JOB SEARCH! The JOB DESCRIPTION! Is it what it appears to be?

Guest Author: Ron Cottick, CPC, CHRM

There is no short answer to that question. And, considering that most JOB DESCRIPTIONS are poorly written, how could there be? If a JOB DESCRIPTION is well written though, then the most appropriate answer would be “almost always”.

There is a process in most companies as to how a job is created and a JOB DESCRIPTION generated for that job. It starts with a Hiring Manager having a need as well as a budget to hire someone. From that point, the request goes to Human Resources (HR) to determine if it is a justified need. If the Hiring Manager does a good job in justifying the need, HR will buy off on the request and approve a requisition for it.

The Hiring Manager gets word of the approval as well as a request for the JOB DESCRIPTION they will use for the “requisition”. Here is where things usually get convoluted. Convoluted, because, almost all Hiring Managers go back to their JOB DESCRIPTION database and retrieve the last JOB DESCRIPTION they used when they last filled a “like” position. That JOB DESCRIPTION could be months or years old. That is not necessarily bad, however, the Hiring Manager usually does not update nor make the necessary changes to bring it up to date. HR accepts what it is given to work with because they assume the Hiring Manager knows best what they want, are looking for and would have updated the JOB DESCRIPTION. So what you end up with is less than the best of a JOB DESCRIPTION going forward to attract the best talent for the job. “How’s that working for them, usually not so good”.

If the position is turned over to an internal recruiter, they take what they get and run with it. Seldom is the time taken by the Recruiter to sit down with the Hiring Manager to discuss all the nuances of the position to assist in finding the best of the best in talent. In the recruiter’s defense, sometimes if they were to try, hiring managers don’t always make themselves available to discuss it. The mindset usually is “you have the JOB DESCRIPTION and should know what we are looking for”. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a comment similar to that. The assumption is good recruiters know what they are doing and don’t need anything more than what was given to them to get the job done. So, we have a dated JOB DESCRIPTION, no discussion with the hiring manager and are expected to find the GURU that is expected to fill the position.

So, in the interest of getting the position filled recruiters move on into the hiring process with less than the best of information. What a concept. It is more like a recipe for settling. “Settling” is settling for what you get instead of going after what you want! Settling in this kind of scenario is when so much time goes by, anxiety levels go up with the desire to fill the position and the best candidates are yet to be found. What happens is best of the rest is hired instead of the best of the best.

Smart and good recruiters, whether they are corporate or outside recruiters asked to assist on the search, always redo the JOB DESCRIPTION to what it should be after discussing it with the Hiring Manager. If they can’t talk with the Hiring Manager they do their best to edit the JOB DESCRIPTION to bring it up to date, be the best that it can be and attract the right talent.

Follow along as I discuss the “usual” target areas that come under the editing pen.

Sometimes the job title is more specific to the company and not easily recognizable to the industry. I have seen Product Managers do Project Manager work. The company may have the position titled that way. If you were looking for a Project Manager position would you key word it with Product Manager? Not likely. Unless Project Management was used in the body of the JOB DESCRIPTION the position would not likely come up in your search. To preempt an inappropriate JOB TITLE for a position you want, are looking for and are qualified for, you need to “think outside the box”. If the JOB TITLE were right on, no problem! Chances are more likely it’s not, so, think of all the possibilities of the JOB TITLE you could/would fit and use them as key words in your search.

