An afternoon thinking about ‘Job Descriptions’…

Rob @ offpaper
Apr 18, 2019 · 4 min read

The other day I was asking a hiring manager what they were looking for in a candidate. They said “5 years Sales experience”. I challenged what that actually meant, because to me on face value that doesn’t say anything. It says someone has had a job with ‘Sales’ in the title for 5 years. But little else (explicitly) about who the right candidate is.

This approach also means that people become ‘trapped’ in the cycle of their CV — forever defined by their job title and nothing deeper. Titles carry connotations and expectations that might not always ring true with the person behind them, too.

I pulled apart a job description and learnt 3 things:

Don’t bother reading it… I’ll break it down for you
  1. Firstly, they’re really long and confusing…

This one took me about 5 minutes to read. I had to use a Thesaurus twice. And I finished it confused, slightly bored, and not inclined to apply for the job. Lot’s of it was taken up listing specific tasks. Maybe this gives people a good sense of what they’ll be doing, but to me it felt more daunting. Like a list of tasks I hadn’t done before, but knowing my own skill set I’m surely capable of. Again perpetuating this job title cycle…

Check it out though — there are only a few themes that come out from all the tasks listed:

By putting the human first, before the job title, it’s pretty obvious what being an Account Manager day-to-day looks like, and therefore the competencies and values that would make someone a happy fit for the role.

So a happy and effective person in this day-to-day world would most likely:

  • Enjoy interacting with people
  • Like organising things
  • Value trust and honesty
  • Be fine with uncertainty and conflict

2. Job Descriptions are leading too…

The next biggest chunk of this JD is made up of adjectives about who this candidate should ‘Be’. Just look at the list below:

Is anyone all of these things??

So not only is the list insanely big (which is daunting for anyone I guess!) but we’re effectively giving people a tick-list of stuff to rattle down in a cover letter or a tweaked CV. I even know of software that scans a JD, then your CV, and then tells you what words are missing…

Do we reckon there are many strategically astute, dynamic yet focussed, administrative yet creatively minded, organised yet happy with uncertainty passionate sports fans in London? Taking the piss a bit, but you see the point?

As a candidate I’m immediately moulding myself to fit an impossible persona. Which leads to my last point…

3. Job Descriptions are missing a lot of important stuff…

This company mentions ‘our values’ twice, but doesn’t actually express them. I think that’s OK though (see previous point about giving candidates a tick list). Values congruence is a critical part of being happy in work, but words to mirror aren’t good enough.

There’s also almost nothing in the way of culture, and ‘how we do things’. OK one sentence says “Participating in agency culture” but really, what does that even mean? I want to know how the company feels about autonomy, or their attitude to decision making. Maybe even what’s normal from a flexible working perspective, or the vibes on recognition. Something I can connect with and think “Yeah, that sounds like me” or conversely “I couldn’t work like that”. Honesty, obviously is important too — but in a ‘showcase’ like this I question how honest the employer is (or can) really be.

I couldn’t just tear it up though, so I had a go at v2…

It’s shorter (by 80%), feels more relevant, and leaves less to lead a candidate (or bias against certain groups).

My idea for the next step would mean candidates creating an offpaper profile — My values, My interests, How I work best (and if necessary some functional requirements). Having already understood and profiled the Values, Culture and Role for the company, we can algorithmically ‘match’ on a bunch of deep criteria. Way beyond any CV / JD.

Then a quick 10 minute Google Hangout with every new person to help coach them on where they’ll be happiest — whether it’s at this company, or a different one. It turns a scary and often negative rejection into an empowering experience. Plus it’s all happening with a sum total of 20 minutes effort — rather than days and days of random applications and interviews.

Job Descriptions aren’t perfect and neither are CV’s. There has to be a better way for both companies and people to find a connection. offpaper is a lot about shifting an ingrained process, but we’re doing it.

Rob @ offpaper

Written by

Humans > CVs. Let’s do something about it.

More From Medium

More from Rob @ offpaper

Also tagged Hiring

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade