Generic recruitment - why so many ads look the same!

Far too many position descriptions are complicating the recruitment process, rather than helping recruiters to recruit the right person. Good recruitment always starts by having a crystal clear understanding of what the role is (and not is). This is also fundamental for any advertisement, as role clarity is the key for finding the right person.

As I indicated in a previous blog, having a well-written role competency profile is critical - not a flowery or generic description of tasks that make it impossible to understand what the top two or three outcomes are for the next six to twelve months.

There are five major flaws with position descriptions:

1. Most of them are too generic. They look like they have been produced in code to fit some job evaluation system and produce no clear understanding of the challenges.
2. They are often out of date and have no real resemblance of what is actually happening in these roles currently.
3. The previous incumbent was never involved in developing the position description and the recruiting manager has drafted it based on their limited understanding.
4. The position description is a long list of tasks and how the role should be done, rather than clear outcomes.
5. Most position descriptions are too long and are not used by either the manager or the employee or referred to on a regular basis.

Role clarity is the process of providing recruiters with the knowledge and understanding of the specific expectations of the manager and the business for a particular role.

A good position description, I prefer to refer to it as a Role Competency Profile, only needs to be 2 or 3 pages. It should clearly highlight the following role dimensions: Key goals, expected outputs and the critical competencies required.

Perhaps this is why many recruiters compile their own description of the role as part of the briefing due to inadequacies of most position descriptions. Even then, you often find it is a moving target, as managers change the role as result of the first wave of interviews, using the interviewees in typical “ready-fire-aim” fashion as cannon fodder to calibrate their thinking, before embarking on another recruitment campaign much to the frustration of everyone.

Some years ago I had to recruit a new Business Development Manager, following a restructuring of the Sales function along customer segments. The COO brushed off the need for a position description with the words: “ You know exactly what we are looking for as you were managing the change process”. When I presented him with my interpretation of the role competency profile, it took five drafts before we had an agreed document. During that drafting process, we both fine-tuned our understanding to ensure alignment with the new sales strategy. Only then could we start our recruitment process.

A meaningful position title is another story, which I will cover in a future blog, as a confusing job title often only attracts a large number of unsuitable applicants.

Role clarity is the starting point of good recruitment. Unless you can confidently exclaim (or sing) “I can see clearly now” , you are seeing dimly in a mirror, knowing only in part, writing another generic ad!

Views: 1554

Comment by Will Branning on September 3, 2009 at 12:35pm
It is critically important to know what the targets are that successful candidates will need to hit to be successful on the job. Otherwise, it is very possible the "wrong person" will be hired and the company won't solve the problems that need to be solved.

The changing, evolving job description and job requirements is one indication that compencies have not been well-defined...I like Lou Adler's Performance Profile myself.
Comment by Jim Bailey on September 3, 2009 at 9:29pm
If only more senior HR people (not to mention line managers) thought as you do Charles! The typical job description is a 'static' document, which describes responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities and is indeed primarily designed for internal comparison and use, typically in the remuneration arena.

Undertaking a recruitment (successfully) requires an approach suited to that particular purpose. While a JD may well be 'grist for the mill' when we recruit for a client, we typically put it aside while we conduct a thorough briefing with the line manager to whom the role reports (and the HR person, who usually acts as a project manager).

I found your brief story about your 5 drafts with your COO re the BDM position a great example of what should happen, but so often doesn't with all levels of recruitment, including senior ones.

Which for me leads to the question, why is it that so many senior managers, some the higher they get in their roles, want to spend less and less time involved in a quality recruitment briefing process, when the people they are hiring to report to them will potentially have great influence on the role they go into and the organisation as a whole? Is that what we train them to expect on their way up, is it hubris, or just poor quality recruitment intervention and expertise, both or either from outside or inside the host organisation?
Comment by Sylvia Dahlby on September 3, 2009 at 11:21pm
I entered the industry at a recruitment advertising agency so could really related to this article & subsequent comments. I think a large part of the problem with recruitment ads & typical job postings are they have not evolved as quickly as the new media.
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on September 9, 2009 at 4:02am
Hi Sylvia, very astute observation. Most job ads are boring, one-dimensional and not really encouraging candidates. The best example I have seen of new media is a recruiter in New Zealand using webinars so potential applicants can talk to the hiring manager before applying!
Comment by Vipul Agarwal on September 11, 2009 at 3:02am
Jim really brings out a great observation. More Senior Managers should get involved in the role definition and the person definition. Sometimes we see them interviewing and rejecting candidates and chiding the recruiter on how he cannot get the right person to the table. Happens in large and small organization all the time.


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