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Help Wanted: Writing a Clear, Concise Job Description


Laura

Looking for a full-time job is new to me. I’ve had nearly zero experience as a job-seeker.  I’ve been lucky enough to be gainfully employed every year since I was a sophomore in high school.  Every, single, year.  So I’m navigating this road of looking for a new job in the Indianapolis area with a bit of astonishment at the process.

One common practice is to use words in job descriptions that make me do a double-take.  For instance, “the ability to work in a low-trust/high action environment desired.”  This was listed in a job for a social media manager.  “Low-trust/high-action environment” sounds like a gangster movie.

Another job required “proven success in a matrixed organization.”  What the heck does that mean?  (Clearly, I’m not alone in my confusion.  Spell-check agrees.)  It’s not even an adjective, and Dictionary.com defines ‘matrix’ as “something that constitutes the point from which something else originates”.  Do they want someone who has experience at a start-up company?  Or maybe they want a candidate who knows how to make a fortune with a pyramid scheme.

Job description in action at an interview
© Flickr User Studio Roosegaarde

One more example, which I found in an ad for the infamous Development/Marketing Director:  Must be a ‘creative thinker who can work critically.’  Isn’t that two different types of people?  I say infamous, because in my experience, those combo positions really do require two different skill sets and are often doomed to fail.  Although there is some cross-over in duties, successful people in each of those jobs are simply cut from a different cloth.

Remember your ABC’s

Job descriptions should follow the ABC method of writing:  accuracy, brevity and clarity.  All jobs will have nuances pertinent to the skills and experience required, but let’s not gets carried away with superfluous descriptions.  Say what you mean, succinctly.

My advice to employers?  Run your job description by a few people to see if it makes sense to them.  There are perfectly good words out there that would cause far less confusion.

For job seekers like myself, don’t fixate too much on one or two items on a job description.  You now have your first question prepared for when you land that interview.

If you find out what a matrixed organization is, let me know!

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About the Blogger: Laura Neidig works for the Riley Children's Foundation as Senior Communications Officer. She also serves as Marketing Liaison with the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and is a 4-time Emmy award winner.

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Fri, August 2 2013 » Career Planning and Goal Setting, Corporate Culture

2 Responses

  1. robbyslaughter August 2 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    Great post, Laura!

    A "matrixed organization" is a management approach that is designed to break down silos and help companies be more productive. Instead of the usual approach of departments that work in relative isolation with some communication at the top, in a matrix skills and employees are supposed to flow horizontally.

    For example, instead of R&D investigating a new product alone, a cross-functional team with a person from every department might be assembled to achieve the same task.

    In practice, it's still difficult to get rid of the information hoarding and politics that happens in large bureaucracies, so the matrixed organization really is more of a buzzword than a viable theory.

  2. Laura Neidig August 2 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    Thanks for clearing that up!

    It seems that this type of environment would create a few problems too. If you have a person who has no real expertise in an area but thrust in to a collaborative project, it can be a real waste of time and frustrating for everyone.

    I wonder what job categories gravitate to the matrixed organization model?

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