Kale doesn’t really suck - but job descriptions do

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

A document which most high performers will totally ignore as it suffocates them.

The faithful job description - one of the first things you create as the initial step in the hiring process. A document that’s been agonisingly pulled together and that is guaranteed to cause further agony every time it gets read. A document with far more pages than necessary dedicated to explaining every minute task an individual will need to complete in order to apparently do their job effectively. A document that’s out of date seconds after it’s been saved. A document which will be universally ignored, right up until that particular type of manager wants to get a staff member to do something. A document that lists the 27 competencies and personal characteristics that the super unique applicant (nay, unicorn!) needs to possess in order to perform the role well. A document which most high performers will totally ignore as it suffocates them.

The job description. It really does suck.

When job roles are evolving faster than ever. When staff need to show creativity and initiative to perform well. When it’s more about giving the person autonomy and freedom. When culture fit should be the focus, as opposed to the key tasks and responsibilities. Why do we continue to feel pressured to use an outdated and ineffective tool?

“Let’s move away from this outdated practice of saying someone needs X number of years’ experience and focus on the quality of the experience instead”

To end our reliance on this ancient tool we need to make a shift towards an alternative that has some different fundamentals:

  • Get it down on one page: We need to focus on the essential elements from a person-role fit perspective, and limit this to no more than one page. This will make it easier to co-create and quicker to update as things change in the future.

  • Focus on why the role exists and what great performance looks like: Why is the role important in terms of the company achieving its business strategy? If the person is doing the role well, what objectives will they achieve?

  • Talk about the type of person you need, not the tasks and responsibility that person will need to perform: What qualities and attributes will a star performer have? Limit this to 6 key characteristics; 6 key attributes a candidate will need in order to ace the objectives of the role.

  • Have a clear focus on defining and explaining cultural values: There is no point saying someone isn’t a “culture fit” if you haven’t outlined what your companies’ cultural values are. Once you have defined these values, it suddenly becomes much easier to tangibly identify who fits, who doesn’t and, more importantly, why. If you’re looking for inspiration, Atlassian and Fonterra do a great job of succinctly capturing values in a non-generic way.

  • Talk about quality of experience, not the quantity of experience: Let’s move away from this outdated practice of saying someone needs X number of years’ experience. Do they really need five years’ experience? What if that’s five years’ experience while only performing at an average level? Wouldn’t you rather have a candidate with three years’ experience as a star performer? Do they really need that degree, or are there specific bits of knowledge and experience you are looking for?

To help you kill off your reliance on the job description, we have created the Role Canvas. A one-page template to create a snapshot of the ideal person for any given role. You can download the template and toolkit for free here.

What do you think? Do job descriptions still have real value? What shifts do we need to make if we are going to create a more useful tool to help us with the hiring process? What roles would you like to see an example Role Canvas for? 

In the Game Black, Transparent Backgroun

A fresh way to build a growth-focused culture

Melbourne, Australia

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