Why Job Descriptions Must Change

Let's be honest - most job descriptions are terrible. There are exceptions of course, but the vast majority of job descriptions –are cookie cutter templates that provide a laundry list of responsibilities and knowledge/skills/ability requirements that give a job seeker no sense of what it's like to work for the company. We're experiencing so much progress in the talent space with recruiting 3.0, social recruiting, and more startups innovating in the space than we've ever seen – yet most job descriptions are written the same way they were 10 years ago. Why?
Whether it’s due to internal requirements, laziness, or general lack of imagination, very few job descriptions put you in the shoes of the person doing that job. In today's market, top talent is generally not actively looking for a job. If you're savvy enough to get your job description in front of these passive candidates, you had better make it compelling or you have little chance at luring them away from their current position. Here's the perspective I try to channel – and advise my hiring managers to do as well - when writing a job description.
Imagine you're sitting across the table from your top candidate. She or he has the perfect mix of experience, ability, interest, motor, smarts, etc. -- all the superlatives we love to use for the model candidate. You know they will be a game changer for you, your team, and your organization. How would you describe this role to him/her? What are the 'hooks' of the job that you must convey to attract them to your organization? How will you describe what you know they will accomplish in their first year to make a significant impact? How will their contributions help the business? What's the career path you envision for this perfect candidate?
You've thought about these things, right? You have the pitch on how you'd present this to your top candidate, right? So why isn't it captured in your job description?

Let's focus on results, outcomes and how we'll change the world together. Tell a story, make it interesting, make it engaging, and give the reader insight into what they can expect when they work for you. In a competitive market for top talent creativity counts. Honesty counts, too, so don't misrepresent anything or over-sell the position.
So, what exactly does this job description look like? Perhaps something like this:

 Hey, this job looks familiar? Well it is (kinda).

You may recall a very similar looking job posting for Recruiting Manager, NPR News. That job has evolved a bit to a broader recruiting focus in this new role. The core recruiting criteria (innovative, progressive-minded, proven experience building bench strength and talent pipelines, understanding of and interest in social media, commitment to diversity, etc.) remain. If you possess all of these traits AND experience recruiting in a newsroom/journalism environment, I will high five you. If you possess all of these traits and no newsroom/journalism experience, but have an interest in the craft of recruiting and a demonstrated history of recruiting in varied fields, I’d like to hear from you (and you may still get a high five further in the process).

This evolved role will still have primary responsibility of supporting the recruiting and talent initiatives of NPR News, but will also be involved in a variety of other initiatives including: managing the NPR-wide internship program, recruiting innovation and thought leadership, collaborate on leveraging social media to engage talent pipelines and prospects, recruiting for other areas of NPR including Digital, Technology, Corporate, etc. Interested? Here’s more:

If you’re looking for a recruiting position that’s focused on posting jobs, reviewing applicants, screening candidates, making offers, and processing paperwork – this is not the job for you.

If you enjoy having a large staff and endless resources that allow you to solely focus on ‘strategic workforce planning and talent development programs’ – this is not the job for you.

If you’re a heads-down recruiter who is transactionally focused and shudders at the thought of engaging, networking, and interacting with communities in your space – alas, this is not the job for you.

This is the job for you if…

You’re a pioneer, a visionary, a hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeves recruiter who would be successful with a land line and a phonebook if the internet died tomorrow. You’re a natural networker who is comfortable interacting at all levels – able to simultaneously woo the Executive Producer of a major news magazine while helping an intern with her resume. You understand how to leverage social media to expand your network, maintain relationships, and satisfy your unquenchable thirst for lifelong learning (and perhaps your penchant for cat videos and internet memes).

You have a knack for solving unsolvable challenges. (We’re a not-for-profit, so scrappy resourcefulness and creativity is essential.) You cringe at the thought of reactive recruiting. In fact, you’ve banned the term from your vocabulary. You’re a team player who proactively shares your knowledge and expertise with coworkers. You have vision, not for what we can be tomorrow, but for what we strive to be five years from now. And you have the strategic insight and expertise needed to guide our newsroom toward that vision.

