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Career Coach: Wish Lists

Job postings should list required skills and not include scores of ‘nice to have’ or ‘is a plus’ that are often unrealistic and can scare off otherwise viable candidates who fear they don’t qualify.

A wish list is appropriate to send to Santa Claus but is not appropriate for a job description. Often employers put everything they can dream of in a job description, seeking an ideal candidate who probably only exists in one’s imagination. The problem with making a wish list of everything under the sun is that viable candidates often weed themselves out and don’t bother applying because they do not meet every supposed qualification or requirement.

When I was Manager of Art at Virgin Games, I met with the team to create a job description for a new employee, and everyone had input. The list grew to two legal sized pages of notes. Many people tend to post this first draft without considering the consequences–a dearth of applicants because no one is an expert in every animation software, has 30 years of experience, speaks both Japanese and Mandarin and not only is a character animator with a background in features but also does motion graphics, particle effects and traditional background painting.

After brainstorming with my team, we evaluated every item on our list to determine which ones were absolutely necessary. They had to think about what skills were needed to perform in the position immediately and what skills could be learned on the job. We listed just the requirements, no extras. We pared the job description down to a quarter of a legal-size page.

Often job descriptions include phrases such as “Any of the following technical skills is a bonus” or “Any of the following experience is a great advantage” or “Nice to have” or “is a plus.” The problem with this is that candidates think they also need to have all of these additional skills or experiences. Eliminate the “nice to haves” and focus on listing the skills or background that is necessary for a particular position.

Carefully consider how much experience is really needed when you develop your job description. One of my recruiting clients listed that the candidate needed to have 7 years’ experience working with a particular software in a film or television environment. The problem was that the software had only been available for 3 years.

Your job description should not be a wish list but more like a packing list–just the essentials should be listed, and make sure they’re front and center. Job seekers will know whether they are qualified or not and on’t be guessing about “nice to haves.” And you’ll get qualified candidates applying who’ll be a good fit for the job.


Pamela Kleibrink Thompson was production manager on The Simpsons and manager of art at Virgin Interactive. She coaches individuals and consults with companies in creative industries.  She also recruits artists and others for visual effects, animation, and games. She can be reached at Pamela thanks all of her recruiting and career coaching clients for the opportunity to work with them, as well as AWN, for providing this forum to share with the animation and VFX community.