What Do Required, Preferred, and Desired Skills Mean?

What does it mean when you see preferred requirements in a job posting? Does it mean that you have to have them? Do you need to have most of them?

I hate that candidates are even asking the question because I know the truth.

Every time I read preferred requirements, I know some recruiter just copied and pasted from another post.For example, you might see something that looks like this:

Here’s the problem. I bet most recruiters couldn’t tell you why those are in each category or what is most important. Take this example, for instance. Would a college degree make you better at running a register? Wouldn’t shift flexibility be required, not nice to have?

The fact that we could all take a guess and still not know the answer? That’s a problem.

Preferred Qualifications In A Job Posting? Biased

The short answer for job seekers: preferred qualifications in a job posting are wish lists. Don’t worry about them.

My advice for recruiters goes much deeper, but here’s the bottom line: adding preferred qualifications adds bias. More bullets = more bias.

Look at the data. A Hewlett Packard report says that men apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications. Women tend to only apply for jobs if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications.

Your lists and all of those nice-to-have bullets are adding up to more bias. You are psychologically sending signals to people that they aren’t qualified while writing DEI statements.

I want to see recruiters delete those preferred qualification sections. They are useless. Instead, create a list that’s practical or helpful for the reader. I call it a skill story.

Writing Better Requirements In Job Postings

What’s a day in life like?
What skills will they use every day?
What are their 6-month goals?

Do you know the answers to those questions? Great, it just got a lot easier for you to write a job post.

All you have to do? Write that down.

Explain the role in human terms and describe experiences instead of listing skills. Experiences are universal. Skills are not. Skills exist in a million different contexts with a million other variables.

Are you feeling nervous? You’re not alone. Let me show you a quick before and after example.

Writing a bulleted list can be challenging for recruiters who have always written requirements the same way but remember, you have to get the requirements right to get qualified applicants.

If you want me to train your team, let’s talk, or use my course to learn how to write skill bullets on your own time. Just go to ThreeEarsMedia.com, click on Resources and go to our store. Or click here to buy your pass now.

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Kat Kibben View All →

Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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