Thursday, January 25, 2018

The fallacy of "minimum qualifications"

Even though I left my proposals job (for the second time) in early 2015, I still receive emails from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals - and I actually LIKE to receive these emails.

One of these recent emails advertised an available proposals position with a particular company.

While reading the position description, I realized that I would not have qualified for this position when I started my first proposals job in 1994. In fact, I wouldn't qualify for this position today, despite over ten years of proposals experience.

Why not?

Because the position has "minimum qualifications" - and since it was written for (and possibly by) proposal professionals, I am forced to assume that the minimum qualifications are truly MANDATORY. If you know anything about proposals and RFPs, you know that in a well-run organization, requirements are requirements are requirements.

So why would I not meet this company's criteria? Take a look at the first minimum qualification.

Must have Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Communications, English or another relevant field

I have a Bachelor's ecomomics.

Never mind the fact that to obtain this degree, I had to write an undergraduate thesis.

Never mind the fact that between my graduation and 1994, I had written a variety of technical manuals, and had even co-authored a paper that was published in a journal in 1991.

Never mind the fact that between 1994 and 2015, I had amassed a ton of proposal experience.

Of course, that in itself was a problem, because it meant that I failed to meet another minimum qualification.

Two years of experience in a technical writing position

"But John," you may be asking, "didn't you actually EXCEED this requirement?"

Um, re-read the requirement again. It does not specify "Two years OR MORE" of experience; it explicitly specifies "Two years" of experience. And since it was written for (and possibly by) proposal professionals, I am forced to assume that the writer meant what he/she said.

"John, you're being silly," you may be saying. "They would obviously look at your resume and determine that you are qualified for the position."

But remember the essential truths of HR resume review:

Your resume will most likely never be read in its entirety, and the real thought process when reading it is...

“Is there anything in here that knocks this person out from further consideration?”...

Because of the volume, [reviewers] must make a judgment on each [resume] in a very few seconds

In practice, the resume review process would probably work like this.

Boy, the traffic was terrible this morning. Ah, here's a pile of papers from my boss, with a note. "Please go through these resumes for the proposal position and get me the ones that meet the minimum criteria."

OK, let's start with the education requirement. Wow, there are a lot of resumes to go through here!

Jones, bachelor's degree in English - looks good.

Smith, high school graduate - discard.

Johnson, bachelor's degree in physics, master's degree in journalism - better ask the boss.

Bredehoft, bachelor's degree in economics - discard.

Just as well. I'm not sure that I'd want to rejoin proposals for a third time.
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