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Five questions to ask when creating minimum ‘must have’ job requirements

In hiring, qualifying candidates against minimum ‘must have’ requirements of the job is critical. Do it right and you have an effective, efficient first step to a hiring process that leads to hiring great people that will thrive in your positions. Do it wrong, and you may end up removing great candidates, wasting your time on the wrong candidates, and opening your organization to liability. 

Clearly this important, and yet you may be wondering:

What exactly are minimum ‘must have’ job requirements? 

Good question!

Minimum ‘must have’ requirements are those skills, knowledge, experiences, traits, and abilities that candidates must have in order to do the job. These are the pre-requisites, the preliminary scores, the ‘ante to play the game’. In other words, without minimum requirements, candidates won’t be considered for the job.

Minimum requirements are NOT required to be wildly successful or a top performer, they are NOT for evaluating which candidate is the best or which will be able to grow into future jobs, and they are NOT all those great things that will make the candidate even better. Those are all important, but why waste time and money evaluating those details before removing those who don’t have the basics to do the job?

Minimum job requirements gone wrong

Unfortunately, it is all too common to get this step wrong. How many times have you seen these mistakes?

  • The unicorn: too many or too wide-reaching requirements. The more requirements, especially requirements that cover a wide range of abilities, knowledge, and experiences, the fewer people who meet them. There are positions that are very demanding, but for most the requirements are bloated with ‘nice to haves’ and bonus features rather than the true must haves. 

  • The needle in the haystack:  too many very specific requirements. Similar to the unicorn, jobs with very specific abilities, knowledge, and experiences will narrow the candidate pool. Again, for some roles, you need that needle, but for most, there are comparable skills. 

  • The bargain: mismatch between requirements and compensation. ‘Fully loaded’ candidates do not come cheap. Just like when shopping for a house, a car, a phone, or pretty much anything else, you get what you pay for. The more features and abilities, the more money. The same thing applies to salaries. If you want a bargain, be judicious with the requirements and focus more on potential.

  • The generic: too few, too vague or too high-level requirements. Requirements that are too vague or generic don’t create any distinction and is just as effective as having no requirements at all in identifying which candidates meet the basics to do the job.

  • The ‘what are we hiring for again?’: requirements that have nothing to do with the job. This should go without saying, and yet… yeah. If the requirements aren’t applicable to the job, at best, they will do nothing to help the search. More likely, they will lead you in the wrong direction.

This begs the question – how do you know you are using the right requirements? 

Ask yourself these five simple questions. 

Five MUST HAVES for must have requirements

1) Is it CLEAR?

Every requirement must be easily understandable to both the candidates and the hiring team evaluating the candidate. This means no vague language, no industry or organization-specific jargon (unless part of the requirement is knowledge of this jargon), and no overly complex sentences to squeeze in just one more detail.

Check: have someone who was not involved in generating the requirements (ideally someone in a similar role to the one being filled) read the requirements and describe what each means. If they aren’t right or if they can’t easily explain it, it is not clear.


Because candidates must meet every minimum requirement to be qualified for the job, there must be a way to verify that every requirement has been met. In other words, every requirement must be measurable or verifiable. Some are easy, like verifying that a candidate has a college education in a specific discipline or at least 5 years of experience in a certain field or role. But what about that requirement “must be a go getter” or “must be passionate about dogs” – how do you plan to measure that?

Check: for each requirement identify how you will objectively confirm if a candidate meets the requirement or doesn’t. If there isn’t a way or the way is not objective, it is not a minimum requirement.


To avoid the mistake of unnecessary searches for unicorns, needles, or bargains, the requirements must be realistic. The less likely the person you want exists, the less likely you will find them (or the more expensive and time consuming the search will become). Remember, minimum requirements are those things that are needed to DO the job, not to be the best at the job or the most successful (that comes later in the hiring process). Make them as minimal and common as possible without sacrificing the core requirements of the role. 

Check: identify those in your organization (or a similar organization) with a similar role, rank, and salary range. Will they meet the requirements? If they don’t, the requirements may not be realistic.


Here’s a scenario – you turn someone down for the job because they do not meet the minimum requirements. They file a complaint or sue the organization saying that the requirements were unfair. The court date comes and you present the list of requirements that the candidate did not meet. How will the judge rule? Each requirement must defendable – you can easily and clearly explain why it is necessary for the job, otherwise it will open the company to liability.

Check: clearly explain why each requirement is necessary to perform the job. For any of the requirements, is there another way that the individual can perform the job (for example, maybe not “stand” for 8 hours, just “interact with people” for 8 hours)?

5) Is it a MUST HAVE?

Even if requirements are clear, measurable, realistic, and defendable, they may not actually be a MUST HAVE for the role or organization. For example, knowledge of specific technologies or equipment may be easily trainable. The more extraneous requirements you can remove, the wider the initial candidate pool, and the more opportunity to find that great hire.

Check: what would happen if a person on the job didn’t meet the requirement? If there is no obvious impact (such as a degree in ‘x, y, z, or something else’) or if the compensation is reasonable (such as low cost or time investment of training) then it is not a MUST HAVE.  

Bringing it all together – strong requirements, strong hiring process

With the right minimum “must have” requirements you can spend your time where it really matters, on real candidates, rather than wasting time on those that don’t meet the basics for doing the job or opening the organization up to liability. 

Career.Place takes it one step further with our anonymous self-identifying requirements process. Hiring teams set minimum requirements and candidates self-identify against the set of criteria themselves. No resumes with pesky keywords and extraneous biasing information, no wasted time, no bias. Organizations spend time evaluating only those candidates that have met the basic requirements and candidates don’t’ waste energy on jobs that are not going to work for them.

Curious to learn more? See how streamlines minimum “must have” requirements while promoting diversity, compliance, and more efficient processes at or contact us at

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