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Hiring? You Need To Rewrite Your Descriptions


As your startup grows, you’ll inevitably reach a point when you can no longer do everything on your own – it’s time to expand. That means you’ll need to write out a job description.

Don’t default to the traditional language of job listings, though. Hiring is changing, and if you want to identify the best candidates, you need to adopt a competency framework.

Developing Descriptions.

Traditional job descriptions used in hiring and for performance evaluations tend to be very specific. They focus on particular duties and responsibilities within a given role, so the listing might mention using certain types of software, knowing how to perform specific tasks like marketing or donor relations, or emphasizing skills like teamwork and meeting deadlines. It’s straightforward, and people like these types of job listings because they make expectations very clear. Applicants can determine whether or not they’re qualified for the role with very little fuss.

Competency-based job descriptions, on the other hand, tend to be less precise – for a good reason. Instead of emphasizing specific skills, competency-based job descriptions think regarding general intelligence or cognitive strategies. In other words, they seek out people with particular ways of thinking or approaching a task. But does it work?

Competency-Based Hiring And Success.

What’s amazing about competency-based hiring is that not only does it work, but it also can help your company hire the right people – not just people with the right skills. And on the surface, that may not seem like a big difference. In practice, though, competency-based hiring will drive your company forward while skills-based hiring simply gets your current tasks done. It’s hiring with a growth mindset.

Competency-based hiring also has the advantage of diversifying the workplace because it emphasizes transferrable skills. Great communication in one industry predicts the same in another. There might be a few bumps while the candidate learns the lingo and makes new connections, but they understand the underlying principles of strategic communication and outreach, and managers should look at that past performance, rather than accepting a less talented candidate from inside the industry.

Soft Skills And Social Solutions.

Another valuable part of competency-based hiring is that it looks at soft skills, which are historically harder to teach. Soft skills include being independent and self-motivated, being resourceful and working collaboratively, and being optimistic and funny. These may not seem like skills, but if you look around your office, you’ll quickly notice how they come into play. The fact is, you can teach just about anyone to use a piece of software or handle clients, but how they respond to being given those tasks varies based on their soft skills.

Some larger employers who have switched to competency-based hiring use social strategies like going to an escape room or holding yoga sessions to identify who will excel at a job. How someone thinks about puzzles in an escape room, for example, can actually tell you a lot about how they’ll approach a coding task or a difficult marketing problem. And if they have those particular competencies, whether or not that person majored in math or computer science doesn’t really matter.

It’s time to ditch the old job details and rewrite your postings to focus on cognitive strategies and core competencies and see what emerges. The application pile will look different, and employees from this phase may transform your office to your surprise and delight, so get ready to grow with your new team.