It Starts With a Job Description

The hiring process usually starts with a job description. Sadly of the type that is a list of corporate-speak duties, deliverables and requirements.

Most searches start with the job description of the last incumbent or, worse still, someone’s view of what the new person ought to be doing and the competencies they should have. It also usually starts with structure and a title and a mission to find someone already doing it.

It should start with a need and no structure or title. An opportunity to help a team perform better, the business to be in a better position to reach it’s objectives, or to be more compliant.

It starts with something that has to be done, and the accompanying ‘job description‘ should be a blank canvas or page – ready for a picture, or story, that gives colour, purpose and context to the role.

Then it needs that colour, purpose and context.

But before you paint or write, look at whether you need someone new at all.

Is there someone already in the organisation who has the skills, capabilities or potential to do this? Who could thrive if you showed faith in them or gave them some training to help development.

Maybe you need to look outside the organisation. Then think about who you know – personal and business networks and who they know, employees and who they know, alumni and who they know, partners, collaborators, suppliers and customers. And who they know too.

Then paint your picture or tell your story and let people share it. Make sure anyone seeing it gets a clear vision of your culture, scope and purpose, how the role makes a contribution and how valuable this is. Forget the duties and personal characteristics and bring the context to life.

There are many reasons why people seek a new role – lack of opportunity, lack of trust, not feeling valued, current opportunity not matching expectation, boredom, and inability to use skills are usually the main ones. If you are looking for someone new then to get the best out of them there’s little point in offering more of the same.

Candidates seldom want a checklist…they want an opportunity to be a part of something. Give them one. Paint that blank canvas…



2 thoughts on “It Starts With a Job Description

  1. I see lots of different types of job descriptions every month, from a whole array of organisations. Some are one or two pages long, others as much 7 or 8. Some are succinct about listing the duties and what you need in terms of skills and experience to do the job, others ramble on in sub sections about one particular skill set. I often find myself thinking ‘why?’ and ‘is anyone really going to read all that?’ That said, I think job descriptions are a necessary evil, they’re just not very alluring. But then, that’s not their job. They pretty much serve as just an itinerary, an internal checklist and no doubt something that can be referred back to should there be any dispute or need for disciplinary action further down the line The time to “paint your picture or tell your story and let people share it. Make sure anyone seeing it gets a clear vision of your culture, scope and purpose, how the role makes a contribution and how valuable this is” is when you advertise. Sadly though, what then highlights the job description as such a dull tool is the fact that so many recruiters simply cut & paste them and pass them off as job ads. The opportunity to be part of something shouldn’t be reflected in the job description, it should be talked about and highlighted when you are advertising the role. You say candidates seldom want a checklist, and I agree, but that assumes they only ever see a job description and not an ad. If that’s the case then, yes, the JD the recruiter sends them should perhaps be a summary of the actual employers JD is particularly dull. But, isn’t a recruiters role to ‘big up’ the job before the candidate sees a JD anyway?

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