Go on, be honest. You’ve read the slickly worded job description and sat through an interview listening to animated energetic, buzz words, and you‘re very interested. But, at the same time, haven’t you heard your wise inner voice asking, “Do I really know what this job is going to be like? Do I have a good picture of what it’s going to be like reporting to this executive or working with this team?
Probably not. That’s why your inner voice is shouting that it wants someone to give it to you straight.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that despite all the efforts to write creative job postings, they still sound so clichéd. What happened to the talent acquisition process? We paid attention to recruitment trends. Recruiters and job seekers adapted and wrote branding statements, use clever terminology to repackage ourselves with the hope of generating interest and engaging candidates. I think that while our posting and resumes are more fun to read now, we may not be communicating as well as we think.
Look, I am not saying that as an active career change adventurist, aka new job seeker, you are going to abandon your current self-branding practices because you certainly need to do what it takes to get your resume noticed by the Applicate Tracking System and selected.
I am guiding you to take time to actively research and decode Internet job postings and full job description (if available) so you can a obtain a reasonable understanding of the role.
Peruse job postings, read ones that have nothing to do with your chosen line of work. If you read the descriptions, you will see that many sound eerily alike. They are designed to pique your interest, but don’t really describe the job in any detail.
While the buzz words and tag lines are fun to read, what are the recruiter/hiring managers trying to say? Why do they feel compelled to use those catch phrases and terms? What are they trying to highlight? What are they trying to avoid saying and why?
Part of the challenge is that the job posting are written so they drive traffic to the website, not so they explain the job in any great detail. Online postings are governed by keyword analytics and that dictates how job information is communicated.
If you don’t believe me, go to http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends and insert these buzz words: Innovator, thought leader, empowerment, strategic. Interesting results, right? Now type in these words: Long hours, limited resources, tedious reports, endless meetings, constant change! Hmm, quite a difference in ratings! Which postings do you think job searchers are heading for?
So now, in addition to be an artful, creatively branded, self-marketer, you also need to be a sleuth, a job description deconstructionist and a cultural anthropologist, as you navigate the various resume-vetting and interview stages. So, let’s get you ready for your interview by addressing these top-ranked key words:
Empowered. It means one thing at Zappos, another at a pharmaceutical company. Does empowered mean your boss wants you to take the lead, or does it mean that you do the groundwork while your manager remain in full control? Or, is empowered a code word for you won’t have a staff budget or reasonable resources, and you’ll be MacGyvering your way through everything?
Thought leader. You’ll be thinking, but who’s going to be listening? Do they have a culture that allows for constructive, healthy dissension? Or is their organization populated with herds of sacred cows that they don’t talk about or are choosing to forget they have? Ask compelling questions about why this quality is needed. Gather clues. Find out who they think is a thought leader in their organization. Listen to what’s said, what’s not said and body-language cues. Whether it’s a facial tic or a shift in the chair, you’ll learn something.
Innovative. Find out what innovative really means. How is the organization prepared to support you? Are they investing funds, technology and support? Are they willing to move away from “But, we’ve always done it this way” and are committed to taking a chance on change? Or are they hoping that you provide some Messianic solution and fix all the stuff, aka technology and processes they owned that should have never been purchased, never were implemented properly and haven’t worked ever? Are they looking for that unique candidate who’s going to make it all go away? Are they prepared to listen to an outlier and change agent? Will they be your advocate?
Strategic. I am convinced that this is one of the most overused words in business. Years ago, I provided recruiting services to a respected international company renowned for their creative products and services. No matter the role, the words strategy or strategic were inserted into every description. You could have been hired to wave at visitors, “You’ll need to be strategic!” If I had a dollar every time I heard that word used, I would own a reasonably sized Caribbean island.
Like every good recruiter, I’d go to the hiring manager’s office and conduct a recruitment-planning meeting asking, “What’s the key purpose of this role?” The response: “I need them to be strategic.” Really? The other 20 people next to them think they are in charge of strategy. So when they wake up in the morning and think about their day, what are they thinking about actually doing? Doesn’t the hiring manager really want this person to plan and maybe think ahead? Perhaps they will need to figure out how something aligns with everyone else and the big strategy? Maybe you are hoping they will sit at their computer and crunch tons of numbers without complaining?”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed working with my internal clients at this company. They were super smart and talented, but they were suffering from an over-prescribed dose of strategic in their daily verbal diet.
Take time to be a cultural anthropologist and deconstruct the role by asking questions like:
- That sounds interesting, tell me more.
- Describe a situation when you weren’t able to implement an innovative change and why.
- Outline a key decision and how it was reached.
- Describe the kind of changes that have challenged this organization and why.
Listen, watch and learn, and don’t stop researching and asking questions.