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Category : Hiring

Sample: A really good job description

In my last post, I talked about job descriptions and showed an example of a poor one.

This week, I’ll show you a great one—a real job description that attracted an excellent candidate.

Notice both the length (short and accessible) and the tone. It reads like it was written by a real human being rather than some kind of automated job-bot. It’s also full of compelling specifics:

[Company] is looking for a Senior Sales Engineer to increase business at one of our largest customers. You’ll be responsible for a $25M business (2017 revenue) that we plan to invest in and double over the next three years.

We’re looking for someone with:

  • A proven background selling high technology [type of equipment] to large customers. This is a requirement, not a nice to have.
  • A BS or BA degree
  • Demonstrated success in growing sales profitably. To get this job, you’ll have to show us 1) that you have already grown a business to at least $5M per year in revenue, 2) that net profit grew over time as well, and 3) how you did it

[Company] is an innovative, fast-growing manufacturer of (type of equipment), components and systems.  In fact, our business has doubled over the past four years. 

We’re also an employer of choice for people who value:

  • Promotion from within (15% of our employees earned promotions in the first quarter of 2018)
  • Expert co-workers (with products, patents and track records to prove it) willing to teach what they know
  • A rewarding career
  • Meaningful work
  • Flexible hours

Like other employers, we offer competitive salaries, annual increases, profit sharing, tuition refund, and medical, dental and vision benefits. 

Unlike other employers, you can work here and have a personal life at the same time.

If you’re qualified and interested in joining us, please click the link below to apply. We look forward to hearing from you.

Notice how this job description includes the following:

  1. Specific Challenge: A big business with plans to double it. An enticing possibility for the right person.
  2. Experience Required: You must have done it already on a smaller scale. This eliminates unqualified candidates.
  3. Growth Potential: A promote-from-within commitment with specifics to back it up.
  4. Learning Potential: Experts willing to work with you.
  5. Work/Life Balance: Sure, this term is cliché, but saying it here means it’s more likely to be the case (plus, the description has built-in credibility due to the other factors on this list).

The second-to-last sentence (work/life balance) is particularly nice, stating what the employer stands for—and will provide for the right candidate—in a believable and compelling way.

Is it more work to write a job description like this? Absolutely. But it will save you countless hours of time and hassle in the long run. Once it’s written, a strong job description does a lot of the heavy lifting for you by attracting the right candidates and discouraging the wrong ones. Your recruiting becomes more efficient, better targeted, and cheaper.

Job Descriptions: The Good, the Bad, and the Wordy

I’m in the process of recruiting several people for sales positions, so I’ve started to pay more attention to how companies describe these jobs.

After all, the job description is the first place many candidates look (and rightly so). It’s a shame that so many job descriptions are poorly written.

The way I see it, at the recruiting stage of the game, a job description should do two things:

  1. Attract the right candidates
  2. Repel the wrong candidates

To attract the right candidates, the job description must clearly show:

  1. A desirable job
  2. An appealing challenge
  3. An employer of choice
  4. Some context regarding the position

To repel the wrong candidates (and you do want to repel them, in order to save their time and yours), the job description must clearly spell out:

  1. The two or three “must have’s” in terms of prior experience or results delivered in order to be considered for the position
  2. What proof you require of the experience or results

To both attract and repel, the job description must be concise enough that it actually gets read.

Unfortunately, many job descriptions fall short (while simultaneously running much too long).

Here is an example taken directly from a company’s website. To protect the guilty, I’ve deleted all references to the company and its products.

Ask yourself…would this job description entice me to take the next step and contact this company?

Sales Director

In this Senior Management role, you will provide the required Leadership to serve customers by identifying their needs. Responsible for actively driving and managing the evaluation stage of the sales process, working in conjunction with a sales team as the key technical sales advisor and product advocate for our products.

