4 Things Wrong With Job Descriptions

Written by on September 2, 2014 in Blog, Job Descriptions with 0 Comments

Job Descriptions Are Boring

Have you ever fallen asleep while reading a job description? I’m not kidding. Have you? I have even thought that for the people who take sleeping pills, doctors might try substituting a reading regimen—read three job descriptions ten minutes before bedtime.

Yes, they are that boring.

I’ve seen a few good ones, but not many. And even if you trudge your way through the tedious description, you still have to contend with the seemingly never-ending list of…

Responsibilities

It’s a toss up as to whether the boring descriptions or the responsibilities are the worst offenders, but they’re both bad.

People understand there will be responsibilities. They know you are not offering a free ride. What you don’t have to do is remind them of every…single…thing that they’ll have to do for the next ten years. That transforms the job description from a good thing into a document reminiscent of an endless list of household chores.

I can handle a short reminder, like this:

Tree fell on fence by horse barn. Needs fixing.

That’s good. I can deal with that. I know what needs to be done, and I can do it. But let’s look at that same list if it had been written by the people who seem to write most of the job descriptions.

  • Tree fell on fence by horse barn. Boards are broken. Wire fencing is broken.
  • Go to barn and get power tools.
  • Don’t forget nails, screws, hammer, and drill.
  • Remove broken boards.
  • Remove metal fencing.
  • Replace boards, using 3-inch screws.
  • Replace metal fencing, securing with U-nails and using 22 oz. hammer.
  • Clean up work area when finished.
  • Don’t forget to put tools back in barn.

A list like that tires me out before I start. If you want people to come to work for you—I want to share something with you…

Responsibilities don’t excite anyone.

Keep the responsibilities to a minimum, and keep them targeted, and you’ll stand a better chance of attracting the right people.

Years of Experience

This one always makes me laugh, so I’m going to ask you right now.

  • How many years of experience does it take to be a sales manager?
  • How about a senior technician?
  • How about a vice president of human resources?

Now tell me how you arrived at those conclusions.

If your job description calls for ten years experience, and a candidate has seven, isn’t it possible that they can do the job? Have you ever seen a person with six or seven years experience who performed better than a person with ten or twelve? Of course you have, so why put that requirement in the job description? It might rule out people who fit the job best.

Education

This is perhaps the biggest sticking point I’ve seen in job descriptions. Quite often, companies decide—through some arbitrary means—that they need an advanced degree in a particular field of study. This is yet another area where what a company thinks they need, is not necessarily true. I have compared more than one hundred job description requirements against the people that were eventually hired, and more often than not, the people didn’t fit several of the “key requirements,” ones the company had listed as mandatory before we began the search.

Think hard before you list your educational requirements. Can a person do this job without an advanced degree? Or be bold. Can a person do this job without any degree?

Opportunity

Many, if not most, job descriptions don’t show the candidates what the opportunity is. They list requirements, responsibilities, and maybe a little bit about the company or the product. But they don’t sell the challenge. They don’t show candidates why they should be interested in this particular position or company.

This is a huge mistake, and a missed opportunity for the company. If you have any hopes of attracting the passive candidates, you better be prepared to sell them.

Bottom Line

This is by no means a comprehensive list. As the title states, this covers 4 things wrong with job descriptions. In future posts, we’ll dig deeper into what’s needed to attract the best candidates. You’ll get off to a good start if you practice the tips mentioned here.

Instead of filling your job description with requirements like “years of experience,” or “Masters in Engineering,” or endless lists of responsibilities, try spicing it up. Talk about the fun parts of working at your company. Talk about the challenges the person will face. Talk about the good they can do or the impact they might have.

You’ll be surprised at the people you might attract.

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About the Author

About the Author: When I’m not headhunting, or writing, I help my wife take care of our animal sanctuary. At last count we had 45 animals—11 dogs, 1 horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs. Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar named Dennis who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy. For information on my mystery/suspense books, go to giacomog.com .

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