"Hire an employee and a human being shows up."

I don't know when I first heard that but I recall it being said with exasperation--and an eye roll.

I felt confused. After all, back at early Apple, things only worked because we were human beings: problem solvers, collaborators, challengers, pick-yourself-up-and-try-again-ers. Our humanity, our strengths and limitations, brought us together. It had to. When you're doing audacious things your saving grace is the people you do them with. Three decades later some of those folks are still my closest friends.

Yet a trend in recent job descriptions scares me. They seem robotic, even dehumanizing: stuff you'd expect to see for assembly line jobs, even if they're directed at candidates in strategic and uniquely skilled roles. Examples all real:

  • "Unrelentingly outperform others to deliver high-impact, accurate results."
  • "Micromanage your time to optimize productivity."
  • "Demand the most of yourself to build and deliver high-quality output."
  • "Take direction, grind on goals, and lock in to KPIs."

Results, productivity, accountability: of course they're important. But something's missing here: the part about individual talent and abilities, about collaborating and building trust, and about contributing to something that feels meaningful and worthy. 

Not to mention the opportunity to grow and improve--the mindset that makes top contributors both happier and more successful

This isn't mere talk. Google (among others) proved this with studies on psychological safety and on leadership, changing the way they recruited (and wrote job descriptions) to reflect what they learned.

If you want more commitment, integrity, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration--in other words, more humanity--on your team, remember this in your job descriptions: 

Soften up the data speak.

Yes, we need data to reveal patterns and guide decisions. Yet wording like "use data to make, defend, and execute decisions" suggests that data is all that matters. You might end up with someone who will trust the data more than they trust themselves without making sure the data deserves trust.

If you actually want someone who looks at data in context, using it to surface questions rather than to provide easy (and often limiting) answers, consider asking for people who: 

  • "...use and challenge the data to make better decisions..."
  • "...are skilled at balancing data with qualitative input and critical thought..."
  • "...balance their take on data with design thinking and real-world scenarios..."

Tone down the hubris.

If your job description calls for always, always crushing it, outperforming every metric, or being the greatest opportunity in the whole world, you may activate BS detectors in the A Players you want to attract.

I actually saw a job description seeking someone who "consistently outperformed KPIs by less than 25 percent for less than five consecutive years."

Nobody has done that. If they have they've either worked for companies who didn't know how to set KPIs or they coasted in a job that was too easy.

Get real. Use your description to appeal to ambitious people who want to learn and grow, and who will stick with you when the going gets tough. You probably actually want  someone who is:

  • "...resilient and resourceful; committed to long-term success as well as short-term wins..."
  • "...ready to build trust and and impact by setting and achieving realistic yet ambitious goals..."
  • "...willing to learn and grow, improving processes and building skills that pay off over time..."

Make "having a life" part of the deal.

"All-in," "ready to say "Yes!" to whatever is needed," "lives to embrace the grind,"  "singular focus"...phrases like that can be warning signs of the sort of work environment many excellent candidates wouldn't choose.

Of course we want people who take work seriously, commit deeply, and contribute fully. But you don't want someone who thinks only about work, stays unendingly "busy," or schedules their bathroom breaks to optimize productivity. Those behaviors elevate risk for cognitive and even physical burnout. Instead, seek someone who:

  • "...optimizes for what's important, not only what's urgent, to do the right things well..."
  • "...prioritizes thoughtful, accurate work over simply getting the work done..."
  • "...contributes fully, yet helps us scale by knowing how and when to add resources..."

In short: you're not recruiting a robot or a "resource." You're trying to attract a motivated, talented human being.

Write a job description that speaks to that and I'm betting a terrific employee will show up.

Published on: Mar 16, 2018