Recruiters: Do You Look Beyond the Job Posting?


By Tallys Moreth. 

One of the most challenging elements in the hiring process is the creation of a good job posting. Although seemingly a simple thing, if not done well a job posting may turn off potentially great job-seeking candidates. Instead of attracting candidates, the job advertisement may instead form an unintentional barrier between the organization and the people they may want to hire.

What a Job Posting is NOT

A job posting is not a job description.

According to Gary Dessler and Nita Chhinzler in Human Resources Management in Canada, 13th Edition, “the job description is a written statement of what the jobholder actually does, how he or she does it, and under what conditions the job is performed.” A job description is an internal document that is normally quite comprehensive and includes the formal job title, a summary of the position, details about specific duties and responsibilities, and a list of required skills and attributes. The document often includes details about how success in the role will be measured.

What a Good Job Posting IS

A job posting is an ad designed to attract the best candidates, much like an appealing ad for a restaurant makes you feel hungry and compels you to make a reservation. A good job posting uses marketing strategies to catch the attention of applicants. It may get a bit creative with the job title (“Director of First Impressions” vs “Receptionist”) and play up the most attractive and interesting points about the organization before getting down to the business of describing the job and the skills, experience, and attributes required to do it. A job posting will certainly include some of the details from the formal job description, but, to be effective it should be friendly and conversational in tone.

The Secret Ingredient For Successfully Filling a Job Posting

Even with a stellar job posting that attracts 10 times more applicants than the organization anticipated, the selection and hiring of the best candidate is not guaranteed. Why?

Because the hiring official does not understand the “spirit” or “heart” of the opportunity. And, if the person responsible for the selection of the best candidate doesn’t understand the heart of the job, it will be almost impossible to select an applicant who fulfills not only the practical requirements, but the holistic, vital-to-success-on-the-job “other stuff” too.

What do I mean by the spirit or heart of the opportunity? I mean that it is necessary for the people involved in the selection process to be aware of, and sensitive to, what will be required for success in the day-to-day execution of the job. In Human Resources parlance, I am referring to the “O” part of the KSAO acronym.

KSAO stands for Knowledge, Skill, Ability, and Other Characteristics.

  • Knowledge refers to the understanding of concepts. It is theoretical and not practical. For example, you may have knowledge of how to fly an airplane, but have no practical experience doing so.
  • Skill is a learned behaviour – developed through training or actual hands-on experience – that teaches you how to do something.
  • Ability refers to an innate capability to perform a skill well (or not). For example, you learned the skill of giving a haircut by taking a course, but you have a wonderful ability to determine what kind of haircut will look best on your client.
  • Other Characteristics. These tend to be more ephemeral and include attributes that do not fall under knowledge, skill, or ability. The “other characteristics” required for a new hire to be successful in a specific role often present the greatest challenge for hiring officials.

The secret ingredient in successfully filling a job posting, to the benefit of all stakeholders, lies with the recruiter’s skill in really grasping the other characteristics required to embrace the spirit or heart of the job.

What’s a Hiring Official to Do?

How does a recruiter stand the best chance of determining if a candidate is an ideal fit for a job opportunity, despite the fact that he or she may have deficits in some areas?

According to Frima Steinberg, who is a well-known consultant and HR head-hunter in my home country of Brazil, it is not necessary for a candidate to fulfill 100 percent of the requirements of a job posting in order to be selected, interviewed, and hired. Even if a potential candidate does match perfectly, it still doesn’t guarantee that he or she will be hired. Other characteristics (remember KSAO?) such as ethics, good listening skills, politeness, enthusiasm, and reliability are advantageous in all parts of life, including during the job selection process.

Assuming that the recruiter already has knowledge of the mechanics of a position, he or she must also strive to understand the spirit and heart of the job. But, how to do that? This is not an easy question to answer, but there are some steps that can be taken.

  • It is a helpful practice to talk to respected and trusted incumbents in the job being interviewed for. These people can be invaluable in providing information about intangible qualities or characteristics that will help a new hire fit smoothly into a role.
  • Reaching out to network contacts who may have managed employees in a specific role is also a useful tactic. Even if you don’t have connections to people with knowledge of a particular job, try picking the brains of friends and colleagues with similar industry knowledge and experience.
  • Whether you’re an internal hiring official or a contracted recruiter, strive to collect as much knowledge as possible about the company and the social aspects of the job, and then incorporate that knowledge into the selection process. As an example, if the culture of a highly-successful team or company indicates that a large number of productive, creative ideas come out of after-work and weekend social events, you may want to reflect on how open your candidate is to that aspect of the role, and how well you think they may fit in.

For the hiring official, understanding the essence of the position is fundamental because even if the full suite of stated requirements is not present, a candidate with sufficient related experience and the ability to learn may  be just the right person for the job.

To the professionals out there who are responsible for hiring, what are your tips for understanding the heart of a job? Tell us about a candidate you hired who perhaps wasn’t perfect on paper but went on to do great things because you recognized that he or she possessed the necessary other characteristics.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


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Trabalho fantástico, belíssimo, muito bom… parabéns para o Tallys Moreth do Brasil ????????

Obrigado pelas palavras de incentivo e encorajamento.


Great information. I hire part-time student staff for our University Career Centre and I’m, of course, looking for good workers, but I’m also trying to provide opportunities for our students’ career and work development. I will keep your points in mind.

Thank you Charmaine. I am glad because my article was important for your daily activities. Thank you for your words.