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Must Be a Loner

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Sep 19, 2007 12:29:00 PM

Job descriptions have come in for a lot more criticism lately, and deservedly so. While I'm sympathetic about the legal gobbledygook they contain, what I find amusing are the meaningless ritual incantations that frequently clog up descriptions that are otherwise well-written. 

Job descriptions posted externally should exist to serve two functions: to arouse excitement among appropriate candidates, and to strike fear and doubt into the hearts of the unqualified. The ratio between the two should be about 90-10, with the essential function of the latter being to establish a few reasonable criteria of eligibility for compliance purposes.

Here are a few of my favorites that serve neither purpose:

Great communication skills required: If you know of any companies looking for someone who prefers grunting unintelligibly and scowling when asked a question, I know of several excellent candidates who can be had for a great price.

Good multi-tasking ability is essential: Because there are so many jobs out there (outside of an assembly line) that don't require the ability to balance priorities.

Must be a team player: Wait- let me get this straight: all I need to do is put these five words in my job description, and all those whiny, childish, responsibility-evading people will stop applying? Now you tell me!

What I've learned through hiring in a number of different environments is that defensive job descriptions do little to discourage the hopeless. The number one problem that afflicts these applicants is a lack of self-awareness, so nothing you say is likely to discourage them. Defensive job descriptions do, however, serve as excellent sales preventers with exceptional candidates, who can scent mediocrity from a mile away.