Would you apply to this job?

If you were selling a product and wanted customers to buy it, wouldn’t you invest some serious effort in marketing it?  You’d want to clearly describe the value it provided, why it was better than competitive products, suggest who might benefit most from buying it.

Then why don’t we invest the same effort in writing job descriptions?

Most job descriptions are terrible.

I mean, really really terrible.  Braggy claims that this company is the BEST company who only hires the BEST people, where you’ll work with the BEST people. Paragraphs of generic text which could apply to any of hundreds of companies.

This, because I’m pretty sure most hiring managers say, “Hmm, I need to hire a designer.  I don’t know how to write a job description. I’m going to go look on this jobs site for whatever other companies put in their designer job req.” Unfortunately those other companies don’t know how to write a good job req, either.

You might think your job description is pretty okay.  Here’s how to quickly validate that:

  1. Pick a couple of people on your current team and ask them, “Who is the best designer/engineer/product manager/etc. that you know personally, that doesn’t already work here?”
  2. Have them send a note to that friend saying “I’m not trying to recruit you*, I promise. Can I get your quick feedback?  IF you were looking for a new opportunity and you saw THIS job description, would you consider applying? What bits of it would sound appealing / are there any bullet points that would make you hesitate?”
  3. Read their feedback and iterate accordingly.

* It’s always best to start with “I’m not trying to recruit you” because talented people are generally inundated with clumsy recruiter tactics.

Though, as a manager, it’s worth asking separately, “would you try to convince that person to come here?”  If the person says ‘no’ or looks uncomfortable, you need to suck up that sinking feeling you just got and figure out why. Maybe it’s because their friend would never consider relocating, or because they’re a cofounder – or maybe it’s because the work environment isn’t something that employee can freely endorse. In which case, you have a bigger challenge ahead of you.

Challenges, Not Chores

We’ve all been there: the task that you keep meaning to do, you keep putting off, and each time you procrastinate, you dread the task more.

After my book was published, I did a few refreshes of old popular posts, and then over the next year I wrote exactly… two… new posts.

I’d put off writing for so long that all I could associate with writing was the guilt I felt for not getting it done.

When that happens – whether the task is writing posts for your personal blog or interviewing customers or reorganizing your cluttered Dropbox folders – a good way to unblock yourself is to set yourself a challenge.

At the beginning of June I got tired of week after week, not having a “good enough” blog post to make up for so many weeks of silence. So I set myself a goal to publish a post for every weekday in June.  And I did.

The pragmatic details:

  • I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do a post-a-day month. (Recent social psychology research suggests that, when you tell people your aspirational goals and they acknowledge them, your brain feels satisfied like you’ve already completed the goal — and thus, you feel less driven to actually do it.)
  • I used the Habit List app on my iPhone and set a reminder to buzz me at 9:30 pm (once kids are in bed) every Sunday through Thursday.
  • I repurposed a number of emails and tweet replies as the basis of blog posts.

I’m not going to keep up this pace of publishing. While I’m happy with the quality level of this month’s posts, I’m not sure I could maintain this. More importantly, there are other goals I’d like to shift focus to. I’m going to aim for posting twice a week, and I’ve updated my Habit List reminders to reflect that.