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Job Descriptions: How to Hack this Career Enigma

July 25, 2017


A friend of mine was recently complaining about how hard it was to find a job posting where each bullet point under responsibilities and qualifications described him perfectly. When I pushed him for more details, he admitted that unless he felt confident that he could fulfill ALL of the responsibilities and qualifications listed in the job description, he didn't bother applying. Here's why you should NEVER be dissuaded from applying to a job on the basis that you don't check EVERY box.

There's a common misconception that job descriptions always precisely list the intended job duties and qualifications for a specific position.


While it is true that this is the intention of a job description, it's purpose is really to provide job seekers with a general overview of what the role entails and what the expectations are of the employer. In the way that, as a job seeker, you are meant to tailor your cover letter and CV to each job posting - you'll be hard-pressed to find an employer that does the same. That is, to tailor every job posting so that it thoughtfully and accurately reflects the specific duties and qualifications of every position they need to fill at any given time. These days job descriptions change as quickly as the seasons and often times a busy hiring manager will revert to a generic job description they conveniently have on hand. This is why you should never assume that just because you don't meet every criteria set forth in a job description that you are not a suitable fit for the position.


To give you an idea, here's one common scenario from which a job description can arise: 


Often, when a hiring manager requires additional capacity to run a department or company they start thinking about hiring a new employee to join the team. It's not uncommon for a hiring manager to know that they need someone without being able to define precisely what tasks this new hire would be responsible for completing. This could be in part due to existing team members and what they are working on or striving for as part of their career development. Perhaps existing employees are slated to join different projects or take on different roles in the medium term. For whatever reason, the hiring manager decides to include as many responsibilities and tasks that they would like the IDEAL candidate to be able to fulfill. This, not surprisingly, can be very confusing and anxiety-provoking for job seekers and deter them from applying for the position.


When you bring in someone new to an already established team with existing team dynamics, you often need to adjust the order to fit all the pieces together. Depending on the capabilities of the new member and the growth of the company and its existing employees, the new member may be dealing with tasks that are constantly evolving, and other members will need to fill in and adapt to the changes. How do you pinpoint the job duties of this new member? Again, the best thing to do would be to include as many tasks as you can think of in the job description and find a super candidate? The thing is, that super candidate does not exist in that form. But you could be the super candidate in ways not listed in the job description.

Don’t run away when you see an encompassing job description. Don’t limit yourself; challenge yourself and apply if you think you meet most of the bullet points listed in the description. Be confident in your ability to learn and adapt because chances are that the job description you're applying to now will probably change again before you even start your first day.



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