I’m writing a job description for a new opening in my team. While reviewing a draft, I realized that one of the requirements was meaningless, and bordered on being silly.
Why do job qualifications list, “excellent communication skills?”
This knee-jerk requirement is in every description I see. And I’m guilty of putting it in my JD’s over the years, too.
It’s meaningless for at least two reasons.
- It’s a large blanket requirement that can’t be quantified. I don’t know how to do it, and I bet you don’t, either. I sense when someone will be hard to communicate with, but it’s instinctual and is based on a nigh-infinite number of (often subtle) reasons.
- Even though I can’t quantify it, I agree it’s important. The problem is, it’s important to every job on the planet. Every employee needs to be able to communicate “well,” be it in e-mail, memos, presentations, group meetings, 1-on-1, to subordinates, to colleagues, and to superiors. I’ve never seen a job description ask for “mediocre communication skills,” or state that “poor mumbling is considered a strong plus.”
It could be argued that the “ECS” requirement lets you legally reject a candidate who cannot communicate well. Otherwise, you’re liable to be sued. But if so, then why not list, “must not pick nose or eat ear wax,” or, “must not punch interviewer in the face?” Those behaviors would disqualify a candidate, too.
If a job needs particular communication skills — say, a web producer job entails a lot of writing — then the description should call it out. For example, “three or more years experience with writing lively business stories.” But we shouldn’t waste time listing something that’s a common yet unmeasurable requirement for every job on the planet.
I’m going to write this description without listing “excellent communication skills.” I wonder if it will pass the HR sniff test.