The Importance of Accurate Job Postings

by Sherry Heuser

We’ve all been there, on one side or the other: a fantastic-sounding job is posted that sounds like a perfect fit, but once the interview is finished (or worse, the first week on the job is done), it is clear that the description wasn’t completely accurate.  This is definitely not the job that was advertised.

So, what’s the harm in trying to make a position or organization sound really great, whitewashing challenges or the work to be done?  Honestly, it makes the situation worse, not better.  We clamor for truth in advertising, until it comes time to declare that the position we are trying to fill reports to a junior manager, not the CEO, or that evening work hours occur every week, not occasionally.  For some reason, we feel that “good” candidates will think poorly of the organization and won’t be interested in the job if we are open about these types of details.  Ultimately, an individual who applies for a job and finds out that the information provided differs significantly from the actual role will actually feel worse about the program than if they had been told the truth up front and allowed to make an informed decision about submitting their materials for consideration.

A good posting not only outlines the duties and responsibilities of the job, but also describes how the role fits within the organization, what some of the goals for the position are, where the organization is headed in the near future, and any history that is relevant to the position or mission.  The more information given to potential applicants, the better matched they will be to the needs and culture of the organization and the better able they will be to help the organization reach its goals.  Many applicants who might seem ideal on paper, but in reality are not a good fit overall, will self-select out of the process when provided with a true picture of the role.  This is not to say that office politics should be shared or “dirty laundry” aired, but that an accurate, comprehensive description will benefit both sides of the hiring equation.

One way to find out what might be helpful to include in a job posting, beyond the tasks listed in a performance review or strategic plan, is to ask individuals currently or recently in that role what they wish they had been told about the job or organization prior to being hired.  Not every answer needs to (or should) be included, but this perspective can inform the writer about what is important that might have been overlooked or unrecognized.  A little research and insight before going public with a posting can go a long way in finding the right, not just “good”, individuals to consider for the position.

In the end, the more information the hiring manager knows about the position and shares with potential applicants, the more productive the search process.  Applicants will see the organization as honest and open, and the organization will find employees who respect and promote those attributes.

Bottom Line:Although we publicly condemn individuals who pad their resumes or are dishonest in the information they share, we often forget that it is also the responsibility of the organization to write a clear, accurate description of the position.  A stronger pool of applicants, and a better candidate-organization match, will be the result.

Sherry Hesuer is president of Capability Company Consulting, a Raleigh, N.C.-based firm supporting nonprofit organizations' searches for key hires.

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