Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does the Pirate Code apply to job hunting?

“... first, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so it must do nothing, and secondly you must be a pirate for the Pirate's Code to apply and you're not, and thirdly the code is more of what you call guidelines than actual rules, welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner ...” - Captain Barbosa

Funny, these are the same words that come to mind when I come across job descriptions. How many times as a recruiter have I been given a job description that really is “more of what you call guidelines than actual rules”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it is powerful knowledge if you are aware of it. Is it a hard and fast rule that job descriptions are just guidelines?, but it happens more often than not.

To understand how to use this to your advantage as a job-seeker, you need to understand how most job descriptions come to pass. More importantly, as my last blog discussed, you need to understand how/why a job opening is created in the first place. New job openings are typically created by a couple of reasons:

1. It is an existing position that needs to be re-filled due to attrition or promotion.
2. It is a new opening created by a business need/purpose.
3. It is an opening similar to something else the company is already doing, but created to supplement due to an increase in workload.

Once a position is identified and recognized as needing to be filled, a job description is created. The description is typically written by either a manager or by human resources. I’ve seen that in most cases, managers don’t have a ton of free time to be sitting around writing intricate job descriptions, and many human resources professionals really don’t have a deep understanding of the position and required skills. Not pointing fingers here….just the plain truth!
In order to be efficient, most managers and or human resource personnel will find a previously used description and use it. That is a good way to start, but often the position, project, duties, and personnel around the opening have changed since it was last open. Often the time is just not available to sit down in an exit interview and have the person who is leaving or being promoted put together a “job description” and list of their day-to-day tasks. This usually results in a job description that contains a “laundry list” of skills, duties, and requirements.

As a recruiter, I have the benefit of being able to talk to the hiring manager and ask the questions like:

• What does the typical day look like for this person/position?
• Which of the skills on the job description are “nice to have” and which are “absolute necessity”?
• What were the strengths of the last person in this position? Weaknesses?
• Do you want a new employee with the same skill-set as the former employee?
• If I can’t find a person that is a 100% fit, will 90% work? 80%? 70%?
• What type of personality is going to function best in this position?

As a job seeker, you should be thinking about the same types of questions. Take some time to see if you know of anyone in the company that might be able to help you understand the need better. Most importantly, approach the job description and your resume/cover letter with a few things in mind including:

• What skills on this description match my expertise? Write your resume/cover letter highlighting those skills.
• What requirements are not as good a fit? Write your resume/cover letter to show your exposure to these technologies/skills or technologies/skills similar to those required and how you’ve used them.
• Identify the skills you do not possess. Why don’t you have these skills? Is there a way you can obtain them? books, training, mentoring, etc?
• Always remember, your resume MUST be customized to each position/description. It is a way for you to get an interview, not to talk about everything you’ve ever done! Talk about your other skills and what you can bring to the company in the interview…use your resume to show them that you are either an exact or at least a very close match!

Use these tips. They will definitely help you obtain more interviews and make more valuable connections during your job search. Don’t forget, getting the right job is work….hard work. Approach your search with the same tenacity that you will approach the job once you land it.

For more tips, stay tuned.