Show. Don’t Tell.
It’s hard to be a job description. Job descriptions are under a lot of pressure. As a job description you have to be able to do several things at once. You have to attract talent, so you have to clearly spell out all aspects of a position. But then you also have to stand as a measure of an employee’s performance; you have to be able to evaluate that performance, or to justify either a termination or a promotion and salary increase. As a job description you also provide an opportunity for a company to revisit and re-evaluate its mission. That’s a lot for one job description to handle. Could you do all of that? And could you stand up to that same kind of scrutiny?
Okay, I realize I’m really milking this one, but there’s a point to be made. Job descriptions tend to be overwritten. They’re long and intimidating, and might set up unrealistic expectations in terms of what the company, or the potential candidate, have to offer.
Can one person do all that?
Consider a position that has recently opened up at one of Canada’s biggest communications companies. As a Word document the job description spans 720 words over two full pages, with the first 147 words delineating the company’s history, its mission, and the nature of its business. Then there is a brief line on the type of candidate they want: a passionate, driven individual, seeking interesting work, new challenges, and learning opportunities. And I should hope so; if you aren’t passionate, driven, seeking interesting work, new challenges, and learning opportunities, then you probably shouldn’t be in the job market. Hopefully, you’re reading the job description, thinking “Hey, that’s me! I’m passionate. I’m driven,” so that you’ll be further drawn in to the prospect of working for the company in question.
Finally, they throw in the job title, location, salary expectations (unless they’re to be discussed), and the hours. But then after that comes the lengthy lists of responsibilities, requirements, and qualifications. Four hundred words of them. Interesting words like “architecting.” Run of the mill terms you might use on a CV, like “implementing” and “participating.” There is a list of a dozen qualifications you need before you even walk through the door: years of experience, degrees, certificates, detailed knowledge, motivation, and a sense of accountability. If you can lay claim to all of those, added to your passion, your drive, and your interest in learning new things, and this job is made for you.
Shorten the selling yourself
Or you might be intimidated, thinking “Man, does any one person really have all of these qualities and qualifications? Because I don’t.” We’ll get into selling yourself short in a subsequent post. Right now I want to talk to employers about shortening the sell.
Job descriptions all sound the same, as if they’re done by machine, using an algorithm, with information plugged into different fields. But we don’t all want the same things, whether we’re job seekers or employers. So why should job descriptions not be more specific to a particular job or company? And, given advances in technology, and the visual way in which we interact with the world, why can’t a job description reinvent itself? Become, say, more visual.
Consider something like this:
It catches the eye first. Then it catches the spirit. Then it zeroes in on the talent. Hook. Line. Sinker. And you’ve got yourself a new employee that’s a perfect fit, one who hasn’t nodded off in front of the computer screen while reading your job description.
It’s classic writing advice, so why shouldn’t it work for the tired, old job description: Show. Don’t Tell. Now, that’s a company I want to work for.