I recently was asked if I was interested in a certain job in IT. When first hearing about it, it seemed like it would suit me just fine.

I was then sent a list of requirements for the position, and the list is long, really long.

I feel confident saying, that the number of people on the planet that is capable of fulfilling all the requirements, most are marked "Essential", is very small.

Is it common that companies post such requirements, knowing well that they are unlikely to find a "perfect" applicant?

  • I have a feeling they always are, no way to prove it though. All the answers are too much into speculation territory, it'd be nice to find a reference to a book/guide about writing listings that actually encourages exaggerating requirements.
    – yannis
    Jul 13, 2012 at 6:06
  • 3
    True, but while waiting for that, experience from someone writing these requirements would be a close second.
    – Letharion
    Jul 13, 2012 at 6:13
  • 2
    There is a tendency for HR to create what I call Jesus Requirements in that Jesus is the only person that could qualify for everything listed with the years of experience required. They get a wish list from the hiring manager and then make it sound like that list is mandatory. I usually don't apply for those jobs unless they are last resorts and then don't expect to much. It is hard to want to work for a company that doesn't understand its own business any better than that.
    – user718
    Jul 14, 2012 at 5:19
  • Likewise bloat your resume I would say, but don 't lie. I think many hiring managers expect some kind of exaggeration in resumes, just as applicants expect some exaggeration in the requirements.
    – aseq
    Sep 20, 2013 at 20:13

6 Answers 6


Yes, 99% if not 100% of the time.

Often - the ones writing up the posting is HR or some other function that are not familiar with the actual position (nor do they have any knowledge in technical stuff), so whatever words ever mentioned or thrown out during discussion with the hiring manager, they'll put it in there.

It does not mean you have to have everything - although there will be essential skills that you need to have to even be considered (eg. if the job is for a front-end developer, if you never even touch any sort of HTML/js you might have an issue). But for the most part as long as you can show you can learn and you have the necessary foundation, you don't need to worry.

In fact, for me personally, if I already have ALL the skills required for the job - I wouldn't even be interested to apply. I always apply for jobs that I am "underqualified" for (underqualified based on the skills listing) because one of my main goals from a job is to learn something new.

It's standard, don't worry about it - just show that you are actually ABLE (to do the job, to learn, to take the responsibility/challenge, etc).

  • 2
    The idea of specifically applying for a job you don't have the listed qualifications for in order to learn (within reason) is an interesting one. +1 Jul 13, 2012 at 5:13
  • It can also be used as leverage when salary comes up.
    – agradl
    Jul 13, 2012 at 14:41
  • @shiznit123, Actually its more leverage if you already have those required skills listed.........
    – Pacerier
    Jul 10, 2015 at 8:39

If it's "too narrow to be true" generally one of three things is happening:

1) The hiring manager knows who they want to hire, but they have to go through the motions for HR reasons, so they define the job as undefinable.

2) The firm is hiring someone via an H1B (or similar) and has to prove that they can't find someone, so they make the job as hard to find as possible.

3) HR doesn't know how to prioritize the requests, and writes everything down that's requested.

All three of these are very bad signs. You can overcome #3 by getting in contact with the hiring manager, but it'll be tough to work around HR. Look for a business manager's name on the post, or try to find someone you know that works there to do some digging.

Good luck!

  • 3
    4) They are responding to a contractual requirement, where the ultimate customer wrote such a poor set of requirements that they had no choice. If you don't have everything on the list they can't justify that pay scale, regardless of what the actual position will require. And yes I have been involved in interviewing people for positions in my department who were responding to these types of strange position requirements. In the first example they use the prime person's resume to write the job description. Jul 13, 2012 at 11:10
  • 1
    As a former IT manager, I can fully agree with this list (+1), and #1 is quite common - I've done it myself, and my wife is currently a "want to hire" who the job req is being written around. Typically, though, that's what you actually do - write the req around the person you want to hire, because that way you can show people that you hired someone who actually fit the requirements. There's a difference between a shotgun blast of requirements and an unusual, but more-or-less well specified, set of requirements, that can be an indicator as to what is going on.
    – jbowman
    Jul 15, 2012 at 15:22
  • I've witnessed aspects of all three of these even as a non-manager but as a Senior working with / training the new contributor. I can't go into detail for privacy reasons; but I think a big aspect of it is the corporate business world's infatuation with ultra-competitiveness at the cost of all other considerations. The truth is, if I have to consider hiring someone for an 'empty' role; I'm going to look for trainability over accomplishment. But if we're trying to "promote" someone we know can do the job then it makes sense to try to just shoe them in since they're ready to go.
    – Kent.Green
    Feb 3, 2019 at 18:24

