The "Startup language" in job advertisements is seen as embarrassing, underestimates the applicants, prevents diversity, and leads to poor hiring.
Like Kimber Larsen's hunt for rebels, we have an embarrassing past with recruitment jargon. The predecessor of WA.works profiled our candidate database as «a noble Jedi Order of IT professionals united by their ability to create and use force in any system in the galaxy».
The candidates, of course, thought this was incredibly awkward. But the clients loved it. This illustrates the gap between the candidates who read the advertisements and the marketing department that writes them.
Some job advertisements seek gurus, rockstars, rebels and jedis because the companies have exaggerated high perceptions of their image and career opportunities. They live in a bubble where they think everyone wants to work for them. Therefore they need to limit the applicants to only the very best.
But one is cutting themselves short by setting unnecessary high requirements and using the advertisement text as a means of exclusion. The goal of public advertising is to make the funnel of potential matches as big as possible and use a screening tool to filter out the most qualified applicants and invite them to the interview process after that. We have experienced a higher chance that our clients hire the best because through our platform, WA.works, they have gotten the maximized selection and tools to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Perhaps especially important within IT, where less than five percent are actively looking for a job. But the phenomenon is not limited to IT or startups. On the popular job recruitment platform Finn.no, you find telephone sales roles branded as "Client Consultant" or "Account Manager". Job applicants eventually had to develop a bullshit-detector that ignores descriptions such as "dream job" and "workplace of the future". And trait requirements such as "solution-oriented", "team player", "innovative", and "extroverted".
Most people understand that these qualities are obvious, and others are unnecessary for filling the role. For example, there is limited potential for how innovative or extroverted you can be as a QA-tester in a company like Equinor.
By communicating such expectations, the employer may end up with the person best equipped for the position not recognizing themselves in the job advertisement, and they end up not applying.
We often get requests for assistance in finding "startup-types" on WA.works.As Thomas Hoff discovered, similar characteristics are common in many job advertisements. The aim is obviously to recruit a creative and forward-leaning team. But you end up with a relatively homogenous group if we define diversity solely based on demographics.
The goal of diversity is to achieve a variety of perspectives and opinions to foster innovation. But if you are relatively similar in addition to gender, age and culture, you still do not achieve this. To ensure an innovative and agile team, it is equally important to recruit long-term, cautious strategists to complement the fearless rockstar who goes "guns blazing".
So how does one write a job description? My best advice is to use the opportunity to promote rather than exclude. One should communicate a career opportunity with the candidates' motivation in mind. Life consists of weekdays, and if you sell the "new weekday" well, this will attract rockstars and normal people. Other important motivators are growth opportunities in the form of learning, status, income and freedom.
As humans, we wish to, at any time, move forward, be better, get better experiences, and get economic freedom to live better. Access to the freedom to live life to the fullest beyond your work hours. For example, an extra week of holiday or flextime is far more defining of company culture than a ping-pong table in the canteen.
When it comes to job advertisements, specifically within IT, one must also recognize the natural balance of power in the market. In this industry, there is a greater degree of candidate hunting than job hunting. The best applicants cannot be expected to be active job seekers, and we must design our recruitment processes accordingly. Proposing to the "Jedis" at WA.works is a good place to start.
Post originally published in Shifter, Thursday 14 October 2021
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