When job descriptions become a communications nightmare.
Chatting with old colleagues, fellow communicators and bloggers on LinkedIn is always good fun and every once in a while I come across something that makes me want to share more widely. In this instance, it started with a series of odd job descriptions that I came across a few months back. In one notable announcement the job description ran for more than three pages…that’s over three pages of required skills and responsibilities. One of my more discerning fellow communicators posted the ad to our LinkedIn group and posed the question, “Who could possibly qualify for this job?”
Wanted Communications Goddess
Many of us read the ad, there are about 163,212 in this particular group, and with some amazement we debated about who had written it. Who could be so clueless? Was there an internal candidate they were trying to protect or avoid? It couldn’t have been written by a human resources professional…we hoped. While we mused over who could have been so silly, more concerning was, who would apply for it? Surely anyone foolish enough, confident enough, delusional or desperate enough would quickly find herself overloaded and overwhelmed. No one thought the individual could exist who had all the skills. The responsibilities were simply too diverse, web master, product marketer, social media strategist and on and on it went. We decided that even if there was someone on the planet who could lay claim to most of the skills, when on earth were they ever going to find the time to put them into play? It made us all wonder about the firm who posted the ad. What on earth would their culture be like?
No Super Heroes Need Apply
The challenge with a bad job description is that it not only means you won’t find who you’re looking for but it also takes a toll on how your organization is perceived. Jobs with ridiculous descriptions or ones that have to be posted multiple times make people think twice about applying. They assume the role was filled and vacated and that begs the question, what happened? If you do manage to find some brave soul to apply then you have to manage their inevitable despondency and disengagement. To add insult to injury, it often takes a long time for the employer to know that it’s the description that has failed and not the employee. In worst-case scenarios employees are fired and replaced several times before someone figures out that they should rethink the job. Most of the time employees figure out pretty quickly that the job simply can’t be done, but coming to that realization and trying to explain it to a boss are two very different things. In some instances the employee throws themselves at the job with great abandon hoping that if they just apply a heroic effort they can make it happen. Burnout will eventually get them and then it’s back to the drawing board.
Noted human resources consultant, Lou Adler explores the job description challenge in various articles on LinkedIn and Inc., as well as, in his book, Hire With Your Head: Using Performance-Based Hiring to Build Great Teams. Adler suggests that instead of describing a job based on skills, hiring managers should consider what the right candidates would need to do in order to be successful in the job. He argues that when performance is the lens through which a job is viewed, flaws in the description become evident. He also suggests that managers interview departing employees to discover if the job has changed over time. Take a look at this short video.
What do you think? Would you would prefer, to be interviewed on performance or skills? Would you be more responsive to a job description based on skills or performance? Ever come across a job that would take a goddess to perform?
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