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Job Descriptions Matter!

Job Descriptions Matter!

[can you drink a few beers and not make an ass out of yourself??!!]

I had a new client call about three years ago and after a couple conversations he determined we were a good fit for his company and we signed a recruiting contract.  I liked the guy from the very first conversation, strait shooter very passionate about his business and seemed like he genuinely cared about his employees and customers (this proved to be absolutely true as I still do a lot of work for him to this day!!). 

Why he called: He called because a key person in his organization was leaving after a long tenure (for health reasons) and it came as a shock and was very upsetting and unexpected.  Then the conversation went something like this.  “it will be hard to fill this person’s shoes……this role is vitally important to our organization…”  I asked him several open-ended questions about the role and got out of the way, he talked for 45 minutes and I had great notes and a great idea of what he needed.  Last thing I said was do you have a Job Description put together and he said they had never had one before because this person had always been in the role, so they were “working on one”.  I said “great, start with a blank sheet of paper and really focus on describing your company and the essential responsibilities of this job…etc.”. 

What I got:  The job description I received was so disappointing to say the least (and unfortunately very typical)!  It read as if he went out and purposefully found the 10 most boring people he could find, sat them in a room and said just hit the main requirements, the main job responsibilities and definitely don’t be too specific on the compensation we can’t afford to over pay on this position…blah..blah..blah..boring..boring..etc..etc..  The job description did not remind me of this owner or his company at all.

I did mention this was a new client, right?  Well, I also mentioned he was a straight shooter and so am I, so even at the risk of offending him, I told him “this Job Description Stinks” (I used a different word,  dear old Mom might read this ya know!) and after a pregnant pause, he retorted “really?”, then he laughed a little and said something like “yeah…writing these things isn’t as easy as I thought..” and then something like “OK, mister smartypants recruiter dude….you write the damn thing... you’re the expert!”. And so I did!

I won’t bore you with this much longer, but here are some excerpts from the Job Description:

  • I couldn’t delete the boring Company Description resembling an obituary fast enough, and went with a paragraph including this: In the last 30 years we have put Blood, Sweat and Tears into a company that everyone from a Summer Intern to the CFO can be proud of…..we have grown from $0.0 to $30M in revenue and earned every dime by working hard and putting our customers and employees first.”
  • Instead of the boring: “Perform daily task as assigned”, I wrote this: “we expect you to be a “servant leader”, every morning you should review the tasks at hand and then communicate to your staff in a manner that says “good morning, we are going to have a great day!....I’m here to help you…what can I do to help YOU meet OUR objectives today?  And by the way, the president will be saying the exact same thing to you every morning and he means it!!  If you are a sit at your desk and dictate orders kind of manager please don’t waste your time or ours, only sleeve roller-uppers welcome!!

Instead of “Some travel required” I went with “We expect all employees to represent our company well.  In this role, you in particular will from time to time need to attend industry trade shows, attend off-site meetings with industry associations and entertain clients.  Can you engage in pleasant conversation in a social setting and [can you drink a few beers and not make an ass out of yourself??!!”

OK, hopefully you get the picture and this was for a trucking company, so the language was actually quite appropriate and the whole job description thou similar to what I have shared with you was very professional and well written.

I can only tell you that the response to this particular Job Posting on our website and a couple other trade specific posting sites was off the charts!  I had never had such a good and well-qualified response rate.  I even had people I was actively pursuing respond saying, “I’m not currently looking, but if I was I would love to work for a company like this!”

My recommendations:  If you spend less than an hour writing a Job Description, it is probably just OK.  If you just copied and pasted from a couple other Job Descriptions to get the task off your desk it probably will not be as effective as it could be.  I you want mediocre candidates and a mediocre response to your job posting just stick with the same old thing.  I know from experience a well written and sincere Job description gets the attention of the best qualified candidates.  Even those who might not be currently looking.  You may be thinking that candidates should be beating down your door for the opportunity to work for your company.  The best candidates are not!  You have to SELL your job opportunity and the best way to start is with a great and compelling Job Description!