WHY ARE JOB DESCRIPTIONS OFTEN SO TERRIBLE?

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Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go in business.

Recently I’ve seen a particularly bizarre one: job advertisements centered on vague job descriptions, demanding candidates with deep passion and ‘ninja skills’.

This approach to hiring has real downsides. Asking for nijnas, superheros, or blackbelts, might make a job sound more exciting, but it also misses a crucial opportunity to tell candidates the nature of the work.

Vague and fun-sounding job descriptions might pull in more candidates, but that also brings more work sifting through applications, more time answering basic questions about the job, and a greater chance that whoever gets hired will be disappointed with the reality of their work.

High performance teams don’t require a bunch of passionate wizards. What matters is recruiting intelligent people who have a strong work ethic, key skills, and a desire to learn — professionals. The best people care about growth opportunities and understand that they’ll have to earn their career progress. Being clear about job requirements and offering a real commitment to mentoring employees is usually enough.

Exaggerated and vague job postings reflect a fundamental misunderstanding about how to build a great team. Many employers act like they need to sell people on how great it is to work for them. Some amount of salesmanship is normal, but taking it too far can set new hires up for disappointment if the work doesn’t match their expectations. And asking for too much heroism might just incentivize applicants to tell the employer what they want to hear, creating another mismatch.

To hire a great team, I have some guidelines for setting expectations for the role. Be as clear and complete as possible about the nature of the work. Tell applicants what responsibilities will they be judged on. Let them know what the future trajectory could look like.

Great candidates will see through fuzzy descriptions and vague superlatives. Instead of trying to sell them, focus on offering real value and expressing it honestly. That kind of candor attracts quality people and helps build a durable high performance culture. In my experience, offer mentorship and meaningful growth opportunities and talented people will follow you into hell and back.

Meanwhile, customer experience ninjas who are passionate about service will come and go, just another fad.

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