Whenever I talk about removing years of experience from job posts during a webinar or live presentation (psst, you can hire me, too), I like to start with a hypothetical to make it obvious why they don’t work in the first place. See we’re so conditioned to use years in our job postings to describe experience, it seems strange not to until I tell this story.
I ask the audience if they’ve ever heard of Jeff Bezos. You know the guy. The CEO of Amazon and the person who likes asking this question during interviews. Anyway, they all nod because there are few rooms in the world that have never heard of Amazon. Then I say, “well, Jeff and I have both been CEOs for 5 years.”
A few people give me an “ohhh” look. They know where I’m going with this. While we have both been CEOs for 5 years, we didn’t have the same experience during those 5 years. There’s no world in which you would put us up for the same job.
Time Won’t Qualify Candidates
But we both have 5 years of executive experience. Team leadership experience. Creating new markets. I mean, have you ever heard of another job post writing expert? This is when they laugh because we both know I’m not qualified for the same job as Jeff Bezos.
On a more practical level, we know that 2 Talent Acquisition Managers could work for 5 years at the same company and not do the same work every day. Why would we expect that across the field in different companies?
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some systems, legal requirements, and companies that still require years of experience for any range of reasons – Government, Civil Service, and H1-B Visas to name a few. In some cases, those jobs and postings are regulated by law and/or unions. How can those types of organizations break all the traditional rules to write better job postings without breaking the literal rules?
But I Have To Use Years of Experience. Now What?
Do you just give up and write 3 years of marketing even if you know it only serves to measure time not qualification?
Look, I don’t fight with lawyers. If you have to include years of experience in job postings so you don’t get sued or cause issues with the union? You better write them. But do this, too.
Add the number (“at least 2 years experience doing this…”) then create context. For example, “2 years of experience managing a team of 5 at a global business.” Add the answers to help quantify the scope and scale – how much, how many – not just the time you did the job.
It’s not “5+ years of HubSpot Experience.” Try something like this to meet legal requirements and make sense of the job: “You will have more than 5 years experience using HubSpot to help a marketing team grow by creating landing pages and forms that convert web traffic into at least 100 new leads per month.”
Avoid years of experience to avoid unnecessary ageism and bias. Not everyone has the same access to opportunities, so gathering those years isn’t always accessible. Requiring these years can keep you from finding qualified candidates just because of these biases, but creating context can help start to level the playing field.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive 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.