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Employers: Are You Asking Your Prospective Employees to Take On Too Much?

By listing too many duties, you may scare off your best candidates

Before you start writing your next job post, take a step back. Look at the skills, experience and responsibilities the job requires. And ask yourself honestly—can this role be done by one person in an average workweek? Or are you asking too much?

These days, too many open positions require a candidate to know too much and do too much—essentially, to wear too many hats.

Job seekers aren’t superheroes, and you’ll scare away fantastic candidates if you expect them to have super abilities beyond the norm.

Don’t let an overloaded job listing prevent you from finding great talent. Here are some simple things to look out for that will tell you if you’re asking too much of a new hire.

“And” in the job title

A job title that includes “and” is often an issue. Office Manager and Social Media Coordinator. Food and Science Editor. Digital Strategist and Copywriter.

Essentially, you’re looking for someone to fill two distinct roles, but you’re connecting those roles with “and” and hoping no one will notice. Sorry, but job seekers are savvy, and they’ll see right away that you want one person to do twice the amount of work.

Keep an eye out for slashes, too: Web Designer/App Developer, Marketing Manager/Digital Media Buyer, etc.

Job description is too long, no matter how you try to shorten it

If you absolutely, positively can’t condense the role and responsibilities down to a reasonable length, it’s a sure sign that you’re asking someone to wear too many hats.

Job seekers faced with a lengthy listing will move on quickly instead of reading all the way to the end. Don’t let a simple thing like the length of your posting scare talented candidates away.

Salary is suspiciously low

Beware of trying to save on salary and benefits (like insurance, 401(k), etc.) by lumping several positions together. Job seekers want the best salary they can find, and they certainly don’t want to do two or three jobs and only get paid for one.

It’s your choice: either bump up the pay or cut down the role.

You’re hiring for an overloaded “legacy title”

Many times, an employee at your company might fulfill several different roles, and they end up with a multi-part title to match.

When it comes time for that employee to seek out greener pastures, you scramble to re-hire immediately instead of taking a critical look at whether the role itself makes sense.

Pay attention when you hear key phrases like “No one will ever fill her shoes” or “He was irreplaceable.” That’s a good sign you should change up the role instead of asking someone to go above and beyond right out of the gate.

The last person who held this role mysteriously disappeared

Speaking of an employee leaving behind a legacy title … why do you think they left in the first place? Most likely, they were burned out from trying to do too much, and they couldn’t take it anymore.

Always take a closer look when an employee leaves a role due to burnout. It can be prevented in the future by reshaping the position to be more manageable. If you don’t take the time to do this before hiring, you’ll be faced with another burned out employee very soon.

Applicants only have skills/experience for one part of the role

When you’ve had an open position for a while, but you aren’t finding candidates who fit the bill, you might be … you guessed it … asking candidates to wear too many hats.

Take a look at the applications you’ve received already. Chances are, each candidate has some of the skills you’re looking for, but not all of them. That’s a big red flag that you’re looking for a superhero candidate that doesn’t exist in the real world.

There’s one surefire way to avoid this problem

Break up your overloaded job into separate, manageable roles, and advertise each one as its own position.

Sounds easy, but things aren’t always so cut-and-dried. Your finance department might disagree with how this will affect budgeted salaries. Project managers could argue that it will negatively affect project workflow. Upper management may not want to add any new positions to the company hierarchy/structure.

A good start to making your argument is writing out a new job description for each distinct role and discussing it with hiring managers and/or leadership team. Bring along comparable job descriptions from your competitors to help make your case. Make sure everyone knows how difficult—even impossible!—it is to hire a role with too many hats, and that the possibility of burnout is high. Explain why the alternative is better.

With any luck, you’ll find the perfect candidate to fill each role … and they won’t have to be a superhero to do it.

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