flowing motion

2 occasions to use a person specification; 3 ways to select with job descriptions

Posted on: February 14, 2010

Job descriptions ~ good and bad

I picked up a reference to a job description for a Social Network Manager in the White House.  I don’t know if it is a spoof.  I repeat it here because my first reaction was, “Hey, this is a good job description.  I’ll file it away.”

Job descriptions vs person specifications

Then I looked at it more closely.  It is not really a job description.  It is a person specification.

Job specifications that are neither excellent nor strong

And it is not a good person specification.  Each line refers to an expectation that observers may have of the job holder and to a standard that is unanchored.  “Excellent”, “Strong”, and so on are intuitive standards that are believed to be commonly held but are obviously not as the writer was unable to articulate them.

Happy working relations begin with good job descriptions

If you want to be happy with you staff, then it is up to you to describe the job.  Let them see what they have to do. They will have a fairly accurate idea of whether they can do it or not.

When to use person specifications

Person specifications are useful under one of two conditions.

Scenario 1.   The mammoth unchanging organization. You have hired and filled the job over the decades and have objective records of the measurable qualities of the applicants and their subsequent job performance.  The measurable qualities are likely to be in the form of psychological tests.  After all, how else would we keep bureaucratic records spanning thousands of people and dozens of HR managers?

Scenario 2.  A rich leading organization.  In this scenario, it  is extremely unlikely that the applicant has any idea how to the job.  You are recruiting ‘noobes’ and you have the time and resources to train and give a grace time of several job cycles to learn and perfect the job.  Under these conditions, we extrapolate (preferably with the help of objective records or otherwise with commonsense) to qualities that allow a person to learn to do the job that we will show them how to do.  This technique is especially useful when we want to diversify the people in our organization and recruit people who would not normally consider working for us.

When to use job descriptions for selection

When you are in neither scenario, just write out an accurate account of what you want done.  Let people see it. They will self-select.

#1 If you are left with no takers, maybe rethink what you want done.

#2 If you are left with a handful of takers, interview each one and confine the discussion to what you want done.  You will soon find out who has the strongest knowhow.  Leave other discussions for your security check and get a third party to do that (with your preferred candidate’s knowledge and cooperation, of course).

#3 If you are overwhelmed by competent people wanting your job, then use social media!  Start a forum and let the applicant discuss the job with each other.  You may learn a lot.  To be sure, when they think more deeply about the position, many will recuse themselves. Add some voting too like they use on Stackoverflow.  The candidates will quickly tell you who is competent.  So will their pattern of voting.   You will spot gaming in an instance.

Here is the job description

Maybe it is spoof.  I didn’t check.  Follow

* Excellent writing and editing skills with strong attention to detail; your writing is strong, sharp, and personable

* Strong organizing and campaigning instincts; you can craft messages that move people to act, and you know what actions will achieve the right impact at the right time

* Strong familiarity with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

* Ready to work hard; this isn’t a 9-5 sort of job

* Ability to work under deadline pressure

* Ability to manage multiple complex projects

* Passionate about engaging millions of Americans in advancing President Obama’s agenda and changing the country

* Candidates must be willing to relocate to Washington, DC

Preference given for experience with:

* Online organizing experience with an electoral campaign, advocacy organization or non-profit

* Complex project management

* Experience using social media for organizing

UPDATE:  Here is the link to the original on mybarackobama.com.  It follows the format we might expect beginning with the wider picture and then a two sentence description of why the job exists.  Again it leaves the exact parameters of the job in the shadows. HRM for organizations with ‘strong internal labour markets’ [when everyone is promoted from within] is quite different from HRM for organizations who have ‘weak internal labour markets’ and appoint from without.

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