Must Be Able to Multitask

multitaskSomething that interests me lately are the number of employers who put “must be able to multitask” in their requirements. They are grouping this skill next to having a college degree or management skills.

There are a lot of reasons why a company would feel compelled to require someone who can multitask, but it’s the phrasing of the requirement that has to change.

Don’t you really mean must be able to responsibly handle a number of projects that may or may not be due at the same time? Think about it. “Multitasking” is really asking someone to juggle many tasks at once without crumbling under pressure. If you’re hiring an assistant and you require that they “multitask” what you really mean is that they can remember to do a number of things during their work day.

How do you measure that?

How do you know when someone is really good at multitasking? You can only hire them and wait for them to sink or swim. Instead, in the interview, ask them the kinds of things they were responsible for in their previous job and how they handled multiple responsibilities. This will give you a greater understanding of if a person is able to “multitask”.

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

If you apply for work here, we ask you for a writing sample. The reason for this is because we all communicate with customers and it’s important that everyone can write clear and concise emails to customers. We test that by asking for these sample from applicants to make sure that the tone of all of the employees hired on will be the same. Since we have a very unique (and awesome) policy on customer service we need to make sure that the people we bring in for interviews “get it”.

Lets not forget that there are many articles that have theorized that multitasking is a myth. Our brains simply don’t function that way, so saying “must be able to multitask” on your job ad might be doing you more harm than good to find the best possible people for the position.

Instead of “must be able to multitask” require that your applicants “can be responsible for many things at once” or “are able to follow a daily task list”. It might help you weed out the people who are good at wearing many hats and the ones that aren’t.

Are you still asking for someone who can “multitask” or have your requirements evolved?