Many times these lists are a compilation of all the skills and technology needs for that position in the company. There may be several different groups working with different systems based on different technologies. So when an opening happens HR grabs all of the skills needed for that position and puts them in a list. Now the position that is open could be for a small subset of those skills. But the more of those skills you have the more versatile they can be with your assignments.

But no usually you are not expected to have experience in all of the technologies. If you have already talked with someone about the position then you probably have a pretty good feel for the actual position they are hiring for.


Yes, it's quite common for job descriptions to contain a list of requirements that no one actually fulfills and for employers to hire applicants that match on some subset of the requirements. This is particularly for "jack-of-all-trades" type IT folks. The company may want someone that has experience administering three types of databases, a couple different application servers, installing and managing a few different operating systems, and that can write code in a few different languages. That doesn't mean that they actually expect that someone will have all those skills when they apply (though, if they get lucky, that's a bonus). They generally know that the applicants they get are going to be strong in some skills, weak in others, and will need to learn the others.

From the employer's perspective, it's often hard to write a job description that tells the applicant the actual breadth of the position that doesn't devolve into a nearly impossible list of requirements. A small company looking for a jack-of-all-trades, for example, that can handle development and administration tasks wants to reach out to developers, DBAs, and systems administrators that might be interested in branching out to other areas so they don't want to make any one skill set more important than the others. But when you add all the skill sets of all those roles, you get a job description that is looking for a magical unicorn that doesn't really exist.


It's extremely common.

You would think that the list would be specific to the task at hand, right?

Unfortunately not, because the list is frequently taken straight from the personnel job description, Duties and Responsibilities, Skills, Programming Languages,etc.
So you end up with what is the (appropriately) generic description for the position at that level, which may cover hundreds of positions at the same level, e,g. "Junior Programmer".

In reality, for a given position, for actual hiring purposes, it's a 'wish list' and the actual list is likely to be a subset. Just look carefully at the content and apply good judgement in the given domain area (which presumably you know), e.g. for programming, java and C++ would be similar [easy, everyone, wait for the comparison], but SQL and HTML or Ruby and Excel, not so much ;)

If you take a look over the whole list (and it sounds like it's pretty long, right?) you should be able to glean the overall view, e.g. Graphic Designer vs Backend Programmer vs. Datawarehouse Programmer, etc. As you're be looking most at your subject area, you should have a fair idea of what's likely to really be key and what's not.

Of course there are places that actually are looking for a long list of tools or unusual tools, e.g. COBOL programmer ! so take that into context too, along with the natures and other description of the job.

The bigger the bureaucracy, the more this tends to be true.

Finally, place the job in the context of the employer. Given that this is MIT (I'm close to it actually), the folks likely to have a lot of input are MIT grads, who tend to have rather, well, lets just say "high standards" and and a long list.


Try the following:

Go to USPTO.GOV (US Patent Office) and navigate to the patent search page. You can search through patents by keyword.

Type 'hydrogen' and click Search. This should produce about 15,000 entries.

Type 'hydrogen oxygen' and click search. This should produce about 1500 entries.

Type 'hydrogen oxygen carbon' and click search. This should produce around 100 entries.

Point being is that 'each additional requirement' reduces the candidate pool by an order of magnitude, setting aside things like 'ability to communicate' and 'attention to detail'. It's common for certain state agencies to list 20 technically distinct 'requirements'. By that time the number of possible responders is .000000001 or less.

  • Uhm.... how is this an answer?
    – Pacerier
    Jul 10, 2015 at 8:41

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