Responsibilities

  • Identifies current and future customer requirements by establishing personal rapport with potential and actual customers and other persons in a position to understand product requirements. Provides product or equipment technical and engineering information by answering client / potential client questions and requests.
  • Must be able to articulate technology and product positioning to both business and technical users.
  • Ability to identify technical issues of new and assigned accounts to assure complete customer satisfaction through all stages of the sales process.
  • Must be able to establish and maintain strong internal and external relationships throughout the sales cycle.
  • Manages the Application function to drive Sales growth and to increase Services revenues.
  • Manages and assigns new Agents as per the Approval Process to drive Sales growth and to increase Customer engagements.
  • Works directly with the Executive Director and the VP of Sales to generate an RFC and Business Plan that meets the ever-changing needs of the business.
  • Establishes new accounts by identifying potential customers; planning and organizing sales call schedules and regularly reporting on sales activities.
  • Prepares cost estimates by studying blueprints, plans, and related customer documents; consults with engineers and other professional and technical personnel.
  • Determines improvements by analyzing cost-benefit ratios of equipment, supplies, or service applications in customer environment; engineering or proposing changes in equipment, processes, or use of materials or services.
  • Gains customer acceptance by explaining or demonstrating cost reductions and operations improvements.
  • Submits orders by conferring with technical support staff; costing engineering changes.
  • Develops customer’s staff by providing technical information and training.
  • Complies with federal, state, and local legal requirements by studying existing and new legislation; anticipating future legislation; advising customer on product, service, or equipment adherence to requirements; advising customer on needed actions.
  • Prepares and delivers sales reports by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing sales information and engineering and application trends.
  • Maintains professional knowledge by attending educational workshops; reviewing professional publications; establishing personal networks; participating in professional societies.
  • Contributes to sales effectiveness by identifying short-term and long-range issues that must be addressed; providing information and commentary pertinent to deliberations; recommending options and courses of action; implementing directives.
  • Contributes to organizational performance by establishing sales targets and reporting on a regular basis as to sales performance relative to those targets.
  • Participates in the development and delivery of product demonstrations.
  • Effectively represents the product[s] to customers and at field events such as conferences, trade shows, etc.
  • Able to respond to functional and technical elements of RFPs
  • Able to effectively convey customer requirements to Product and Service Management teams
  • Able to travel throughout assigned sales territory.

Qualifications 

  • Ideal candidate must be self-motivated with a proven track record in technical sales and knowledge of technology.
  • Comfortable in the dynamic atmosphere of a technical organization desiring to rapidly expand the customer base.
  • Must possess strong presentation skills and be able to communicate professionally in written responses to emails, RFPs, and when submitting reports.
  • Organized and analytical, able to eliminate sales obstacles through creative and adaptive approaches.
  • Must be prepared for extensive travel within the assigned area[s] of responsibility.
  • Sound judgement and good business sense
  • Collaboration skills and the ability to work with and in teams
  • The ability to build and sustain relationships with clients quickly
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Resilience and tenacity
  • Independence
  • 10 + years relevant experience in sales required
  • Experience and familiarity of our products and line of business a plus
  • B.S. in Engineering or a related field is required; an MBA is strongly preferred.

Did you find this job description attractive? My guess is no.

Did you read the whole thing without your eyes glazing over? Again, my bet is no.

Next time, I’ll show you a job description that did attract the right people. It looks very different than the one above.

The One Question Every Job Applicant Should Ask – And Every Hiring Manager Should Answer (Honestly)

Interviews can go by quickly, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. But no applicant should get up for the final handshake before asking some version of the following:

What kinds of decisions would I be able to make on my own, and when would I need to get someone else’s approval? 

Some companies, to put it bluntly, have a culture that values micromanaging. It’s hard to get things done when you work at a company like this and executing day-to-day tasks can range from frustrating to impossible.

You spend much of the day cajoling, justifying, and defending. Most people find that it’s just not worth it, and they leave in search of workplaces that are better at delegating authority.

I’ve worked for companies where I had the authority to spend up to $100,000, hire the people I wanted to hire, and pretty much do what needed to be done without having to “sell” my ideas to a higher authority or sit around waiting for their approval. Working in an environment like this is liberating. It leads to people giving the company their best efforts.

Long time Applied Materials Chairman Jim Morgan always encouraged us to make decisions, frequently adding that no matter what we did, we were unlikely to “sink the company.”

Unfortunately, other companies will saddle you with an array of rules and constraints that make your life only slightly better than if you were in a Supermax prison.

I had one client who wouldn’t let his salespeople spend more than $500 for travel without first getting his approval. These were salespeople who had to fly to visit their customers.

If you’re used to making and implementing your own decisions, as many top performers are, you’ll find it unbelievably frustrating to have to constantly run those decisions past others before you can get anything done.

If you’re a candidate, here are the sorts of questions you should ask during interviews:

  • How much money can I spend without getting your approval?
  • Can I hire the people I need to hire?
  • Can I assign work to the people in my organization the way I want to?
  • Can I travel when I the need arises?
  • Can I approve travel and spending for the people who work for me?

And if you’re a hiring manager, it’s important to be completely honest when you answer questions like these. If your company keeps employees on a short leash, it’s better for all concerned to get that information out upfront—before you spend time and money onboarding a promising new hire who is destined for a short, mutually unsatisfactory stint at your company.

How to Become an Employer of Choice

Talented high-tech salespeople are, quite literally, worth their weight in gold.

However, you will not be able to hire the best and brightest if you are not already considered a top employer by the people you’re looking to attract. After all, they have their pick of employers—so why should they pick you?

It’s a question worth devoting some serious time and thought to, long before you start your recruiting and hiring process. You need to have compelling, well-supported answers to the following questions:

  • Why would a top salesperson want to work for your company?
  • How are you different, and better, than other employers competing for the same talent?
  • What makes your workplace truly unique?
  • How does your total compensation package stack up?
  • Do you offer real opportunities for responsibility, growth, and advancement?

