Job Descriptions are a Joke – by Mark Rowbottom

Job Descriptions are a Joke

by: Mark Rowbottom

I recently wrote an article titled Job Postings are Not Real. As a result, I began to ponder the actual job descriptions and this prompted the following observation and questions:

Have you ever read through a job description and asked yourself the question: What is it that they really want from this potential hire?

Job descriptions are too broad, for the most part.  Take for example the following taken from actual job descriptions on my desk.

  • Good organizational and problem solving skills.
  • Critical, analytical thinker. Effective problem-solver.
  • Ability to interpret a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram, or schedule form.
  • Strong leadership, communication and interpersonal skills to function in a collaborative fashion with high integrity, intelligence, good judgment and pragmatism.
  • Ability to work as an individual contributor effectively and also work well in a team environment.
  • Perform other duties and responsibilities as requested or required
  • Sound analytical skills, decision making and organization skills in relation to managing multiple, complex projects with tight deadlines
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Must be able to lift 25 pounds

Seriously folks, with the exception of the last bullet, all of these requirements are subjective and open to an individual’s interpretation or opinion. Who the heck cannot lift 25 pounds anyways?

Another issue is anyone can say they are a critical, analytical thinker with good organizational skills.

Do you for a minute believe our self-evaluations are completely accurate?  Right, and I have a full head of hair.

When preparing a job description, it is best to stick to the actual ultimate goal of what you would want a new hire to accomplish in the first 6 months of employment. This requires the descriptions to stick to the facts and objective questioning, like the following:

What’s your experience with C#, SQL, ERP?  What’s your experience interfacing w/ users? Are you content doing 50% development and 50% analyst work?

This line of questioning was developed by our firm for a client and we use this to properly and more effectively qualify candidates. You may find some people will not answer the questions and the reason usually is because after they have read them, they disqualify themselves. They do not have the answers, even though they have strong leadership, communication and interpersonal skills to function in a collaborative fashion with high integrity, intelligence, good judgment and pragmatism.

Yes, we are searching for a pragmatic programmer. I know, of course you are and aren’t we all? This type of qualifying is really a given, we get it! Putting it down on a description is fine, I just don’t know how pragmatic it is.

When reviewing, or writing job descriptions, try to vet through the subjective bullets and get to the “meat” of the position.

Whether you are searching for great people or a great job – may your searching be fruitful.