Throw Out the Job Description

The job description was lost in translation, and you may be interviewing for the wrong position.

You might be interviewing for the wrong positions, and it may not be your fault. It’s probably not the recruiter’s fault either.

The job descriptions that recruiters use to guide their candidate searches, and which you use to apply to jobs, are often poor translations of the position the hiring manager is looking to fill. The result: candidates who appear qualified on paper but continue to disappoint frustrated hiring managers.

The process is like a game of telephone that begins with the hiring manager who tries to describe the open position to the human resources professional charged with hiring for the company, who then delivers the message to the recruiter seeking candidates. By the time the message gets to the requiter, who must draft a job description, it may not be the most accurate representation of the candidate the hiring manager visualized.

How are you, the job seeker, supposed to know?

Recruiter Jon Ramos has a novel way of tackling this issue: He makes his client (the hiring manager) write the job description.

Actually, he asks him to describe it again, as if for the first time, putting aside his original job description and starting from scratch via questionnaires Ramos has used this method over nearly 30 years in the marketing industry and more than 10 years recruiting advertising, public-relations, graphic design and marketing executives.

Without his structured prompting, Ramos said, a hiring manager often draws a fuzzy picture of the ideal candidate. Often it’s more enlightening to ask him what he isn’t looking for than to pin down exactly what he needs. Some of these elements seem basic or insignificant to the hiring manager but prove fundamental when Ramos eliminates and qualifies candidates.

“Clients seem to think that the longer we take to find someone, the better that person is. That’s just not true,” said Ramos, a staffing consultant at Marcom Choices, which specializes in marketing and communications jobs. “With this approach, there is a certain amount of communication that’s done beforehand to explain, ‘We are sending the very best person to you based on what you told us, so make sure you are as clear as possible in your job description.’ ”

The biggest hole in the job description for most hiring managers is almost always the budget, Ramos said.

“The financial issue is tricky with clients because we hear how they’ve been blindsided with candidates who had no idea how to manage a budget, and that caused a lot of problems,” he said. “If candidates aren’t experienced with budgets and financials, that’s OK, but clients (need) to know that upfront.”

A hiring manager often neglects to consider other basic elements of the job that to her might seem insignificant, like whether a candidate is strongest with strategies, tactics or both and, for marketing companies, whether he will be able to excel in an agency or corporate role.

Ramos added that for marketing clients, a candidate’s experience with a specific type of product is usually secondary. “It’s more important for clients to know where a candidate’s end-market experience has been; for instance, whether that’s large technology firms or small business, or wireless, security, PCs, that sort of thing.”

Finding good candidates fast has become even more valuable as the recession ebbs and clients clamor to fill open positions, Ramos said. Marketing and communications departments were hit hard by the economic downturn, leaving many of Ramos’ clients in a desperate position as the employment market starts to heat up. By asking a client to “fill in the blanks” of marketing job descriptions, Marcom Choices can easily identify, vet and present highly qualified clients fast.