Companies like Apple and Google can “buy” just about anyone they want and retain them over time—and even when an employee leaves, there are thousands (if not millions) of other folks clamoring for that spot. But the rest of us need to get a little more creative with our branding.

Here are a few non-monetary ideas for you to think about:

  • Authority/Autonomy/Decision Making: One of the most frustrating things smart, goal-oriented people encounter in companies is the constant need for management approval to get anything done—whether it’s launching a new initiative, spending money, or hiring. If your company gives people the authority to make decisions without requiring them to run everything up the ladder and collect a dozen signatures, this is worth more than you think to top candidates.
  • Benefits: Tuition reimbursement, paid time off, annual company retreats, etc. What do you offer that others don’t? Always remember that total compensation encompasses a lot more than salary + bonus.
  • Coaching: True coaching and mentoring programs are rare—and very valuable.
  • Colleagues: Does your company have well-known and/or highly skilled people to learn from?
  • Expertise: Your company may possess a unique area of expertise that new hires can learn about and benefit from.
  • Exposure: Small companies in particular may offer a lot of exposure to customer executives, corporate strategy and direction, and so forth.
  • Leadership: Ideally, your company has strong sales leaders in positions of authority, with successful backgrounds, who can and do pass their knowledge on to the people who work for them.
  • Movement: New hires like to know that they can and will be offered other positions in the company, maybe even in different departments, so that they don’t fear being stuck in the same job for years.
  • Promotion from within: Does your company have a strong track record (that can be proven with hard numbers) of promoting people from within? If so, this is a big deal—shout it from the rooftops.
  • Training: Many companies have pared back training to the absolute minimum. A robust training program can be a valuable perk; it also sends the message that you make it a priority to invest in your people.
  • Work environment: Maybe your company is known for its civility and genuinely nice people. If you’ve found a way to get things done that doesn’t include a lot of yelling, table-pounding, and childish antics, this in itself is a rare and valuable perk.

If you really can’t think of anything that makes your company special and unique, think harder, and maybe talk to some current employees for ideas. The things they enjoy most about working for you may be things you’ve never even considered.

The Point? Get your own house in order before trying to bring top talent aboard.

You’ve Identified Your Top Candidate for the Job. Now What?

A lot of hiring resources make “making an offer” sound like the simplest part of the process. In some ways it is—from the employer’s perspective. After all, you have already done the work of defining the job, examining your budget, advertising the opening, interviewing candidates, assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses, and winnowing down the pool to your very top choice.

But you’re not done yet, not by a long shot, and that’s because the money end of things is likely still up in the air.

Even when you know who you want to hire, and you’re certain (or reasonably so) that the candidate wants to work for you, the amount and type of compensation offered can make the difference between a long, productive employment relationship and “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Talk with the candidate about the compensation you plan to offer prior to making a formal written offer. Like it or not, unless the candidate is independently wealthy, compensation is one of the most important factors—especially if he or she has multiple job offers to choose from. And you want to be sure, prior to making a formal offer, that it will be accepted.
  2. Make a strong initial offer. How much should you offer? It should be an amount the candidate can not only accept, but feel really good about. Lowballing a candidate will leave a bad taste in the person’s mouth. Top performers, in particular, know their market worth and resent being asked to work for cheap. While there is always room for negotiation on both sides after the initial offer is made, an extreme lowball offer can quickly sour the relationship beyond repair.
  3. Don’t play hardball. While we’re on the topic of negotiating, you don’t ever want to be in the position of negotiating tooth and nail with a candidate, as if you’re on opposing sides of a nasty lawsuit. You are ultimately looking to bring this person onto your team. Again, the relationship will be damaged if you go about the negotiations with an aggressive, winner-take-all attitude. Memories are long, and it simply does not make sense to play hardball over relatively trivial issues.
  4. Round up. When presenting your offer, round up to the nearest $10,000 mark. “$200,000” feels and sounds a whole lot better than “$198,700.”
  5. Consider total compensation. Don’t forget to discuss stock options, company perks and benefits, bonus and/or variable compensation potential, profit-sharing, merit increases, and the like. Oftentimes, these add considerable value (both monetary and psychological) beyond the base salary and should not be overlooked. If stock is involved, talk about the number of shares that will be offered, the vesting schedule, and how often new options or shares of restricted stock are issued.
  6. Listen to the candidate. Last but certainly not least, if the candidate rejects your initial offer—or seems less than fully on board with it—try to find out the real sticking point. It may be something that can be remedied relatively easily (and, if not, best to know this now rather than after making your formal written offer—or, worse still, after the candidate halfheartedly starts working for you).
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