By jack Kelly

Forbes, May 14, 2018 —

A job description is a written overview, pieced together like Frankenstein and created by way too many people in a large, bureaucratic corporation. The hiring manager may attempt to write it from scratch or dredge up an older version drafted years ago—when the departing employee first started.  It is then offered to their manager for review, edits and comments. Then, the marked-up draft is passed up the chain of command to senior executives who have no clue about what the person who fills the role actually does, since they are so far removed from this level. After the initial round of edits and revisions, a human resources professional will weigh in with their thoughts and opinions to ensure that there is no offensive or discriminatory language. If it is shown to an attorney, then the legal jargon and disclaimers will be added. By the time the job description goes through all these channels, it will most likely morph into something completely different than what the hiring manager initially drafted at the start of it all.

The job description has been written the same way for decades.  Since corporations are conservative—with respect to hiring, there will almost never be any life, levity or brutal truthfulness.  You will not find any creativity or excitement in this bland document. Somehow companies can take the most exciting job imaginable and make it sound dreadful. They are dull, boring and lifeless.

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The first thing you should do when reading the job description is forget about all the drivel concerning soft skills, such as working well with others, being a team player, having a strong work ethic and good attitude and knowing how to use a computer. These meaningless, banal platitudes are there just because it has always been written that way. Does anyone view themselves as not a team player and difficult to work with? If a job seeker is a surly loner, lazy and evil, would the section in the job description deter them from applying?

Everyone who has touched the job description has offered their two cents, resulting with a wish list of requirements that nobody could possibly possess. It is unfortunate that the laundry list of requirements intimidates qualified candidate to pursue the position. An honest potential applicant would feel that they don’t hold all the mandated skills and background and will pass on the opportunity. Ironically, those who don’t have the skills, but do possess an overabundance of self-confidence will send their resumes.

In my experience, companies rarely—if ever—seek outside advice regarding the existence of a pool of suitable, appropriate and available candidates currently in the job market. The job description is made in a vacuum without any prior investigation into finding out the real number of people in the job market that have the requisite skills, background, experience and are also within the salary range that the job description demands.

Recognize that the advertisement is an old-fashioned, bland wish list of requirements without listing the downside and negatives.  You will never read the real truth about the company, such as the boss is cranky, moody, going through a divorce and looking for a new job.  They conveniently leave out that there will be long hours, no support or encouragement from management, plans to relocate the position to another country, their products and services are outdated and their business model is flawed and doomed for failure.

If the job is with a company that is within a hot and fast-growing sector, then they may be more flexible with the requirements—as they desperately need people quickly. If the company is cheap, they will require a lot and pay a little. The titles are tricky to determine the actual level of the job. A “vice president” title could be handed out like candy at one company, but considered a high-level executive role at another. Many companies conveniently leave off the compensation range to cast a wide net and gather a large number of resumes.

Don’t worry, here is what you need to do:

  • Look for the heart of the description—the two or three bullet points that capture the essence of the role. If you possess the main ingredients, that is key. Check for the title, level and compensation (if provided).  If you match up with these items then feel free to send your résumé.
  • In addition to fitting the job description, conduct research to ensure that the company is reputable and well-respected. Ensure that their values and ethics are in line with your own. They should have a solid business model and growth prospects that will enable you to be intellectually challenged, learn new things and advance in your career.

You can tune out all the other noise.