Imagine the job post from hell: You must work more than 135 hours per week, with standing or bending being a major part of your day. You must have a Ph.D in psychology, and degrees in medicine, finance and culinary arts. You’ll also be tasked with managing a team of associates who are “fully dependent on you.” Oh, and the salary: $0.
This posting, which was for a “director of operations” at a company called Rehtom Inc., actually got 24 applicants, who were then interviewed via Webcam. Their real-time reactions were captured on video. The whole project, called “World’s Toughest Job,” was part of an advertising campaign by Mullen, a Boston-based agency, for Cardstore.com, an online greeting cards site. According to Adweek, it got 2.7 million impressions from paid ad placements.
When you view the completion of the ad, you finally see that it’s a clever way to market the site’s offerings for Mother’s Day (a job of which requires lots of hours, a multitude of skills and no salary), but for me, the job post brought back thoughts on some employers’ unrealistic job expectations.
If you’ve ever been on a job hunt and looked at one with a long list of
fiery hoops to jump through requirements, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ve probably found yourself, from time to time, looking at a job posting with a grimace, thinking, “They want me to do all of this for one job?”
Many employers cite a skills gap as a major challenge in filling long-term vacant positions, but the question becomes: Is it a lack of skills or unrealistic requirements for one position?
Huffington Post contributor Susan Seitel explored this notion, highlighting a radio debate between Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School, and Cheryl Oldham, vice president, Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Seitel includes an interesting point by Capelli, written in a Wall Street Journal piece where he notes:
With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time. In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It’s a Catch-22 situation for workers–and it’s hurting companies and the economy.
I’m sure that a skills gap is a valid concern for employers, but in some cases, requirements seem just as outrageous and ridiculous as those listed in the Cardstore ad. Many professionals wake up every day and are going to work doing the duties of more than one job— yet only getting paid for one—and add to that the fact that women are still not equally paid in comparison to men doing the same duties as their male counterparts, if not more.
In viewing a laundry list of duties, already-frustrated job seekers—who may just be awesome candidates with potential to be leaders—find themselves hitting brick walls simply because they feel they can’t fit into the jack-of-all-trades, octopus-armed, super-candidate shoes.
What can job seekers do about this? Monster.com notes that hiring managers recommend job applicants “read job postings carefully to determine if a company is presenting a wish list or set-in-stone requirements.” One professional recommends that candidates review postings for comparable positions. “If the target job’s requirements seem overblown compared to other postings, the company may be posting a dream listing and will likely be more flexible about granting interviews.”
As for recruiters, Forbes contributor Ken Sundheim counts “searching for that perfect candidate” as one of the 7 deadly sins of recruitment. He writes:
We tell clients that shopping for candidates is like shopping for cars. The more requirements they have, the more you pay and the fewer choices you have. … Perfect candidates are not hired. … Look for potential today and determine whether they can be the perfect candidate tomorrow.
In the past, for me, a bizarrely long list of duties for an entry- or mid-level job raised red flags (ie. bad management, toxic work environment, stress-filled boss or coworkers, high turnover), and I’d indeed bypass the job only to find out from insiders that those red flags were indeed valid.
I implore young professionals to find the best middle ground, trust your gut and learn more about the company from industry peers (if you can). For the hiring managers tasked to lure talented millennials in, I recommend a more balanced approach to job postings, with a foundation of effort in creating tomorrow’s leaders, especially those who show potential to fill those shoes.
What’s truly the problem in terms of long-term job vacancies? Is it a skills gap among professionals or unrealistic employer expectations? Take our poll below, and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood to #Soundoff.