Banishing 'Experience-Needed' Syndrome

Susan Hall

My colleague Ann All has posed the question of whether the IT skill shortage is really that employers are really are too picky, wanting candidates to have unrealistic sets of skills. Meanwhile, an article at The Register suggests that employers simply don't want to pay the salaries that those with in-demand skills can command.


It also can be a disconnect that a Harvard Business Review article calls the "experience-needed syndrome." Tammy Johns, senior vice president at ManpowerGroup, writes:

Slide Show

How to Write a Tech Job Description

A well-written job post helps you attract not only good candidates, but the right candidates.

This ailment manifests itself in two ways. In one, job descriptions for entry-level positions ask for experience, which shuts out many young workers. In the other, seasoned workers find the "experience-needed syndrome" becomes the "exact experience needed syndrome."


As companies struggle to be as productive with fewer workers, they've gotten creative about sharing workloads by combining parts of jobs or even whole jobs into one big new job description. This leaves candidates perplexed, trying to decipher what's needed and determine if they meet the requirements.

Her advice to companies is to focus on the key skills the candidate will need, rather than every skill the worker might one day be called upon to possess. And she advocates writing job descriptions in modern terms. The idea is to attract a smaller group of applicants, but a pool more closely aligned with the position's true requirements. She has a similar "specific is terrific" mantra for job applicants who need to translate their experience for employers with "exact-experience-needed" syndrome.


IT job sites and contributed to our slideshow on how to write a just-right job description. Our IT Downloads center also contains more than 100 IT job descriptions that can serve as examples to employers and job seekers as well.

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