Job Descriptions are Just Commercials for Jobs

Only Employment Lawyers and HR Pros from 1990 believe that Job Descriptions are important legal-type documents that are still needed in 2014.   Most companies have given up on job descriptions (JDs).  At best you’ll find them, today, using ones from back in 1990 when people thought writing JDs was an important part of human resources.  You’ll still find a few HR Tech vendors around trying to make you believe this is an important skill to have.

Our reality, though, is that JDs are really just a marketing tool to get you interested in a position and company. Nothing more, nothing less.

If this is true, 99% of companies are failing at JDs in a major way!

The other 1% are using titles like “Ninja Developer” and think they’ve gotten it solved.  The problem we all share is that we haven’t let marketing just take this part of our business over. It’s a legacy thing.  Somehow we believe only people in HR can write job descriptions.  It’s that ‘legal’ thing again.  We need to make sure we put “EOE” on the bottom, and you know you can’t trust marketing to do that!

Last week a Facebook group I’m in shared the following employment branding commercial:

I know, this isn’t a job description, but do you really think the JDs at Kixeye look like your JDs?  No, they don’t!

I know. I know. Your company can’t do something like this.  You’re probably right.  But you can do something that is more like you. More authentic.  More real. More, well, you.

That’s the problem with your JDs.  They aren’t you.  In fact, I would argue they aren’t anyone!

Your JDs, most JDs, are just a boring list of job requirements, that may not actually be required, and skills needed to do the job, that may not actually be needed to do the job.  Job descriptions have turned into those things most companies are embarrassed to even show you.  Weekly, I have conversations with companies that will either say they don’t have a job description, or the job description is old and updated, or just flat out ask me to help right them a new one!

It’s time HR gave up the job description business and handed it over to marketing where it belongs.


6 thoughts on “Job Descriptions are Just Commercials for Jobs

  1. “JDs are really just a marketing tool to get you interested in a position and company” … I couldn’t agree more. In some positions hiring managers seem to wait for the right applicants to flood in just because a position is up for grabs, when in reality a candidate begins evaluating your company far before you get a chance to evaluate them. Making job descriptions more personal for your organization will end up attracting applicants who are a better fit for your company culture right off the bat. Handing it over to marketing completely is an interesting suggestion … and I feel like it would take a big push to get us there … but as job descriptions are just another form of company branding, the dialogue between Marketing & HR certainly needs to be more free-flowing.

  2. I think you’re mostly correct in your pronouncement on job descriptions. Job descriptions, in their current form, don’t serve much of a purpose – except to allow candidates to customize their resumes based on the right key words. Marketing approaches like key word optimization, media placement, and social media management could all benefit the creation and dissemination of job descriptions.

    What’s missing, and something a good marketer will want to do right off the bat, is HR’s expertise in developing the ideal candidate profile. A marketer would call this a buyer persona. At McQuaig, we call it a 3-Dimensional Job Description. This is what allows you to target your job description so it’s more likely to capture the attention of your ideal candidate. In addition to the typical skills and experience, it includes the behavioral requirements to succeed (do they need to be driven, analytical, patient, competitive, change-oriented, independent); the type and style of leadership they’ll work with; the environment (company and team). And these can’t be random words on a page, this has to be thought out and developed into a profile that you can put a name on.

    It’s exactly what the marketing team behind the Kixeye ad used to write that ad and it’s what every company needs driving a job description – whether that’s written in HR or marketing.

  3. I think you need a balanced approach. Job descriptions do have some compliance benefits.

    ADA’s implementing regulations provide a list of factors whether a particular function is essential including: (1) the employer’s judgment as to which functions are essential; (2) the written job descriptions of the position; (3) the amount of time spent on the job performing the function; and (4) the consequences of not requiring the individual to perform the function.

    Eligibility for FMLA also requires an assessment of the ability to perform essential functions. Interfering in someone’s rights to FMLA is an area that can carry individual liability for managers and HR team members.

    Without some type of documentation of what is an essential function you create significant hazards.

    Successful companies balance risks and benefits. You can “risk averse” yourself to death.

    Working with stakeholders to achieve overall objections while reducing unnecessary risks is the hallmark of successful HR people.

  4. Hi Tim, should we be surprised that the people, 80% of managers, who are responsible for 80% of employees not being engaged are also responsible for JDs? Perhaps we need to avoid hiring the 80% who mess up both engagement and JDs?

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