We’ve all seen them: job descriptions that ask candidates to possess dozens of wildly different skills. The employer doesn’t just seem to want a mobile developer experienced in building apps for iOS and Google Android; they also want someone who can handle investor relations, make a great cup of coffee, and update the corporate blog daily.
It’s easy to look at such job postings and despair, unless you’ve spent the past three decades learning dozens of different platforms and programming languages, accompanied by regular classes in everything from accounting to management.
So why do employers persist in posting everything-but-the-kitchen-sink job descriptions? As salaries for tech pros continue to rise, companies (and recruiting firms) are often seized by the idea that, if they’re paying an enormous amount of money for a candidate, that candidate better possess an equally enormous range of skills.
Pursuing candidates who are supremely qualified can more than justify the cost of hiring, but sometimes the HR staffer writing the job description goes just the tiniest bit overboard. An ideal job description isn’t a lengthy laundry list of abilities; the hiring manager (and whoever’s writing the posting) need to take the time to craft an accurate picture of the role—even when their time is at a premium.
Dealing with Uncertainty
If the posting seems nonsensical—asking for an iOS developer with 20 years of experience building apps, even if the iPhone’s only been around for half that time—or if the required skills seem oddly divergent (“database administrator… who knows how to feed kittens!”), there’s a good chance that the employer isn’t quite sure what they want in the position.
Listing a lot of skills may also represent the employer’s attempt to cast as wide a net as possible—which can easily backfire, as confused tech pros read the description and don’t know if they’re right for the job.
So how, as a tech pro, do you handle a job description that seems to push against the boundaries of reality? First, take a deep breath. You don’t have all the requested skills. Nobody has all the requested skills. And depending on the circumstances, that’s probably okay.
Next, concentrate on what the job posting really wants. If the majority of requested skills focus on Web development, the company is in the market for a Web developer; you can probably ignore the parts that seem more tangential to that job. Tailor your résumé and application materials so they focus on those “core” elements.
If you know someone at the company, consider reaching out to ask them what the position really entails, and if your skills are a match. If you don’t know anyone, a successful application will involve a little more guesswork—but if you seem to have the bulk of what the job description wants, chances are good you’ll land the interview.