Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

The Importance of Job Descriptions, Job Duties, and Content

2012-07-10 17:14:20

I belong to Entrances, a group on Facebook that is a nexus of people looking for jobs and those that might be able to help them. Lots of discussion about the job market, trends, techniques, etc. There are recruiters, hiring managers, career coaches and other industry professionals to help job seekers with their process. It's international, although most of the outspoken members (like yours truly) are based in the US.

Earlier this week, the founder/moderator of the group posted this question:

How do you feel about this statement regarding job descriptions?

". . . replace job descriptions with a goal setting process, in which individuals are expected to regularly indicate what they’re trying to accomplish, what their goals are and how their success is measured."

OK, my first reaction to this statement was a request by job seekers to change the way we (hiring organizations) actually write job descriptions. There were a couple of comments from folks who thought this was a brilliant idea, and then yours truly chimed in:

"I don't think this is practical. First of all, this statement expects individuals to tell an employer what they are going to do without knowing the parameters of job itself. Goals may be different for different candidates based on their experience. As a recruiter, I may find a more senior candidate for a role that I could delineate a more compressed timeline and set of goals, conversely a more junior candidate may not be able to meet goals as stated. There is also the fact that some goals may fall under Non-disclosure agreements that are only to be shared if the candidate is brought in for interviews; discussing a company's business plans is negligent. I think the process a company uses for measuring and setting goals should definitely be part of an initial conversation, but not as an external replacement for a detailed job description. I'm not arguing that too may job descriptions need to be refined and revamped."

Yvonne (the moderator/poster) then looked up "job description" in context, and we decided that this could also be in conjunction with resume writing, as you (as the job seeker/audience) is trying to delineate your own employment history. Put under this light, the original comment makes much more sense. But if we take it in this context, I still cannot condone it as the *only* way to share information with a potential employer.

I know job seekers have been instructed to delineate accomplishments on your resume, and this statement certainly addresses that in a meaningful way. But you cannot use the description of a process and the outcome on your resume to tell your story. Here are a couple of reasons why.

Candidates should keep in mind that not every recruiter is going know the ins and outs of every job they are working on, and if you don't put some of the "duties" associated with your profession there are some consequences where you will be screening yourself *out* of the job market. Recruiting, like any other job, takes time to learn. For example, I am generally a Technical Recruiter in the software industry. However, I've recruited in the Legal and Medical industries, and as a corporate technical recruiter I also hire for support positions such as marketing, operations, finance, etc. My knowledge about what jobs entail isn't *just* software engineers. That being said, every time a new type of position opens up, it's a learning process for me. I'm a very senior recruiter with a lot of experience behind me, but many recruiters are either new to our profession, new to an industry, or even generalists that are handling the recruiting for their businesses but recruiting isn't their forte (either through choice or circumstance). Keeping that in mind, be aware that they may not send your resume to a hiring manager because they are just looking at numbers/results, not at what the actual daily/weekly/monthly processes are.

Here is where I'm going to talk some more about what *I* do on a daily basis. For every job, (and I don't care whether it's a janitor for the local sports complex, an assistant manager for the local Walmart, or the VP of an international widget company), there are set minimum qualifications for the job. They could be as simple as "HS diploma or equivalent and at least six months of professional experience" on up to a whole host of very specialized skills and certifications. But as the first human pass at applicants, my job is to make sure that candidates fit the very basic job qualifications, and if a job description has the term "require" or "must have" that means exactly what it says: if you don't have that background, *you aren't qualified for the job*. If a job requires a Bachelor's degree and you are five credits shy, you aren't a qualified applicant. I've discussed requirements previously, so won't linger on them. So applying for jobs you are patently *unqualified* for is really just an exercise in futility for you if you really want the job.

Here is how I, as a recruiter, identify qualified candidates for a job. I take the minimum qualifications and build what is known as a Boolean logic string, otherwise known as a keyword search. Remember, keyword searching is based on very specific keywords. If a job requires:

6+ years of medical device sales
-Demonstrated ability to cold-call and external lead generation for business development
-2+ years using Salesforce

and your resume says:
-"$200 million in sales and $350 million service contract to the largest hospital system in the greater Boston area".

and you never mention Salesforce, cold-calling, medical devices, or lead-generation then you will never even make it past a first screen because those are the keywords a recruiter will be using. The *result* of your efforts is the accomplishment that shows that you are a star performer, but you need to tell me how you achieve those results. Hiring managers don't just want to know the "what", they want to know the "how" as well. The keyword search will pull up generally qualified candidates, but it takes a human eye to determine if the experience indicated fits the *amount* of experience and whether or not it is current. This is one of the very main reasons NOT to use a functional resume unless you are in a portfolio industry. My hiring managers *won't accept functional resumes* and if I cannot determine your level of experience from a first pass, I don't have the time to dig deeper and try and piece together your job history. It's YOUR responsibility to give me the information in such a way that I assess it and use it. I do read every resume that comes up in a first keyword search, but I only truly consider those that match the requirements, and this is pretty standard for most reputable recruiters.

I've mentioned before why we use Boolean/keyword searches and minmnum qualifications. It isn't just to "weed out" people. A lot of it has to do with government regulations for EEOC, AA (Affirmative Action), and USCIS (US Immigration) compliance. There is also the fact that as our world becomes infinitely more connected and technology allows people access to even more jobs that we get more and more applicants for each job. And when I have 543 applicants for a Marketing Manager job, I have to be able to narrow the search to the *qualified* applicants to pass along to the hiring manager. Especially with titles that are extremely broad, "defining" the job becomes even more critical. If my hiring manager doesn't have budget for relocation, I'm not going to consider someone who lives outside of the local area. (This is where you can help yourself by using a local address if you are planning on moving somewhere, say as a "trailing spouse" to someone that is being relocated.)

I will be the first to admit that there are many, many MANY poorly written job postings out there, but I have never seen one that doesn't have a set of requirements. They can broad or highly specific, but this is the starting point for all recruiting and also how candidates should go about structuring their own work experience to make sure they at least make an initial impression.

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