Sell, Don’t Tell: A Quest for the Great Job Description

Twenty-five years ago American businesses faced a very different set of problems than they do now. The basic issue then was to screen out the excess of candidates that usually applied for any given job. Job descriptions, as old as American industry and as obsolete as the telegraph, were statements of fact, descriptive of a job and a set of skills. They were used as the filter against which to do this screening. In today’s market there are few jobs with excess qualified candidates, although there may be more applicants than ever given how easy it is to apply using the Internet. The problem has changed. Today’s candidates have multiple job offers, choices galore and are probably unclear as to why they should work for your company as opposed to other. Most professionals know what skills are needed to accomplish a particular job. Programmers know what code they need to know and at approximately what level if they are clear in the desired outcomes. What people want to know is how doing whatever it is they do at your company will be better, or more fun, or more fulfilling, or more challenging than where they are now. People want inside information, anecdotes, stories about work life, and examples of what a day’s work looks like. Unfortunately, almost no one provides that. What we get is the wooden tripe produced so skillfully by bureaucrats everywhere. Here’s an example from the web site of a well-known firm. Doesn’t this description make you want to immediately apply for the job? “Job Description: Mechanical engineering position involving all aspects of electronic enclosure design for the internet and enterprise computing markets. Responsibilities include physical system partitioning, sheet metal and plastic part design, heat transfer solutions, and EMI shielding solutions. The position also involves racking system design, PCB mechanical and interconnect features, cable management, and user interface design. Minimum Qualifications BSME required. CAD and CAE tools are used extensively in the design process. These include solid modeling, stress analysis, and thermal analysis tools. The position requires knowledge of metal fabrication processes, injection molding process, design for manufacturability, and strength of materials. Interaction with other functional areas (marketing, manufacturing, field support, other engineering groups and divisions) is a requirement of the job. Good communication skills are crucial.” Have you ever seen a job description that asked for poor communication skills? Was this a useful tool if you were a potential job seeker? What do you know now that you didn’t know before you read it? Good descriptions should showcase desired outputs, should create a dream, instill some excitement and perhaps even generate some questions that need to be answered. This may motivate someone to send an email, apply for the job, or at least inquire. I’d also like to open this up to suggestions from YOU. What are some great websites that have great job description? What kind of descriptions excite you and make you wish you worked for that company instead of the one you do work for? I have searched all over and I haven’t found even ONE site that really has descriptions that excite me. Actually the best ones I’ve seen so far are the snowboarding company in Vermont, Burton at, and the Goldman-Sachs site at Help me (and the rest of us) and let’s see if we can define and perhaps find examples of companies that have great descriptions of jobs online?descriptions or stories or whatever that make us say “I’ve got to apply here.” I look forward to your responses. I will summarize any responses and publish the results in an upcoming column. Good hunting.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at