A Job Seeker Confession: Your Posting STINKS!

30 04 2013

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Job descriptions SUCK.  Okay, maybe that statement was a bit harsh.  Not all job descriptions suck…just most of them.  I’ve seen a lot of them in my life and there seems to be a common theme.  Want to guess what it is?  Most are so broad that you’re still trying to figure out what exactly the job is by the time you’re done reading it.  We’ve all seen the bad ones.  You know, the ones that have the giant block of text about their company, a kitchen-sink list of responsibilities and day to day job duties, and qualifications needed.

What?  You may be thinking, “I thought those were the good ones.”  I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people and thought I’d share their insight.

I’m writing on behalf of the reader (the job seeker, not the writer of the job description) and say that we’re frustrated.  Have you ever tried to assemble a piece of furniture or new bicycle and find that the instructions are so complex that they might as well be in another language?  The reason for this is that most of the directions and user manuals are written by the people (engineers, etc.) that understand the inner-workings of the product.  The issue is that they’re caught in the weeds (details) and don’t see the big picture.  We need to see the big picture.  In fact, pictures work REALLY well with assembly instructions.  Most times, I just go from the pictures rather than reading the directions.  If there’s a video on YouTube, even better!  I may or may not have had some extra bolts and screws leftover from my last assembly job…

Why do pictures work?  We know where we’re going and what the end product will be.  As it relates to job descriptions, job seekers want to know where they’re going.  What impact will they have on the business?  Will they have support from a team or manager?  Will they be trained or will they need to possess certain core competencies before starting the job?  What is the company’s culture like?  Will there be opportunity for advancement or additional responsibilities?

In my opinion, HR needs to get this right.  If you can spell it out in the job description and people actually understand the opportunity, impact and that they’re a match for the job, then you’re more likely to hire the RIGHT person for the job.  When I say “right,” I mean that they’re a fit for the position, possess the qualifications, are a culture fit for the company, etc.

What makes a GOOD job description?  Good job descriptions outline a day in the life of an employee in that position.  They also include information about the company’s corporate culture (be careful here – don’t just regurgitate what’s on your website.)  Some of the best job descriptions I’ve seen recently have even included embedded videos (<2min) that provide a fun snapshot into the company and social feeds with recruiters answering job seeker questions in real-time.  As a job seeker, we want to know what you’re looking for (if you don’t know, ask the hiring manager) and if we’re a match or not.  We’re job seekers, not mind readers, so please help us help you!

Also, we’d like to know what kind of timeline we’re looking at regarding the position: A month? 6 months?  I realize that question is harder to answer because it relies heavily upon the quality of candidates, but it’s still a “nice to know.”  Check out Jim Stroud’s post on how to make your job descriptions better.  He’s a smart guy and I know you’ll learn something. :)

So, in closing, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to job descriptions.  Guess which ones get more quality applications and result in the right hireHere’s a brush.  Paint the right picture.

What are some examples of good or bad job descriptions that have stood out to you recently?  I’d love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment below.  As always, thanks for reading!

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4 responses

30 04 2013
Elizabeth

You make some good points here. When I was searching for a job, I found myself more drawn to the jobs that had well thought out descriptions. It’s hard to know if a job posting is for just any job or potentially your DREAM job with only two sentences and a few bullet points!

30 04 2013
elizabethmxu

You make some good points here. When I was searching for a job, I found myself more drawn to the jobs that had well thought out descriptions. It’s hard to know if a job posting is for just any job or potentially your DREAM job with only two sentences and a few bullet points!

30 04 2013
Kirk Baumann

I agree, Elizabeth. Thanks for your comments!

1 05 2013
Yann quere

You raise some great points; having gone through many job offer descriptions, I concur with your assessment of the quality of their description.

However, I wonder how much emphasis most companies really put on these as it seems like most positions are not filled by one of the hundreds of applicants who answered online or newspaper postings, but rather by people who got in via networking or other less conventional ways.

I guess it probably depends on the level of the job in question: the higher the position, the less relevant the posting is.

Worse than the poor job descriptions, the lack of response from employers is frustrating. Everyone knows that properly applying for a job is a commitment; between customizing a résumé and writing a specific cover letter, it is a substantial time investment.

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