Do you need a rocket scientist for the job?

A friend of mine was searching for a job. She shared with me how hard it has become to meet all the qualifications that are now required for a position. It seems that over time some employers have become exceedingly demanding in their search for a candidate. It didn’t come to me as a surprise. Nowadays, more and more students go into higher studies, followed by continuous training, in the hope of a better job, salary and career. If you just think in terms of supply and demand, standards seem to be getting higher and an employer would rather have more than less qualifications in a candidate. Why not? It does seem natural.

Then, I mulled it over: does one really need a rocket scientist to do a job that’s not rocket science?

My observations have led me to think that organisations fall roughly into two categories with regards to hiring of staff: those that require rocket scientists for all job positions and those who don’t. This turns out to be generally true:

  • For those who want rocket scientists for all positions, it seems that, for them, the image they project is extremely important. They give priority to status and therefore put a higher priority on qualifications, whatever the job. On the down side, this may also mean that the organisation will make things much more complex than they need to be, by putting their emphasis on theory and ideas, making it difficult to get things done.
  • For those who aren’t looking for rocket scientists, just getting the work done is most important. Pragmatism is what counts and therefore they put a higher priority on experience. On the down side, this type of organisation may tend to be less creative and innovative and sometimes finds it difficult to move to new ways of doing things.

Exercising good judgment when thinking of the qualifications and experience needed in a candidate is really the key issue here. Organisations should take time to identify for each opening whether they are looking for a rocket scientist for the job or not. They need to ask: “What needs to be done, what has to be achieved?”. There is no right or wrong about the person they would go for; it depends on what the organisation is seeking to do. One could argue that wanting more is natural, but people also say, “less is more”. Ironically, if you go for less, you may get “no more no less”. A rocket scientist can turn a job that’s not rocket science into rocket science and it may be good or bad for your organisation. A non-rocket scientist may just do the job without going above and beyond and, once again, it could be good or bad depending on the needs.

It seems that one can easily argue the case for both but hiring standards in organisations appear to be consistent and uniformly applied either way. To make a case for my friend, I would say that, while it may be good to hire rocket scientists for one’s organisation, it’s also important to recognise when it is not needed.

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