Companies usually use a range when listing compensation. Sometimes they refer to benefits as competitive. If there is a relocation package, it’s usually stated as relocation available. None of these references tell you how much. There is some reasoning behind it. First of all, lets talk compensation. Companies target to hire someone at what is called the “mid-range” of the compensation. If the position is listed at $70 – $100K, they are looking to start someone at $85K. The reason is companies want to have room for merit, COLA and other raise incentives such as merit in the pay grade. If they start someone at the top, there is no room, consequently, no raises until promotion to the next pay grade. Although someone could get more than “mid-range”, not likely will they get top dollar. The only chance of more, and the usual carrot used to get more going in, is a sign on bonus. Now, on to talk benefits. The competitive part comes in on the company view as to competitive compared to whom? A like size company in the same industry, in a different industry, a small company, or what? Only the company defines competitive in this case. As for relocation, it is usually tied to the level of position. Do skilled professionals get the same package as Mid to Senior Level Management? Hardly ever! Knowing how the dollars work helps you get a better idea of what to expect. You can only evaluate the other perks once you know more specifically what they are. Use this information as your guide to determine if the compensation for the position you have interest in meets your requirements.

This is where the fluff comes in. A popular buzzword in the industry is “branding”. Companies and recruiters are all the time encouraged to brand the company and themselves to create better awareness and interest. If the company is doing the advertising, you will likely see their name listed in the JOB DESCRIPTION. If a recruiter is running the ad content, they will likely not list the company name. They almost always keep it confidential until they talk with you. Either way, the intro is where you will see “fortune 500 company”, “industry leader”, “#1 in the nation”, or some like type comments. The intent is to shout out that they are everything you want and expect them to be. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, except, if you never heard of them you should check them out to better know who they are. In their minds eye, they could be #1 but in the real world they could be on the bottom. You don’t want to be taking interest in a 3rd rate company if you are looking for a 1st rate company. Do your research, as you always should, to have absolute certainty who they are, where they stand in the industry, and, are they financially solvent enough to pay you should you be hired. Are they who they say they are.

This is where you get to the substance of what the company is looking for. Here you will see the duties and responsibilities of the position. Many times this area is vague on substance and too much on generalities. You may have to interpret the meaning from what you know about like positions. If the JOB DESCRIPTION is well written, this area should be loud and clear. This is where you will see if you are qualified, the areas you can emphasis when you sell them on your background and what is expected as part of the job. This is the heart of the JOB DESCRIPTION. This is where you will see if this position is for you.

This is where you will find the wants, the must haves and the preferred skills. Nothing is absolute, but you will at least see what the company’s first choice of skill sets are and the strength of their desire for specific skill sets. In some cases, companies use this area to screen out certain talent. Don’t let this deter you if you have a comparable rather than a specific requirement. Many times comparable or transferable skills are acceptable.

If a JOB DESCRIPTION is written to its optimum, it will have branding, education, motivation, sales and encouragement to make a move to action. You will see the fluff, get an education, could become motivated, get sold and be encouraged to a move to action. If that is the case, you will be armed with information to make an intelligent decision as to how you want to proceed. If that is not the case, at least you were able to decipher everything to make an intelligent decision and “is this the one”! Knowledge is power and invaluable to make the right decision.

How does the title “When is it more than it appears to be” fit this article? Simply put, if you do not understand the intent of what the JOB DESCRIPTION is saying in its entirety and how to read between the lines, clear or otherwise, you could be pursing something that is erroneous or does not exist. I am not implying you should not follow every lead, just saying you should know, as best is possible, what it is you are pursing. The better informed you are, the better you can “work smarter and not harder”. Call it a best use of time a resources.

One more point to help put you on a level playing field when it comes to introducing yourself to a position. Just as the JOB DESCRIPTION draws you in with branding, education, motivation, sales and encouragement to a move to action, YOU SHOULD do the same when you present yourself. BRAND yourself in your presentation, EDUCATE the company you are approaching on you, MOTIVATE the company to take interest in you, SELL the company on all the attributes of your background and skill set that qualifies you for the position and encourage them to a MOVE TO ACTION.

It is hoped you found value in this article on JOB DESCRIPTIONS. The more you know about dealing with all the elements of a JOB SEARCH the more successful you will be in attaining your OJBECTIVE. You don’t have to settle for what you get, go after what you want.

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Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry level jobs and other career opportunities.

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