against the way they are going about it. Instead of dictating how someone should have acquired their knowledge (a degree), or how much experience they should have (3–5 years), the focus could lean more toward aptitude and potential.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the common requirements and how they are preventing companies, maybe yours, from tapping into the available talent.

1. A Degree

About 70% of Americans do not hold a Bachelor’s degree, yet a Bachelor’s degree is preferred over experience for even entry-level positions. It’s maddening for job-seekers, especially if a degree couldn’t be completed for one reason or another, and there are several reasons why a person may not have:

  • Poor grades due to poor quality of schooling, bad test-taking, personal circumstances that kept them out of school or affected their performance.
  • Weren’t accepted into a college.
  • Couldn’t get the financial aid to complete a degree program, which could take longer for some because of class availability, retaking classes, etc.
  • Couldn’t establish affordable daycare throughout the entire program.
  • A disability that the school system, at any stage, could not accommodate.
  • Didn’t agree with putting themselves into massive debt for the sake of meeting the basic requirement of having “a degree.”

When you put the question of ‘why’ to each of these reasons, you wind up going down a rabbit hole of social constructs and politics. Everything from underfunded schools in forgotten neighborhoods, trauma from school shootings, abusive teachers, over-testing and poor testing, access to financial aid, lack of childcare, lack of satisfactory degree programs, lack of necessary or critical resources. The list goes on.

Why do companies require at least a Bachelor’s degree?

Employers justify the requirement saying a degree proves the candidate’s ability to meet deadlines, work with others, think critically, problem -solve, and act responsibly without being told.

Is a Bachelor’s degree the only way to prove one’s ability to adult in the workplace? Of course not.

Among those who may not have a degree but are some of the most resilient among us are veterans, who make up almost 10 percent of the adult population. This side by side comparison of college experience versus military experience describes how the very skills employers expect a job-seeker to acquire in college are actually exceeded many times over in the military. Those skills are ingrained in service members because their lives literally depend on it. No degree program can possibly stack evenly next to that.

Next time, don’t just thank a former servicemember, hire them!

A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree when most applicants don’t possess one, and it isn’t the only form of assessment for basic skills, is just another way companies are shooting themselves in the foot.

2. Inflexible Working Hours

Many employers dictate which hours employees work. This can be difficult for parents. Single mothers, who make up 23% of households, might be particularly affected by inflexible working hours, especially with an entry-level position.

Should work hours overlap with school hours and require additional daycare, the cost of care can easily exceed a days’ wage. How then does she go on to pay her bills and feed her children?

Why do some employers have inflexible with hours?

It really comes down to old thinking. Companies have been maintaining the 9–5 mindset for so long, it’s normal. It’s nice to think that having everyone in the same location all week long establishes trust between employer and employee, ensure team members are available to one another, and meetings are easier. But does every employee really need to be there for the same shift every day? We’re in the 21st century where there is a ridiculous number of tools available to connect teams from around the world.

Single moms have skills every employer should be clamoring for, such as mediation, project management, resourcefulness, budgeting, leadership, and delegation.

By insisting on something as minor as specific working hours, businesses are losing out big time.

3. Years of experience

Honestly, if it takes someone even a year to learn how to use Quickbooks, they are taking too long. Don’t even get me started on employers looking for more years of experience with software that hasn’t even been around as long.

Why do employers require minimum of experience?

To make sure that when new hires show up, they won’t need any training. There are three problems with this reason.

First, every business tool has multiple functions, and it’s unlikely that every or any candidate will have used a particular tool in a particular way so as to avoid any need for training. By being unwilling to assume training for candidates, companies are missing out on highly capable and talented people.

Second, who wants to take on a job where they already know it inside and out? No one. Companies don’t want to train but they expect candidates to progress and challenge themselves. It doesn’t make sense and it leads into the third reason:

Third, by insisting on more experience, employers are running the risk of highering someone who is already bored or pretty close to it, which increases their flight risk.


It would be smarter for employers to assess the candidate’s learning curve rather than focus on how long they’ve been doing a particular function. If their learning curve is short, they would make a great hire.

4. Passion for Industry

It an ideal world, we are all working at our dream jobs having followed a perfect upward trajectory. In the real world, we change our minds, make mistakes, get bored, learn new skills, hope for the best, and all the while trying to pay our bills.

Why do companies care if a candidate shares their passion?

Because companies want to surround themselves with like-minded people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is when it becomes a requirement.

In a small company, like a startup, where everyone is doing a thousand different jobs and working around the clock, dedication is key. But in larger companies, it’s naive to think every employee is there because of an unwavering passion.

Photo by from Pexels

For most people, a job is a job, and most feel lucky if they find one that lines up with their own interests. As long the company treats them well, employees will put the work in and the company will benefit.

If someone wants to work for a company and has demonstrated ability and integrity, that should be enough.

5. Currently Employed

It has been the case for many years that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job.

Why do companies want to hire people who are already employed?

The logic goes, if you are unemployed, it’s probably you’re fault and you’re a high risk. But that assumes the worst of you. In today’s world where companies are no longer loyal to employees, and management is ill-equipped to deal with people, it’s unrealistic to believe that unemployment is always the candidate’s fault.

What if you get fired for being sick too many days in a row? What if you quit because you were being harassed or were thrown under the bus one too many times without recourse?

Other reasons why someone may be unemployed: family situations, accidents, and injuries that needed to heal or disqualified them from their position, good old fashion politics, layoffs, new management and Spring cleaning, automation, off-shoring, and so forth. Do any of these situations mean a candidate is risky or irresponsible? Of course not. Shit happens.

Also, these candidates are likely to be more eager to work and work harder than other candidates who still have job security. Isn’t that what businesses are looking for?

An employment gap on a resume isn’t necessarily a red flag for flight risk. By tossing those resume in the can right away, companies are missing out on candidates with a story, and perhaps more to offer than imagined.

It reasons, if a person has managed to overcome obstacles in life, they are more apt to possess the skills employers are seeking.

When I see articles written by recruiters and hiring managers complaining they can’t find enough qualified candidates, I have to question what they consider qualified. It seems companies are creating the problem themselves by insisting on unnecessary requirements and job restrictions.

The fact is, there are many qualified candidates, millions really. Companies need only to be willing to pay more attention to potential, transferrable skills, and aptitude.

These overlooked candidates have ambition, perspective, courage, and grit companies need to take their businesses to the next level. They possess these characteristics because they have had to navigate their own path around pre-conceived ideas about what success and “ideal” looks like.

These are the candidates who may be able to solve that problem those “ideal” candidates have been stuck on for months. They could be that stealth salesman, numbers ninja, dream developer, superhero manager you’ve been in desperate need of.

The argument of “not enough qualified candidates” is poor and untrue. The truth is they are everywhere. If you are not seeing them, you may need to remove your horse blinders.