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Wanted: creativity, diversity and realism in job postings

Can we please try and take a good hard look at the way we write job postings? Almost all postings for HR positions are eerily similar. It seems that all we do day after day is scour the internet to read each other’s job postings and then copy and paste to cobble them together. The latest trend is to ask for ‘x years of progressive HR experience’. And I’m thinking, progressive, as opposed to what? Is there such a thing as regressive HR experience? And if that exists, what is it exactly? I don’t know too many people who regressed while in an HR role – my thinking is, if you show up for work every day and put in a decent effort, you can’t help but progress in your profession.

Why do job postings invariably contain the words ‘complex’, ‘challenging’ and ‘rapidly changing and dynamic’? Organizations tend to hype their work environment as dynamic and fast-paced, while from personal experience and anecdotal evidence it is obvious that a number of them are, in fact, static and slow-paced. Companies tend to state something like ‘ABC Inc. is a progressive organization that focuses on continuous improvement and innovation. We offer a collaborative team environment with a dynamic culture and standard of excellence’. New hires usually find out that the reality is much different once they are on board and end up frustrated.

Why do so many managers and recruiters still interpret movement as progress? If we’re serious about being strategic, creative and forward-thinking, a job posting should include something like ‘Required to sit back an hour each day and think about better ways of doing things’.

We’re drowning in jargon. HR job postings tend to ask for effective problem-solving abilities (as opposed to ineffective), the ability to translate business needs into HR solutions, we need to reinforce a collaborative high-performance culture, make impactful recommendations (as opposed to?), champion and execute programs, be proactive (instead of lethargic), be a thought leader, attract and retain critical talent (but not too critical), build and sustain an engaged workforce, improve HR workplace efficiencies, be both strategic and tactical with the ability to see the bigger picture, be results-oriented, develop innovative solutions, act as a thoughtful coach and partner with leaders to develop team workforce strategies to ensure alignment with strategic priorities. Oh yes, the word strategy – every posting needs that at least three times.

Be careful what you ask for. If you state that you offer a dynamic, fast-paced, inclusive work environment while your organization is stagnant, sluggish and cliquish, there’s an issue when dozens of vibrant entrepreneurs apply for the position. Same thing if we parachute a dynamic, results-oriented HR guru into a bureaucratic, process-oriented organization where dozens of tenured people look at new ideas the way chickens look at storm clouds. Also, don’t state that the HR Manager is expected to be able to work independently and implement strategic HR decisions if the CEO thinks of HR in terms of payroll and birthday cakes.

It can’t be too hard to be a bit more creative, original and upfront. If your culture really is that exciting, then talk about the fun stuff. Also, be frank about the bad stuff. We all know the old HR statistic that if people quit, they quit on their first day or in their first week – usually because the job or the environment turns out to be completely different from what they expected, or were led to believe.

Consider a job posting that reads ‘Let’s face it: a lot of HR work is not that exciting. We at ABC Inc. would love to tell you that we value work-life balance and while our work day officially is 9 to 5, you, our HR Superhero, will be expected to stay until 7 or 8 on most days just to get through the backlog. So forget about dinner with your family or running before daylight fades. We offer a high-stress environment where you’ll be dealing with a lot of tedious, mind-numbing administrative work for the first six months and yes, we do have a couple of people here that were miscast in their roles and left to marinate in their own shortcomings, because nobody wanted to deal with it. So there’s your challenge! Still interested? Visit our website!’.

It is so rare to see a sense of humour come out in a job posting. Example: last year I saw a posting from a cosmetics company that included the following line: ’50% off all our products so that you feel fresh every day’. So, we can find inspiration elsewhere. I recently bought a red wine called forward and to my surprise, the label on the back stated the following: “This spot is usually reserved for a wine description. Often confusing or intimidating to some, we believe there is only one criteria: you like it, or you don’t. For those wanting more info on this wine, please follow us on Facebook or visit our website for a detailed description. We’d love to hear from you!”. How about a job posting that starts as follows: “This spot is usually reserved for a job description. Often full of irritating jargon and over-the-top to many, we believe there is only one criteria: either it’s a fit, or it’s not. For those wanting more info on this job, please check us out on glassdoor or visit our website for a detailed description. We’d love to hear from you!”. Quite refreshing.

As HR professionals, we have a key role in making sure that we don’t raise job seekers’ expectations about the company and the work environment to unrealistic levels. When a hype proves deceptive, we will likely be confronted with mis-hires and turnover. It’s our job to protect organizations by managing expectations.

Evert Akkerman is an award-winning HR professional based out of Newmarket, Ontario. He has worked extensively in the private and non-profit sectors and has broad experience in communications. Evert founded XNL HR in 2012 and can be reached at and 289-338-4001.

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