In search of a better job description

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Do you want someone who ticks boxes or someone who breaks the mold?

In 2009, Queensland Tourism released a very interesting ad campaign titled ‘The best job in the world’. Once you read the description, it really did seem to live up to the title. They were looking for someone to be a caretaker for the islands on the Great Barrier Reef. If that wasn’t enticing enough, the benefits were even more enticing – hefty salary, free accommodation in a massive villa and free transport around the island.

In this case, writing a job description is so much fun. Why? Because the job is so awesome in the first place. If the job title just said ‘island caretaker’, that would have probably been enough for people to send in their applications.

To draw a parallel, think of a job description as a matrimonial ad. Have you read those? Many of them are banal and unremarkable. Sample this:

‘Looking for fair, slim, homely and well-educated girl for a boy bought up in a well-to-do family. Should wear traditional attire and be able to cook’.

What does it tell the any prospective bride about the family? Now, what if we rewrite it like this:

‘Well-to-do family with well-educated son looking for a suitable match. As we are a conservative family, we expect our future daughter-in-law to be conservative in her attire and thinking as well’.

Which do you think is clearer?

The second description, whether you agree with the outlook or not, gives a much clearer picture to the bride as to the kind of family she is marrying into.

But most job descriptions fall into the first bucket – bland.

A job description is the first link between a potential hire and a job. It does more than just tell someone what the requirements of the job are. In some way, it reveals the culture of the organization and the importance it gives to hiring.

While organizations and HR departments go to town about how important hiring is to them, they seldom put any thought into the job description that they put out when recruiting.

A formulaic and laborious job description tells someone that you haven’t put in the work to think about the kind of candidate you want. You just want someone who ticks boxes, not someone who breaks the mold and thinks out of the box.

A few people think that by inserting prefixes like ‘rock star’ and ‘ninja’ before a job title, it suddenly becomes cool. You’ve come across these too – ninja writer, rock star sales executive. What do they even mean?

Here’s what people are looking for when applying for a job:

  1. Compensation and Benefits
  2. Role in clear terms
  3. Culture of the company
  4. How is this job any different from the others

So let’s write a sample job description for a fictitious educational start-up looking for coders to join their ranks:

‘The world needs more coders than newspaper columnists’

‘With the rapidly changing world of computer programming, sometimes a 10-line code written in R, Python or Julia could save hundreds of hours in productivity and millions of dollars in costs’ – Murtaza Haizer in the Huffington Post Blog

When we were young, our parents’ biggest ambition was to put us in a good school followed by a good college. The education you received determined how far you would go in life. Though this is a falsity, parents still don’t spare any effort when it comes to putting their children in what they think are the best schools and colleges.

And till a couple of decades back, learning more or less ended after formal education.

But learning and teaching have seen a sea of change. The rapid changes in technology have meant that we need to keep abreast with developments or fall behind. This means learning new skills.

Think of it:
– Retired folks are starting podcasts.
– House wives are using social media strategies to promote their home business.
– School kids have their own youtube pages.
– People are changing careers in their 30s and 40s.

The truth is, almost all skills can be learned online.

10 years back, if someone told you that you could learn from a teacher in Harvard, you would have scoffed. What about learning guitar from the great Carlos Santana? Yes, all of it is possible. If you want to get better at something or pick up a new skill, there is a teacher somewhere waiting to teach you.

At Career Leap we offer online lessons to professionals looking to up their game. We don’t yet have certification courses but we are working on that. We have online tutorials for coding, presentation, AI, soft skills, data sciences, business laws and business analytics. Our teachers come from some of the most reputed institutions in the world like IIM, Kellogg school of management, Wharton, National Law School of India and many more.

As a coder, you will be responsible for building and updating the platforms on which these courses run. In other words, you will be responsible for taking these lessons to thousands of eager students. Some responsibility, that.

We are looking for coders with 3 + years of experience. Having said that, you will be judged by your code, not just your experience.

As we are a start-up, your role will also require you to improvise and offer suggestions on how things can be made better. Creating is better than taking orders.

Our benefits and compensation are competitive, and we also offer remote working options keeping in mind the amount of time people waste in commuting.

Sure, you can join a bigger company that offers better benefits. Or you can join us and build something amazing while helping others build their careers.

If you think you fit the bill, you can fill this form. Applications end May 31st. We will get back to you exactly two weeks after that.

Even if you don’t fit the bill, we will get back to you and not leave you hanging.

Looking forward to seeing what you have to offer,

How is this different from all the other snooze worthy job descriptions that you see?

First, it paints a big picture. Online education is changing the face of learning and teaching, and you can help people accelerate their lives and change their destinies.

Second, it tells people where the company is at. They are still a work-in-progress and are working on providing certification courses. At the same time, they have managed to get on board some great teachers from some of the best institutions around the world.

Third, it gets into the specifics. We are looking for people with some experience but that isn’t the only criteria. They will be judged by your code and their code alone.

Fourth, it’s a start-up. Which means there is a lot of improvising as you go. There is no set roadmap that you have to adhere to. This also tells people that they have freedom as well as responsibility.

Fifth, the compensation and benefits are stated to be competitive. If you need to lure people to your organization with promises of free lunch, foosball and bean bags, then maybe the job isn’t that interesting in the first place. Perks follow work, not the other way around.

Sixth, it states very clearly that when it comes to compensation and benefits, they may not always be able to compete with bigger companies. But that’s not what they are competing against. They are building something unique and want people who understand their philosophy.

And last, they also promise to get back to candidates that aren’t shortlisted. It’s a travesty that most companies don’t follow this basic rule. When someone has taken the trouble to send your their code or their resume, the least you can do is to tell them what came of that.

Candidates remember the good companies and never forget the ones who treated them with disregard.

This job description doesn’t mean that only geniuses will apply.

But it says a lot about what you think about hiring, something most organizations pay scant regard to, and then crib about the quality of resumes.

Better jobs begin with better job descriptions.

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