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The Problem with Job Descriptions

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There is a story that the first job description handed to a recruiter was written in 1949 by IBM, and that that job description has been used as a template ever since.

There is some truth to this silly story; that is, most job descriptions are generic. Typically job descriptions describe what candidates must have and are filled with superfluous statements such as “the candidate must think outside of the box.” Job descriptions often have a list of what a candidate should have. “The candidate must have five years’ experience” and “the candidate needs to predict market trends, understand competitive moves, and strategize accordingly.”

Many job descriptions read identical and the must-have qualifications and experiences become the guideposts for the hiring decision. However, these typical must-haves are not always true indicators of future performance.

Companies should consider not what the candidate should have, but what the candidate should achieve. We advise that companies decide in advance how much weight to give data on past performance. Otherwise there is a tendency to give too much influence to the impression a candidate gives in their interview.

It has been our observation that the wrong candidate is selected far too often because little consideration is given to what the candidate actually has to achieve within the first 6 to 12 months. Some simple questions are simply not asked: Can the candidate achieve the specific 12-month objectives? Can this person give examples of having achieved similar objectives in the past?

The problem with only focusing on the must-haves is that some executives focus on a personality or cultural “fit.” They pay close attention to something like English skills during the interview, only reaching a superficial understanding of the candidate.

In Lou Adler’s book Hire with your Head, he suggests that we fast-forward 12 months. Imagine that the new employee has been with your company for a year. What have they achieved? What are their accomplishments? Have they increased sales? Cut costs? Shortened a timeline for development?

To hire a marketing manager, a pharmaceutical company might include statements such as “upgrade every single marketing process,” “hire and develop two product managers,” and “plan, write, and execute a marketing strategy pre-launch to post-launch; include projections for ROI for marketing activities.” These statements explain what the candidate is to do, not simply what they have in terms of experience.

Looking at achievable, measurable, quantifiable, and time-bound objectives will help screen and select the best candidate to do the job.

When hiring your next star, move the 12-month evaluation criteria forward to the beginning of the process. Once the measurable objectives have been clearly defined, the screening process takes

Focus on what the candidate is to achieve, not what they have.

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Morunda should be your choice of recruiting partner in Japan and Asia Pacific. Why? Because we live and breathe the pharmaceutical industry in Asia and the Pacific—we’re specialists!

  • Morunda has completed over 400 managers to director-level placements since 2001.
  • A cultural understanding of what it takes to secure top talent
    Over one hundred thought leadership articles published.
  • We hold regular seminars for candidates and clients alike with industry experts.
  • We understand the market, not only today, but where it is heading in the next 12 to 18 months

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