Here’s How to Write a Job Description So No One Good Will Want to Apply

You know what position I would love to apply for!? Junior (Jr.) Human Resource Manager, said no one ever!

I hate spending three seconds on job descriptions, because JD’s just scream “Personnel Department,” but I have to just take a few minutes to help out some of my HR brothers and sisters.

Recently, I came across a classic JD mistake when someone had posted an opening and then broadcasted it out to the world for a “Jr. Industrial Engineer.” I almost cried.

Would you advertise for a “Lesser Paid Industrial Engineer?”

Really! No, really! “Junior.” You actually took time, typed out the actual title and then thought to yourself, “Oh yeah! There’s an Industrial Engineer out there just waiting to become a ‘Jr. Industrial Engineer’!” Don’t tell me you didn’t, because that’s exactly what it says.

But Tim, you don’t understand. We’ve always called our less experienced Industrial Engineers, Junior, so we can differentiate them from our ‘Industrial Engineers’ and our ‘Sr. Industrial Engineers’. What do you want us to to do, call them: Industrial Engineer I, Industrial Engineer II and Industrial Engineer III?”

No, I don’t want you to do that either.

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to title this position as “Lesser Paid Industrial Engineer” – you’ll get the same quality of responses!

You know how to solve this, but here’s why you won’t – you just have one pay band for “Industrial Engineer,” from $38K to $100K. Pay the individuals within that band appropriately for their years of experience and education.

This is a 1970’s Personnel Department practice

This is why you won’t do it. Your “Senior” Compensation Manager knows you aren’t capable of handling this level of responsibility and within 24 months your entire Industrial Engineering staff would all be making $100K — Junior’s, Middles and Senior’s!

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And please don’t make me explain how idiotic it looks when you list out your little number system on your post as well (Accountant I, Accountant II, etc. because you know there just might be an Accountant out there going – “Some day I just might be an Accountant II!

If SHRM actually did anything, I wish they would just go around to HR Pros who do this crap and visit their workplace and personally cut up their PHR or SPHR certificates in front of them, like a maxed out credit card that gets flagged in the checkout line. That would be awesome!

All this does is make it look like you took a time machine and just dropped in from a 1970’s Personnel Department.

But, seriously, if you know of any Sr. Associate HR Manager III positions, please let me know.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


6 Comments on “Here’s How to Write a Job Description So No One Good Will Want to Apply

  1. This is a lovely rant that offers no real solutions to something that is obviously an aggravating issue for you. Any thoughts on fostering the trust and interdepartmental cooperation that would allow a business to simplify its naming procedures and pay people what they are worth independently? A lovely rant, but ultimately a waste of time to read.

  2. The age old problem. Some of us have solutions, but most companies don’t want to commit to the time necessary to fix them. If they would just take the time to look at the costs involved in making the “wrong” hires I think they’d be singing a different tune. Lousy job descriptions, rather than thoughtfully planned hiring profiles keep the great candidates away. Here’s something I wrote about on this subject in 2010:

    @chad_vankoughnett:disqus: Do you truly want solutions and have the ability to elicit change in your organization?

  3. Chad –

    Solution – Stop making positions called: HR Mgr. I, II & III’s, and trying to make people believe this is “career progression” and/or “career pathing”. Have a real conversations in your Performance Manage process that let’s people know how they can actually really move into the next level in their career. Deliver gifts to those employees who don’t have next level potential by telling them as well (which will be why they will be staying in the same role, instead of making them feel like they are being promoted when it’s really just a move into a new compensation band).

    As an experienced HR Pro, like yourself, sometimes I assume most of us know this, so I don’t offer solutions in a 500 word post, but point out that some of our signs and symbols we still use send conflicting messages to our employees. This isn’t about paying people what they are worth. It’s about having the guts to tell people what they are or aren’t. The compensation bands are developed so managers and HR don’t have to have these conversations.

    Sorry to waste your time.


  4. Tim,

    Loved the part about “1970’s Personnel Department”. Time for HR (and management in general) to stop living in the past. We all need a wake up call. Management 2.0, where are you?

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