Rethinking the Job Description

Eliminate the #1 Cause of Employee Dissatisfaction with this One Change

In The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired I contend that one of the big reasons companies struggle to hire exceptional talent is by posting job descriptions that require a bunch of prerequisites that don’t predict on-the-job success.

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In The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired I contend that one of the big reasons companies struggle to hire exceptional talent is by posting job descriptions that require a bunch of prerequisites that don’t predict on-the-job success. Worse, they’re written in such a demeaning way they deter the best and most qualified people from even applying.

This problem is eliminated by shifting to a performance qualified approach that defines work as a series of 5-6 KPOs (key performance objectives) rather than a list of skills, experiences and “must-have” competencies. By tying these KPOs to an important project it’s possible to attract the strongest people who would more likely see the opening as a potential career move. Here’s an example of this type of more compelling job posting.

You can begin developing these KPOs by asking the hiring manager what the person needs to do to be successful in the job. This normally includes one or two major objectives and three to four subtasks. For example, a major objective might be, “Lead the effort with design and operations to prepare a two-year product roadmap.” This is a lot better than defining the job as, “Must have an MBA, a technical degree, 6-8 years industry experience and a results-oriented attitude.”

Where Your Conpany is Going

Use Work Type Analysis to Accurately Define Job Requirements

Work Type analysis is another technique that can be used to develop these performance objectives. In this approach work is classified into four distinct categories that map directly to the classic product life cycle. This is shown in the graphic and described below.

As part of developing a complete understanding of the job ask the hiring manager to also develop at least one performance objective for each Work Type and then select those from the total list that are most important for on-the-job success.

Here are some examples of KPOs by Work Type.

Thinkers: These people are the idea generators, strategists, and creative types. They’re at the front end of new products and new ways of doing business. An example of a performance objective for the Thinker could be, “Develop a totally new approach for buying books that doesn’t involve Amazon.” Here’s another, “Figure out a new process for cutting costs by 50%.”

Builders: These are results-focused people who convert ideas and visions into reality. Entrepreneurs, project managers and turnaround executives are typical jobs that emphasize the Builder component. “Implement a new cloud-based order processing system from scratch in 90 days,” and “Hire the sales team and get the new territory up-to-speed before year-end,” are examples of Builder performance objectives.

Improvers: These people are strong collaborators who take an existing project, process or team, organize it and make it better. Here’s an example: “Working with IT, reduce the year-end accounting close by 10 days by identifying and eliminating the critical bottlenecks.”

Producers: Technical proficiency is at the core of the Producer Work Type. A pure Producer can solve difficult problems and/or can execute a repeatable process on a regular basis where quality and reliability are essential. Practically speaking, most jobs involve using the Producer Work Type in combination with one or more of the other Work Types. For example, “Rebuild the inbound call center to add AI and chat bot functionality while maintaining a 99.99% service level.”

Most work requires a combination of each of the Work Types with one or two standing out as essential. To ensure a candidate is competent and motivated to do the work ask the person to describe a major accomplishment for each of the critical KPOsCandidates can reverse the process by asking interviewers to describe real job needs and then providing examples of work they accomplished that’s most related.

The root cause of most hiring problems is the overreliance on traditional skills- and experience-laden job descriptions. This results in four huge problems:

  1. The talent pool is narrowed to only those who meet some artificial list of prerequisites.
  2. The best people who have the skills won’t apply since they’re uninterested in what appears to be an ill-defined lateral transfer.
  3. Outstanding candidates who have a different mix of skills and experience are automatically rejected even if they are fully competent and highly interested.
  4. On-the-job performance is highly problematic since the people hired rarely have a full understanding of the real job requirements before they start.

These problems can be quickly eliminated by developing 6-8 performance objectives using Work Type analysis and then assessing people on their ability and intrinsic motivation to do this work. This approach allows hiring managers to finally break free of the stranglehold of outdated thinking deeply embedded into too many of today’s hiring practices.