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The Job Description, Disrupted

I’m so tired of reading job descriptions. And the truth is, I hardly ever read them. In fact, I read even fewer of them than I read resumes, and if you read my blog, you know I don’t read many of those. But I do read people, and what I read is that the above-average person (which you are, since you are reading this) not only dislikes writing their resume, but reading their own job description. And, as you might guess, the reason is the same. No one is generic. No one wants to be treated as if they are generic. And people who are charged with the responsibility to write job descriptions almost never want to hire, manage, or mentor a generic person. If job descriptions were almost anything else, they would have been disrupted a long time ago. And I’m not talking about generating them automatically, or putting them on a server, or changing the font on the bullet points. Here’s what I’d like to see:
  • A job title that really reflects the way in which this position fits into the organization, how it contributes to its success, and how it interacts with others
  • A summary that actually elaborates on those three points in the title: how the person fits into the organization, how they will contribute to its success, and how they will interact with others
  • A brief list of what daily life will be for the person in this position. Some jobs are more predictable than others, and that’s fine. Some people prefer change, ambiguity, and uncertainty. Others don’t. Fair warning is a good idea.
  • NOTHING that says other tasks may be assigned as needed by the manager UNLESS it also says that the employee will have the opportunity to try new tasks they find appealing. Fair is fair. And you know that people do best what they like best, right?
  • A statement on how the employee will be managed. This includes how they will be respected, appreciated, communicated with, and anything else that’s relevant. Are there a lot of opportunities for advancement, or hardly any? Don’t assume everyone will be motivated by the same things.
  • A tiny statement on any real challenges that some people might not be able to meet, just because of circumstances beyond their control, and whether or not a reasonable accommodation will be practical. (For example, I could reach something six feet up if you give me a safety ladder, but don’t expect me to pull a fifty-pound weight off that shelf.) Please do not make it sound legalistic or that you are pandering to differently-abled people. (You are trying to have a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and respectful culture, aren’t you?)
  • Your minimum basic requirements for the position, with alternatives where possible. Minimum. Basic. For example, education. Does this position really require what you’re asking? To answer that, just ask yourself: do they give courses in the kind of tasks listed on this description? Unless this is a licensed professional position, probably not.
  • Finally, list the rewards of the position, in order of what is most motivating to the person who will do this job the best. (That probably sounds hard, but there is a simple way to figure it out. Hint: it’s probably not what you would find most motivating.)
Answer these for me and I won’t care what font you used. © 2018 Dr. Janice Presser. This blog is reposted from the April 30, 2018 entry on with permission.


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