Desirable Criteria Part 2!

Desirable selection criteria – inline or out of line with essential criteria?
A few weeks ago we produced an article about the use of Desirable criteria in selection. It came about after I overheard my fellow director chatting with a colleague and it interested me because it went against my thinking. I thought it might be of interest to others.

While we checked our interpretation with the Public Service Commission, we didn’t run the final copy past them. They and we got a few calls as a result of our post, providing a wonderful insight into how individual’s outlook affects interpretation.

The point of discussion is this. Our article posited that when reviewing written applications, employers could not use information provided to address desirable criteria to separate candidates in the shortlisting process.

It was pointed out to me that you could use such information, but only as an aid to assessing an applicant’s suitability against the essential criteria. HR not being my field, I was confused, so I sought clarification from my HR colleagues to sort it out.

So here’s how it works: let’s say you have an applicant who failed to address an essential criterion on written communication skills for instance, but you notice they meet the desirable criterion for possessing a degree level qualification. You can use their possession of the degree level qualification as demonstration of the written skills criteria, even though it is a response to a desirable criteria, if they explained in their application they had prepared written assignments as part of their course. Possession of the degree alone would not be enough even though you might surmise they would have had to prepare written assignments to complete it.

In the private sector, the distinction between essential and desirable is more flexible, depending on the business need for the position and other options the business might have for accessing the mix of skills required.

In the public service arena, applicants must meet all essential criteria, through any and all of the information provided in their CV, job application, and in addressing the essential and even, as explained above, the desirable criteria.

Thus, our original position still stands: assessment and separation of candidates on desirable criteria with no reference back to essential criteria is still not an option. However, if your desirable criterion overlaps one of your essential criteria you might find that the information provided against the desirable criterion may assist you with a fuller explanation of their experience in a related essential criterion.

Don’t shy away from desirable criteria, but remember to use them cautiously in your job advertisement, and assess them rigorously to be clear about what more information they can give you relevant to any related essential criteria.