[L]et me give you three reasons why some employers write these unrealistic job descriptions:
1. The employer is inexperienced at hiring (and/or incompetent, but I’m trying to be nice). Not every firm, agency or nonprofit has a crackerjack HR team. At many places, particularly smaller ones, the hiring is handed off to people with little or no experience writing job descriptions.
All too often, the postings are cobbled together based on unrealistic wish lists and groupthink (“Hey, my friend’s mother’s brother just hired this guy who does x, y and z. I’m sure we can find someone like that, too!”) rather than solid data and a thoughtful analysis of market realities. They’re not trying to be difficult, they just don’t know better.
2. Employers are willing to wait for the perfect candidate, even if he or she doesn’t exist. Wharton Professor Peter Cappelli, author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, refers to this applicant as “The Unicorn.” In cases like this, companies won’t compromise for second best. So they create an exaggerated wish list and cross their fingers.
Sure, it’s often a shot in the dark. But advertising online is so cheap, employers can easily and inexpensively post multiple ads over time with little downside. By aiming high, they figure, they’ll end up attracting a higher quality applicant pool that they can tap into at a later date.
3. The ad is actually a phantom posting. Federal labor rules don’t require employers to post openings they have, but many companies do. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes — especially when there’s a qualified candidate on staff, waiting in the wings — managers intentionally write job descriptions in a way that discourages outsiders from applying so the insider will be a shoo-in. Not nice, but it happens.