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To hire the best people, avoid the mistake of overstating skills

by , 03 June 2015
When it comes to hiring new recruitments, there are several rules to follow. You want to hire the best people in your company so when it comes to taking decisions in this field you have to be prepared.

The first thing you think about in this process are the skills you expect a future employee to excel or be very good at. There are situations when you may overstate the requirements for the position.

Doing this could trigger complaints of discrimination, particularly 'indirect' discrimination.

Here's how to avoid making this mistake.

Why overstating skills is big hiring mistake

When you hire someone, you may overstate the level of skill someone reasonably requires to do the job properly because you think someone with more skills can do the job better.

But this is not necessarily true.  Many employees who have higher skill levels than they need, get bored and demotivated quickly. Also, there's no proof that extra skills automatically lead to better performance.

Indeed, if you overstate the skills someone needs, you may be discriminating against people who have the necessary skills, or the actual or potential ability in favour of those who have extra, 'nice-to-have' skills.

In other words, skills they don't really need in the job.

In most cases, applicants from disadvantaged groups have only the necessary skills, and those from previously 'privileged' groups who have the extra ones.

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But what exactly happens if you overstate the skills?

Well, you prevent candidates with suitable qualifications from consideration, or even from applying. For example, saying an accounts clerk 'must be able to prepare financial information up to trial balance level' would be an overstatement. Either you're describing the position incorrectly, or you're deliberately looking for someone over-qualified for the job.

Either way, you're excluding many suitable candidates.

To avoid this, make sure skill requirements match the actual job requirements. If there's too much of a difference between the skills someone needs to do the jobs, and those you use in your selection criteria, an applicant could challenge you and possibly accuse you of unfair discrimination.

Here's a checklist to help you identify the right candidate and make sure you're not overstating skills:

- Did you list skills higher than of the employee currently doing the job? If so, do you have a good reason for this?  

- Did you knowingly raise the required skill level? Can you show good operating reasons why you need the job done at this level?

- If you didn't make any changes to the present skill level, did you consider if they're too high? Did you check the skills are necessary (must-haves) and the current employee is using them?

- Are the skills you list necessary and not just nice to have?

- If challenged, can you clearly show the skill is required to carry out the task effectively and that it's regularly used?

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