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Stop Worrying So Much About the Posted Job Description

By Debra Wheatman

On July 26, 2016

In General

About career management, job posting, job search


Job PostingYou get a call from a recruiter, and he tells you about a position with a great company. The role sounds exciting, and, from his description at least, seems like something you’d be interested in pursuing. He sends over the job description for you to review, and you are crestfallen. They say that the candidate must have a very specific certification and an advanced degree, neither of which you have. You decide that you are not qualified, so you never bother to send your resume to the recruiter.

I’m here to tell you all to please stop doing that. As anyone who has ever compared the job they do to the written description of that job will tell you, written job descriptions often have very little basis in reality! Here is a basic overview of how a written job description comes to exist. A manager makes the case to her boss that she needs to make a hire, whether that’s to create a new role or to fill a role that’s been vacated. Her manager requires a business case and budget. Part of that business case is a written job description. Then the job description has to go to the HR department, where things get added to it and deleted from it. Then it goes back to thePush pin on employ text concept hiring manager, and she and her boss “massage” it a bit more. Sometimes job descriptions are based on a template, and sometimes people take an old job description and “update” it with new buzzwords.

What happens many times is that during this back-and-forth, every single possible qualification and skill that the hiring manager, her boss, HR, and whoever else’s hands were on it make their way into the job description.

The result of this process goes from obtuse to absurd. Case in point: I recently read a job description for a Director of Marketing at a financial technology start up. One of the bullet points read, “Candidates must possess a strong understanding of derivatives.” Ben Bernanke, who has a Ph.D. in economics, who taught at Princeton, and who was the chair of the Federal Reserve doesn’t understand derivatives! Neither does his predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Am I to infer that neither Bernanke nor Greenspan are qualified to work at this company? Or should I infer that this job description is totally out of touch with reality?

If you meet more than half of the qualifications they are seeking, go ahead and apply. Be sure you write a great cover letter, and that you use keywords in both your resume and your letter. And of course, if you can network your way to the hiring manager, that written job description will be even less important.

4 thoughts on “Stop Worrying So Much About the Posted Job Description”

  • Andrea Venezio  says:
    July 26, 2016 at 10:10 am

    As an executive recruiter for over 10 years, I have all but eliminated posting and sending formal job descriptions to candidates for this exact reason. This is also another benefit to working with an experienced recruiter who understands what the client is looking for in a candidate. Great post!

    • Debra Wheatman  says:
      July 26, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Thank you, Andrea! I am glad you enjoyed the post!


  • Jan Schroeder  says:
    July 26, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Great article, Debra!
    I’m going through exactly this day by day now, having the feeling that I fall through the filter system of internet applications every day due to job-requirements.
    It is really important, to work with recruiter, who can help you, selling your value to a client / company. It is crazy, what requirements are put in job descriptions. Especially if one has understanding about the job itself and the level of experience needed to fulfill the job-duties vs. the expectations in the job-description.
    Best, Jan

  • 100 Helpful Career Blogs for Jobseekers and Jobholders - ThriveYard  says:
    April 3, 2018 at 12:44 am

    […] Stop Worrying So Much About the Posted Job Description – Scared away by a job posting? Get an overview of how job descriptions are created and a case for when you should go ahead and apply. […]

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