When a job description is worth reading

 

We can’t seem to attract the right people with our job postings” says the manager. “Have you talked to job seekers to know what they want?” asks the intern.

People love when something “captures their attention” and “talks to them”, not “at them”. Think of the last movie, advertisement, discussion or social event that left you with the impression that is was worthwhile putting in the time for it.

At the opposite, like many others, you might prefer to stay away from individuals or companies that simply do all they can to “get your attention” (with worn out power adjectives like super, great, best and tired eye-catching visuals) for something that doesn’t strike a chord. Because it isn’t your cup of tea or “made for you”. Boredom and mind numbing grow even faster when all the offers you receive from different companies in a given product or service category can’t really be distinguished from one another. Think of most car dealers, grocery stores, or eyeglasses chains ads, for instance. Think of the jobs listings made by the employers in your line of work. Do they distinguish one from another or do they look and “sound” more like one another?

If the same observation can be made about your company’s own jobs postings, no wonder why you might also come to say “We can’t seem to find the right candidate”, at times.

You could actually improve your odds by doing something successful marketers tend to do over and over again.

“WELL, WE’RE SAYING WHAT A JOB IS ABOUT”

For the fun of it, I picked a city, a line of work and checked how many job opportunities we’re offered. As of today (August 30th, 2016), there are more than a 1000 “opportunities for working in accounting, in New York City” listed on the top 3 job boards in the US. Indeed lists 8295 opportunities while CareerBuilder and Monster respectively list 1265 and “1000+”.

BlogPost 0110 - Resources _ AccountingJobs Indeed (2016.08.30 v4) BlogPost 0110 - Resources _ AccountingJobs CareerBuilder (2016.08.30 v3) BlogPost 0110 - Resources _ AccountingJobs Monster (2016.08.30 v3)

More than a 1000.

Yet, when you read a bunch of them – as you would do for any other line of work – it doesn’t take long for a pattern to appear. Companies tend to write their ads following a very simple and widely used structure; a job title, a short description of who they are, of what they do, what would be your main tasks if you were to get that one job, a list of requirements you need to meet and then, the perks the company is ready to give in exchange for your work. At times, you’ll come across an “Are you ready a goal oriented person? We have a challenge for you” kind of statement in an ad. For the most part, though, reading one ad feels like reading a 1000.

How can you make up your mind on which “opportunity” “talks to me the most”, if you’re actually someone looking for a new one in accounting, then?

More importantly, how good are your odds of standing out from the crowd, as an employer, and “capture the attention” of that one person or group of special people you’d like to convince of coming working with you? “Well, we’re saying what a job is about”. Sure, but are you really?

“WE GIVE MUCH DETAIL…”

If you ever read the list of features of any mp3 player, comparing it to another player’s list, and having to pick one to buy can be discouraging. Enough that, most often, you might end up making your decision based on price. Because both players can’t really be distinguished from one another. Only by the price tag.

Yet, features aren’t the main reason why ad campaigns from companies like Apple, Virgin, Nike, Harley Davidson and other smaller brands stir so much interest from consumers, in general. In their marketing efforts, these companies highlight something that is usually a notch above a product’s or service’s features. Think of campaigns like “Just do it” (Nike), “Think different” (Apple) or “Impossible is nothing” (Adidas). No mention of any “product’s features” there. What other examples come to mind?

BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IN ‘THE MORE, THE BETTER

Organizations that have a hard time most often do because they compete with each other on their products’ or services’ features list. How long, how big, how fast, how affordable (in terms of price) it is. You know the song. The belief and thinking that goes along this strategy is “the more the better”.

This explains why job descriptions look like very long “list of features”, sort of speak. This also explains why – when given the option to choose among two or more similar “job opportunities” to apply for – people tend to pick the one with the highest paycheck. Because the “opportunities” available can’t really be distinguished from one another. Only the price tag (or paycheck in this case) sets a difference. Just like when buying an mp3 player.

Truth is, giving a long list of features or tasks, in the context of a job ad, doesn’t really say what “working as an accountant” for your organization is about. It says what a person will be doing but not what she will end up providing to others, through her work. A nuance that supplies “difference”. More importantly, meaning.

WHAT IF YOU SAID LESS AND LISTENED MORE, FIRST?

How do you “capture someone’s attention” or “talk to” the right group of people (for your team) then?

One way, maybe the easiest one, is to take a role or set of tasks and find a personality trait that defines it best. For example, “You love tracking big games down. Help us hunt best-deals-for-a-buck” for a corporate buyer position. If you’re not familiar with hunting, “big games” refer to large size animals like deers, helks, mooses, lions, etc..

Identifying such personality trait can be done simply by talking to your own team. If you don’t already have an accountant on site, you can talk to people already working in accounting and ask them what they like the most in their job, how they feel when they succeed at solving problems, etc..

Another way to “capture someone’s attention”, maybe the hardest one for any manager or HR team, is to leverage what your team (or company) does for its customers, the problem it helps them solve. “Become one of our numbers crushing experts. So we can make our customers financially wiser” for an accounting position in a financial services firm, for instance.

The added value of this last approach is it that it can easily be attached to a marketing campaign. Your message to the customers could be: “We help you grow financially wiser”. Your message to job seekers? Lucky you, I already gave you the scoop above.

Boiled down, the general idea is to give your (job opening) reader a taste of what it is about working with you. More importantly, of how the work that this one person could do – if given the chance – will actually be interesting and engaging to be done. More than simply for its paycheck.

In the end, if you want to “talk to” someone, you first have to listen to who they are and understand what they want. Then you’ll have all the necessary materials to craft a message and (job) description worth reading and putting in the time to actually apply for.

When you consider your own work, what key personality traits would you use to describe it best these days?

Signature PF