Bad job descriptions are ruining everything.
MAYBE it's because we're partners, consultants, and interviewers, or maybe it's because we just have the same sense of humor - BUT we have a deep affinity for the late-90's movie "Office Space". It follows the misadventures of office-drones-turned-penny-stealers at IniTech after a couple of consultants (ahem) show up and start asking questions about efficiency. The consultants (both named Bob) quickly uncover some major issues: a report who has 8 bosses, an executive without a discernible job, and the anti-hero of the company, Peter, who is honest about doing "15 minutes" of solid work during any given week. It's not that he's lazy, he quips, he just doesn't care.
The movie is not only funny, it's pretty authentic. As interviewers we get a rare peek into office cultures, power struggles and ridiculous reporting structures that simmer just below the surface of many organizations. And truthfully, it doesn't take that much effort to uncover the truth. Want to see what's really working and not working at your organization? Take one look at those documents sitting under the coffee pot, or on that server folder you never open, and it will tell you what's NOT working with your organization.
Ultimately, it's your job description.
How can you tell if your job description is bad? We have some tell-tale signs.
There's a Kitchen Sink
Not everyone can do everything, but apparently, this job description never fathomed it. This single-spaced three-page monstrosity doesn't only include "ability to leap over tall buildings" and "proven success as a seasoned Supreme Court Justice," it has the nerve to end with "other duties as assigned." Pro-Tip: If your employer can't succintly define what it is that job responsibilities are in under a page, there's a reason the position is open.
Unrelated Education Requirements
Let's be clear, we value education. But this sector is especially guilty of asking for things that not only don't fit the job description, but don't fit within the pay range. Let's be realistic here: why does a Junior Coordinator need a $75k Master's Degree? And what's with the degree requirements on fundraising? In a sector where we are passionate about social justice, why are we insistent on either excluding qualified candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds or saddling our junior staff with untenable debt?
If you fall asleep halfway through the job description, it's bad. There's a reason they're called job "ADS", remember? Do you actually want people who are excited and inspired to work for you, or would you like them to get beaten down before they walk in the door? We know that OSHA requirements can be a snooze-fest, but there's no reason the entire job description has to read like a crockpot manual.
It Has Either Overly Common or Weirdly Specific Qualifications
The qualifications sections of job descriptions sometimes feel like space-filler to us. Either they have remarkably vague and hard-to-measure soft skills (who thinks they don't have "strong communication skills?") and outdated basics "Microsoft Word and Powerpoint" or they have what looks like a list of grievances about former staff. Note: "Can't spend lunch hour gossiping" isn't a job qualifier so much as a red flag.
No Reporting Structure
Is the org chart a secret or does it not exist? It always amazes us that in three pages of job duties that no one spends much time or attention on the crux of the position: who do they report to and what are the outcome expectations? Peter ended up with 8 bosses, and while it's a bit of an exaggeration, talking about reporting structures at this stage in hiring could save you some very hefty consulting fees later on.
Mad Libs Title
What in the world does a Chief Engagement Strategy Development Officer do anyway? In a rapidly changing and growing job market, we know the pressure is on to come up with titles that are competitive, but enough is enough. If you can't discern from the title what the basic job duty is, trust that you'll end up with a bunch of irrelevant applicants.
We say all this to say, crafting amazing job descriptions that are fun, that speak true to your organization's culture and accurately details the responsibilities of the position takes practice. Just take it from Office Space, you don't want your employees to be office drones who despise what they're doing and lose their passion for the cause and/or organization.