Dissecting The Job Description. It’s Not What You Think.

You’ve already heard me lose my mind a dozen times about resumes. They’re terrible and are a poor representation of your value. The problem is, job descriptions are just as bad.

Now I’ll also own that I’m a tad biased. The last time I applied for was qualified for and got the job posted was 1992. As a hiring manager, writing job descriptions was a chore. I’ve asked dozens of you what you think of job descriptions, and it seems everyone sighs and shakes their head. Like a resume, they don’t represent the whole person you’re looking for—that unique blend of skills, potential, personality, and curiosity. I think it’s time we all agreed that a job description is just a suggestion.

Here’s why…

  1. When you’re writing a job description, unless you’ve hired the role dozens of times, you’re ultimately guessing. As brilliant as you are, you can’t predict the future.
  2. There is no perfect candidate, and you know you’re going to have to compromise, and you hope you’re going to get some additional benefits you didn’t expect
  3. You don’t want perfect; you want possible. What you want is the balance between experience and potential, that means the individual can be who the team needs them to be, needs them to be in the future.
  4. A job description is just words. The average job description is a mere 90 words. A mere 90 words to describe, in theory, 400,000 minutes of your life.  
  5. Speaking of the number 90, the average job description is invalid less than 90 days after you start the role.
  6. A job description is a sales pitch. A pitch that describes why an individual would want to invest their precious time with you. 
  7. 72% of hiring managers say they provide clear job descriptions; only 36% of candidates say they have a clear job description.
  8. A job description is a tool used to eliminate diversity in your candidate pool rather than encourage it.

A job description describes what you’re going to DO rather than how you’re going to think. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve always hired based on someone’s past and potential. When I’ve applied for roles, I’ve also thought about what the organization says they want and who I think they need.

Do I think we need something different to navigate the dance between candidate and hiring manager? Clearly yes. While I’m off figuring out what it is (anyone want to join me?), you have to use what you have.

So here are some questions you might want to ask yourself when reviewing a job description. 

  1. Why do you think the company is hiring for the role?
  2. Is this a new role, or have they hired for this role before?
  3. Does the company have a history of hiring for this role?
  4. Looking at the summary, if you were hiring for this role, what responsibilities would you want? Are any of them missing?
  5. Why do you think they prioritized the skills listed?
  6. Is there another way of describing the skills listed?
  7. What are the company’s press releases been saying about what they’re doing? What new problems do you think they’re going to need to solve?
  8. What was the previous role of the hiring manager, and at what company? Managers building out teams pull ideas from their past, too, right?

These are just a few ideas to consider as you’re navigating the path to the future you. 

Just remember, a job description is not a rule book; it’s just a suggestion.


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