Job Descriptions? They’re a Waste of Time, So Hand Them to Marketing

Only employment lawyers and HR Pros from 1990 believe that job descriptions are important, legal-type documents that are still needed in 2014.

Most companies have given up on job descriptions (JDs). At best, you’ll find people today using ones from back in 1990 when people thought writing JDs was an important part of human resources.

You’ll also still find a few HR Tech vendors around trying to make you believe this is an important skill to have.

Something for marketing to take over

Our reality, though, is that JDs are really just a marketing tool to get you interested in a position and company. Nothing more, nothing less.

If this is true, 99 percent of companies are failing at JDs in a major way! The other 1 percent are using titles like “Ninja Developer” and think they’ve gotten it solved.

The problem we all share is that we haven’t let marketing just take this part of our business over. It’s a legacy thing; somehow we believe only people in HR can write job descriptions. It’s that “legal” thing again. We need to make sure we put “EOE” on the bottom, and you know you can’t trust marketing to do that!

Last week a Facebook group I’m in shared the following employment branding commercial:

“Just a boring list of job requirements”

I know, this isn’t a job description, but do you really think the JDs at Kixeye look like your JDs? No, they don’t!

I know, I know — your company can’t do something like this. You’re probably right. But you can do something that is more like you. More authentic. More real. More, well, you.

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That’s the problem with your JDs. They aren’t you. In fact, I would argue they aren’t anyone!

Your JDs — most JDs —  are just a boring list of job requirements, that may not actually be required, and skills needed to do the job, that may not actually be needed to do the job.

HR needs to give up on this

Job descriptions have turned into those things most companies are embarrassed to even show you. Weekly, I have conversations with companies that will either say they don’t have a job description, or that the job description is old and updated, or, will just flat-out ask me to help write them a new one!

It’s time HR gave up the job description business and handed it over to marketing where it belongs.

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.


5 Comments on “Job Descriptions? They’re a Waste of Time, So Hand Them to Marketing

  1. Tim is mostly correct in his pronouncement on job descriptions. Job descriptions, in their current form, don’t serve much of a purpose – except to allow candidates to customize their resumes based on the right key words. Marketing approaches like key word optimization, media placement, and social media management could all benefit the creation and dissemination of job descriptions.

    What’s missing, and something a good marketer will want to do right off the bat, is HR’s expertise in developing the ideal candidate profile. A marketer would call this a buyer persona. At McQuaig, we call it a 3-Dimensional Job Description. This is what allows you to target your job description so it’s more likely to capture the attention of your ideal candidate. In addition to the typical skills and experience, it includes the
    behavioral requirements to succeed (do they need to be driven, analytical, patient, competitive, change-oriented, independent); the type and style of leadership they’ll work with; the environment (company and team). And these can’t be random words on a page, this has to be thought out and developed into a profile that you can put a name on.

    It’s exactly what the marketing team behind the Kixeye ad used to write that ad and it’s what every company needs driving a job description – whether that’s written in HR or marketing.

  2. What about a “results oriented” JD? Telling applicants what the expectations are says more than just the education, skills, experience. You know the quote “It’s not WHAT you have, it’s what you DO with what you have.”

  3. I looked at the last 1M unique visitors to our client’s career sites. I found that 50% of visitors landed on a job description first, not the front page of the careers site. One look at the job aggregation boom, and you can see why. Sounds like a missed opportunity to me.

  4. I agree that job descriptions don’t attract talent. But that is not their only use. They are also used from a legal perspective, a compensation and an organizational design perspective. The first thing that needs to happen is the separation of the job advertisement from the job description and than make sure to give the right side of that to marketing.

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