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Danger Ahead! The Bifurcated Job Posting

Yesterday, as I am wont to do, I fell down a deep and serpentine internet rabbit hole of company career sites.

I enjoy reading job postings for a number of reasons. First, of course, they’re market intelligence on one’s competitors. Secondly, I peer at them with my HR-eyeglasses to see if the company has included blatant discriminatory language (“must be a native speaker”) or if, like a coy femme fatale, they dangerously flirt with it (“you’ll be great for this job if you’re a digital native!”).

And third, I like to check the style. I want to see whether folks are writing with some personality and differentiation or if they’re content to merely plate up a word salad; chock-a-block full of boring bullet points pulled from a dusty job description penned by Sharon in HR circa 2005.

Interesting aside: not too long ago, while scampering through the career site jungle, I discovered an organization posting lengthy bullet-pointed gigs for Security Guards who would be in charge of safeguarding, among other areas, the swimming pool and cabana area. Funny thing is…this venue has neither a swimming pool nor cabanas. See how amusing this can be?

Yesterday I came upon a job description that while on the surface seemed adequate also displayed somewhat of a split personality. The job was for an HR position at a start-up/small business with all the usual tasks and duties outlined; benefit administration, employee relations, dribs-and-drabs of onboarding and recruiting, etc. And yes – ‘twas bullet point after bullet point of mind-numbing (and necessary!) tasks.

Then we got to the section listing, what I assume, are verbatim statements pulled from a website entitled “How to include behavioral competencies in your job description to get the right people.”  As stated on the posting, “this job will be ideal for someone who is”:

  • Dependable — more reliable than spontaneous
  • Adaptable/flexible — enjoys doing work that requires frequent shifts in direction
  • Achievement-oriented — enjoys taking on challenges, even if they might fail
  • Innovative — prefers working in unconventional ways or on tasks that require creativity
  • High stress tolerance — thrives in a high-pressure environment
  • Detail-oriented — would rather focus on the details of work than the bigger picture

OK. Hold Up. Let’s take a look at these shall we?

This list, while seemingly somewhat “exciting” for this gig at a start up in the sexy fashion industry with a flashy online presence for consumers seems to be a bit contradictory.

As is typical for such an organization there’s a bit of the go-go-hustle vibe that one would expect to hear from the founders: high-pressure, adaptable, creative and hey – a bit of the “it’s OK if we fail in our quest to be innovative!” But then we see they want someone who doesn’t care about the big picture and instead focuses on the details. They want someone who is “more reliable than spontaneous.”

I got to wondering if there exists such a person who simultaneously prefers to work in an unconventional way and still, as noted, is able to tamper their spontaneity?  

Is there? Maybe.

There’s a lesson in this of course; a few things to remember when posting job advertisements and attempting to convey the success criteria for any given job:

  • Don’t confuse consumer experience with employee experience. If your consumer brand is flashy and glamorous it doesn’t necessarily mean the employment experience is the same. As one who is beholden to next-day delivery I enjoy singing along with this year’s Amazon Holiday commercials but I harbor no illusions that the Amazon warehouse employees whistle that tune while powering through their shifts. Don’t blow smoke.
  • Maintain a grip on reality when looking to hire that “perfect” fit candidate. While it’s certainly admirable, and well-advised, to convey information about working conditions and a day-in-the life about your company or the job, don’t fall into the trap of limiting yourself when describing the personality attributes or working style.

Hiring for your team is about convergence; bringing separate and distinct people together to make a unified whole.

Keep it together.

author: Robin Schooling

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