Never Let a Job Description Talk You Out of That Job

July 17, 2013

Nothing to lose– Everything to gain – A great job to get:

Everyone has looked at countless job descriptions in their lifetime – let’s face it, even if you’re not even remotely considering a career move – and are happy, happy, happy in your job right now, chances are you have been direct recruited in the last six months or so (more than once I am sure) – by someone pitching you on the most fantabulous job with the most wonderful company with the best growth opportunity. Just start by looking at the job description…

On the flip side, recruiters looking to hire have to weed through mountains of resumes – the good, the bad and the totally unqualified. Resumes and job descriptions are the international currency of the talent business. Believe you me if we took either of them at absolute face value, we would all be in trouble because so, so much is missed in the in the written word, lost without the cultural and passionate nuances and missed in the simple black and white translation.

Any successful first call between a qualified candidate and a Recruiter tends to end with the candidate wanting to see a job description before moving forward to a potential next step. And that’s certainly fair game. Why wouldn’t one want to see whether the nitty-gritty of a job is really of interest. But here’s the rub, don’t let a (potentially poorly or incomplete) written job description possibly remove you from pursuing a potential role before you really understand the full story.

A really good (complete) job description is an extremely hard thing to write because it’s simply so difficult to capture the essence of what a role really encompasses and what kind of person would be ideal for a position. It’s important to recognize that written job descriptions are highly limited in terms of their ability to describe what jobs have to offer. Here’s a bit of an out there example but, think about how many stories you hear from show business about actors who come in to read for one role, and the producers end up writing an entirely different role for them because of what they offer. The professional world often works the same way (albeit a lot less glamorous).

Here are a few important things to keep in mind before you take a job description at face value (and heave it off the pier never to be seen again):

1. If you’re a valuable Senior Manager or Director-level candidate, you are at your best when you get to use your initiative to expand your role, strategise, coach and self-direct. Organizations are absolutely seeking this. As a senior candidate, you need to consider the potential of the broader organization you might join and your opportunities for growth within it instead of limiting yourself to a job description which might well have been written by someone who perhaps might not really understand the role.  More often than not, there is much more to a position than meet the eye.

2. You might bring strength to an organization that the hiring executive didn’t even consider including in their open role. Now that’s strategic thinking.

3. Jobs change all the time. Do you know how many times candidates return from interviews and provide much of the missing information that originally did not exist on the job description. This allows a recruiter to fill in valuable detail in the midst of a search and in so doing fine-tune the requirement needs. Often we see a fluid hire that morphs as soon as the interviews get underway and the hiring manager sees the standard of talent in the process. One should absolutely NOT miss out on a great opportunity just because there was an assumption that a job is only the sum of how it was described. That is often extremely short sighted.

4. Hiring managers are busy, and writing job descriptions is the last thing they want to do and takes them off task and is time-consuming work. Some written job descriptions are often boilerplate, list format and out of date. They can be not particularly crafted for the specific job at hand as much as what the hiring manager actually has in mind for the role. That exactly why there isn’t really a great deal of value in the description in the first place.

5. Employers sometimes write job descriptions to cover all their bases. This means they can end up including everything but the kitchen sink. They sometimes include every duty or responsibility that can conceivably come up in a job, instead of specifically what one will be doing day-to-day. This can make a job description onerous and ‘drudgery’ to read and let’s face it a turn-off for the prospective candidate. It often obscures the true focus of a role in a way that only gets cleared up in a face-to-face or phone interview with the hiring manager.

6. If one takes a job description too literally, one can end up selling oneself short. Does this scenario sound familiar? You get a job description, and notice a “requirement” or “asset requirement”  that you don’t have in your experience. You talk yourself out of being a good fit for the job, and decide to not pursue the role. But in truth, you might have been a better fit for the job than the person who gets hired. It’s a missed opportunity, all because you took the job description too literally instead of progressing to an interview stage which is where the investigative work is truly done. That’s where you can find out what a job is really about.

And then of course our favourites are the companies who come to Recruiters and say “you know what we need” and expect us to work blind, without a net…no job description at all to fill a role. Why? Because those clients understand that we get exactly what they need and know that a job description adds extremely limited value. These are the really interesting roles. So next time you’re inclined to dismiss a role out of hand, DON”T do it.

For one, a really good Recruiter should have enough of the right information about a role to give you a really sound understanding of what the client is looking for. If they don’t, then move on, you’re not working with the right recruiter. If you feel you must have a description, do yourself a favour. You owe it to yourself to look beyond the written word to see what a job is really about, either through a conversation with the Recruiter or asking people you know and trust in your industry or actually having a meeting with the hiring manager once you’ve been submitted for consideration. The bottom line is, you have nothing to lose by going on a job interview and, at the end of the day – everything to gain.


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