Don’t Lie in Your Job Description!

by Jobbatical June 16, 2016

That’s my kind of job!

HELP WANTED: Well-funded startup seeks tech wizard for unparalleled opportunity. Sky’s the limit!

Is the above a good job ad? Yes, it will make technophiles salivate. But there’s no information about the day-to-day job. And the hype may be glossing over some critical details.

Don’t fudge your job descriptions. Every job will work for some people — but not for others. That’s why it’s important to tell the truth about your company in the job description: to save time, energy and resources, for the applicants and the hiring manager. There’s no point in interviewing someone who won’t be a fit for your team.

An accurate, up-to-date job description can be used for performance review, as well as for initial recruiting. Here are four keys to crafting a good one:

1. Library or town hall?

Some offices are so quiet they’re like a library, and for good reason: the team needs to stay focused! On the other hand, some work environments encourage discussion to boost inspiration. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Stackoverflow, with private offices, and Airbnb, with an open floor plan, are both doing well. But your prospective hire is likely to prefer one type of work environment to the other. And that affects whether they’ll be a good fit for your business.

Make sure you describe the work environment during the interview, rather than holding the new employee responsible later for “poor performance” because they couldn’t work effectively with so much distraction.

2. Be punctual or be flexible?

A travel magazine allows its writing staff to work on location from distant destinations — yet requires all employees to be at their desks, all day, when working from company headquarters. This disparity in work environments creates stress for some creative employees who chafe at being “chained to a desk”.

How essential are punctuality and onsite attendance for your business? If your company has strict rules about the hours someone must be in the office, be upfront about this requirement in the job description.

If you permit flexible working hours, spell out the situations in which team members are still required to be punctual, e.g. meetings. This will make for a happier hire — and help reduce unnecessary conflict among the team.

3. Show up or remote?

Similar to point two, be very clear in your job description about whether telecommuting is possible some or all of the time, or whether employees must always work onsite. If you allow your team to work remotely, spell out when you do need them to be in the office. Usually this is when you’re holding a team meeting, or have other important items to discuss face to face.

If you just say your business allows remote work without specifying that people will need to show up for important meetings, don’t blame employees for missing these discussions. Clear communication is a two-way street.

4. Autonomy or defined tasks?

Most startup founders give team members autonomy to get the job done as they see fit — and often, these early stage hires contribute much to the growth of the business through their creativity and free rein.

Yet some companies prefer team members handle tasks within set parameters. This also needs to be clearly stated in the job description. While few companies or roles are black and white, the more specific you can be about how you prefer to work, the more aligned with your mission your new hires will be.

After all, only a good fit can perform well. Don’t waste time embellishing the truth, or omitting crucial information, and consequently attract the wrong hires. They’ll only discover the reality their first week anyway. And if they leave, you’ve wasted all that recruiting time, energy and money.

Originally published at on June 16, 2016.

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