You’re driven to work at one of the premier multi-media news organizations in the world. The mission of creating a more informed public resonates with you, and you’re inspired and motivated to play a vital role in the hiring, retention, and development of the NPR News team.

Essential Duties Include:

(If you’re the something different we’re looking for, keep reading.)

As the Recruiting Manager, you’ll:

  • Play a crucial role in shaping NPR’s future by identifying and hiring top-notch talent.
  • Work with some of the brightest journalists and news leaders in the industry.
  • Design proactive recruiting and outreach programs.
  • Lead our NPR-wide internship program, ensuring we continue to attract the best and brightest.
  • Bring talent into our newsroom and others teams, ensuring we develop a deep bench across a variety of positions.
  • Focus on diversity, integrating it in every process and every initiative you lead.
  • Flex your skills and resourcefulness to identify top talent in various disciplines.
  • Ensure our recruiting practices are progressive, proactive, creative, and successful.
  • Collaborate with your HR colleagues to build a strong and effective team.
  • Champion NPR through social networking platforms and networking events.


What’s different about you?

  • You’re an experienced recruiter with 8+ years of proven experience (and references who can speak to that). You’ve spent time in the trenches in a corporate role. Agency experience is a plus.
  • Ideally, you have direct recruiting experience in a newsroom/editorial environment. If you don’t, you have a proven track record of successful recruiting in varied fields, and an interest and appreciation for journalism.
  • You can articulate high-level strategic vision, while drilling down to specific actions that illustrate how you’ll get there (or how you think you’ll get there; it’s okay to have bold ideas that fail in this role).
  • Your clients love you. Your team loves you. Because of this and your proven results, you are indispensable. If you try to leave, then your current employer will present you with a counter-offer that includes a pot of gold and a unicorn. (of course, you will not accept this counter-offer because you know NPR is where you should be, and the unicorn will understand.)
  • You’re not afraid of technology. You can champion the vital role an ATS plays in a talent management strategy. You’d be lost without LinkedIn. You have an affinity for Twitter and its ability to reach millions. You’re always curious about what’s next and find ways to apply technology to your recruiting activities.
  • You’re a natural networker. You would have coined the concept ‘everyone is a candidate’ if recruiting 3.0 didn’t beat you to it. This comes naturally to you, and you understand it’s not a part of your job, it is your job, and you can’t be successful without it.
  • Your DNA is comprised of collaboration and teamwork. It’s been decoded. You can prove this (note: scientific proof not required; anecdotal proof is entirely satisfactory).

Being different can make a difference. Apply today.

Okay, it’s decided. You’re convinced that you are just what NPR needs, and you want an opportunity to prove it to us. Here’s what you do next. Craft a cover letter that illustrates the mastery of your craft, what you bring to this role, and the difference you can make. We want to know the following:

  • Why should we hire you? What unique experience do you bring that aligns with the above job?
  • Why are you passionate about recruiting?
  • What is the most innovative recruiting solution you’ve implemented?

Once you’ve written your masterpiece (in the form of a cover letter), submit it along with your resume. Cover letters must cover the above areas to be considered. Details people, details.

This was one example of a dynamic job description that hopefully sparks some inspiration. What are some other tips you'd recommend we include in job descriptions to make them more effective (note: I wrote the job description you just read, so this was the first example that came to mind. There are many other examples of eyeball catching job descriptions out there. If you know of, orhave written, great examples please share the link in the comments section)?

Note: It’s been almost a year since I wrote this Recruiting Manager job description. Sadly, the role was put on hold a few months into the search and remains vacant. Does this derail my search? No chance. This person is out there and I will find them. While I may not be able to hire him or her now, I will one day. Together we will make magic (okay, maybe ‘magic’ was a reach but we will build one badass talent team).

So, are you out there? Are you patient? Does what you read above fire you up? If so, let’s talk.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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