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October 27, 2013
Job Postings, Translated
“Distinguished, forward-looking growth company (Fortune 7,500, stock listed on OTB exchange) seeking brilliant designer (minimum two MFAs, Pratt and Yale preferred, plus graduate study abroad). Must be a take-charge type, with good client contact, prepared to work long hours. Should be young, fresh with thirty years experience in design/graphics field and have creative, bold, conservative design taste with emphasis on highly original, traditional graphics look. Relocate to Anchorage, Alaska. If you’re not qualified, don’t waste our time and yours…”

This isn’t a real job posting, of course. It’s from a 1974 National Lampoon parody of Print Magazine, but if you’re applying to tons of online job postings like me, the description doesn’t seem to be far off. I find many job descriptions to be humorous but at the same time confusing and telling. But I can get a feel about a company from some of the post wording.

For example, from an ad for an Advertising Creative Director (I’m not making this up):

“Must be able and willing to defend the creatives against outside interference from account services, clients, traffic, agency principals, etc. Must approve and ‘sell’ the creative work to the account team and client. If the creative work isn’t sold properly to the account executive, it will not be sold properly to the client.”

Yikes…I get it! It’ll be a battle to get anything done at this company. Why would I want to work there?

How do job descriptions like this see the light of day? I do know enough to be dangerous when it comes posting jobs. Working for corporations, when I needed to add staff, I’d write a brief with the job requirements and submit it to Human Resources. HR did candidate pre-screening and added words to the description that would help them do that. Sometimes they’d get carried away and modify it into something I wouldn’t recognize, so we’d go back and forth. When I worked for agencies and had my design studio, I wrote descriptions myself, being as concise as possible because “help-wanted” ads were priced by the word. Verboseness cost an employer money. These days, postings are inexpensive, so there’s an opportunity for an employer to ask for the sun, moon, and stars just to see what they get. What the candidates get is confused.

Additionally, there are job requirement buzzwords that show up in postings and some are eye-rollers. I’ve kept track of a few — they’re all from real ads — and I’ll make a tongue-in-cheek attempt to translate:

OK, this is easy. YOUNG. Over 40 need not apply. I would tell the interviewer that I’m so energetic, automatic doors don’t open fast enough for me. I have the broken nose to prove it.

A common buzzword, but studies show that the human brain is not wired for performing more than one or two tasks at a time. Any more and a person isn’t doing any of them well. Seriously, is that what an employer wants?

Rock Star or Superstar
This is the job description for Mick Jagger. Used in a posting, the employer wants a ringer to flaunt at a client. Used to describe normal people, it’s someone whose ego is bigger than their ideas.

Provider of quantifiable difference
I believe this means a candidate must be able to generate new ideas that can be measured and justified. A good example of HR double-speak.

Constructively disruptive
They want someone who shakes things up or pisses everyone off. But do it in a positive way.

Must wear many hats
Another common one. They want a seasoned designer to be a photographer, web developer, and make cold-calls. Do they really want their creative people writing code or smilin’ and dialin’ instead of creatin’?

Ability to deal with ambiguity
No one at the company knows what they’re doing and it’s up to the candidate to figure everything out.

Take ownership
The employer wants someone to take projects and run with them, until they’re tripped up by micro-managers. Then the employer knows whom to blame.

Assimilate objective content
Everyone at the company will have a strong opinion and the candidate will need to heed all of them, even if they contradict each other.

If you readers have some job-posting buzzers that make you laugh or twinge, use your “Learner Attitude,” be “Hands-On” to “Build Consensus” within this “Matrixed Environment” and add them to your comments!

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Steve James owned and creative directed an advertising and design studio in Buffalo, NY with the un-snappy name of SteveJamesDesign, Inc. Steve and his family now live in Indianapolis where he worked as a Creative Director and he is currently in transition, flux, metamorphosis, segue, or whatever looking for work is now called.

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