Even more cut and paste catastrophes

By Neil Patrick

My impression of the people responsible for this job ad.

I never cease to be amazed at the idiotic job descriptions for professional roles which are posted online for supposedly reputable employers by supposedly professional recruiters.

Okay I am being deliberately inflammatory. I know that most employers are good at what they do. And most recruiters are good at what they do. If they weren’t, they’d be out of business.

But amidst all the daily pressures, some things just don’t get done properly. And it’s always easier to fix little problems than big ones. Job descriptions and adverts are little things that are worth doing well, because there’s a really handsome pay-off.

Better job descriptions, means better job applicants, means better people, means a better business.

For once, it really is that simple.

Which is why from time to time, I feature job ads and descriptions on this blog. I call them 'cut and paste catastrophes'. I don't have to search very hard. This one was the just the second or third I found after a few clicks. That's hardly scientific research, but it's reasonable I think to conclude that if terrible work is so easy to find, it must be very prevalent.

So I beg anyone reading this who is in HR or recruitment to take this post in the constructive spirit it is intended. I am not just being mean-spirited – as usual this job ad is anonymous, and I have provided a commentary in italics (admittedly frequently tongue-in-cheek) to show where I think there’s erm, let's call it, 'room for improvement'.

So let’s get stuck in!

Today’s job ad catastrophe plumbs new depths of sloppiness. Not only is it full of management speak nonsense (these days though, that’s no longer enough to get you featured here); it showcases hilariously bad grammar and punctuation and is frequently self-contradictory.

But worst of all, it is unquestionably in breach of UK discrimination law.

So here it is in all its catastrophic glory:

Digital Manager - London

Salary: £60,000 per annum + car / car allowance

Are you a digital native with a real passion for what you do? Do you have gravitas and authority and the ability to guide and collaborate with those who are not digitally savvy? If so then please read on?

NO! Stop right now. This is age discrimination. And yes, that’s illegal in this country:

Put another way; you could find yourself in court very quickly with careless behaviour like this.

Exhibit 1: The term “digital native” is defined thus:

This job advert essentially excludes anyone who was born or grew up before digital technology existed. Whilst this date is not precise, the internet first became accessible for public and commercial use in mid-1989 with the connection of MCI Mail and CompuServe's email capabilities to the (then) 500,000 (!) users of the internet. Anyone born before that date (i.e. older than about 30-35) is patently not eligible to apply.

Apart from being illegal, this requirement makes the assumption that if you were born much before the mid 1980’s, you cannot possibly be competent to do this job. In this case, being the ‘wrong’ age is a definite exclusion to being hired for this post. 

But apart from being young, the employer also wants you to have ‘gravitas’. Let’s just remind ourselves how this is defined:

I might be a bit biased, but these character traits are more readily found in older not younger people. You can see now why this job description contradicts itself. Let’s face it, whilst there are exceptions of course, those who grew up taking an iPhone to school are not widely recognised for their dignity, solemnity or sobriety.

Oh and please tell me, why does the invitation to “please read on” end in a question mark?

You will be working in an FMCG business with a large global travel retail team who look after everything from Russia to Spain. You will have line management responsibility of one and be the digital guru for the business. You will know how to communicate and coach those who are keen to learn more about digital. You will also be responsible for ensuring all digital capabilities are disseminated and driven through the business, both locally and globally.

I suspect that Vladimir Putin and Mariano Rajoy Brey will be upset to hear that this job involves the jobholder’s team taking over responsibility for ‘looking after everything’ from Russia to Spain. In fact since France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland and the whole of eastern Europe lie between Russia and Spain, I really hope these nations have at least been consulted. Have they agreed to this? We should be told I think.

What is line management responsibility of one? One what? One person? One team? I am guessing it’s just one country. Shame, I had hoped for more, like say the whole of the EU or something.

Apparently it is a requirement to ‘know how to communicate’. No adverbs here. Such as being able to communicate clearly or persuasively. Nope. It’s just to communicate. Last time I checked, this meant being able to listen, talk, read and write. To make a phone call, write a letter or email. But this is all about digital so I guess we should assume it also means writing online content,  social media posts, compiling and disseminating online analytics, and perhaps writing a bit of HTML coding. If you cannot communicate, for example if you are profoundly deaf, dumb or illiterate and have no idea what a PC, tablet or smart phone does, how are you expected to be reading this advert or considering this job? So why is such an almost universal human skill in the 21st century mentioned without the essential adverbs?

You will always strive for digital excellence and be able to communicate with all levels to ensure the business is on board and believes in it as much as you do. You will deliver cross regional campaigns, whilst managing the KPI's for digital activations. You will provide digital training and capabilities to the wider business and work with the brand and customer teams to ensure synergy across all departments.

This is about as much as most people understand about creating synergy.

Ah synergy. Now that’s a can of worms. This is one of those wonderful management speak buzzwords which gets bandied about by those who have no idea how it is actually created, delivered or measured. Of course it’s an easy enough concept to explain; it’s the idea that 1+1 = 3. In other words, if we put A and B together, the outcome is more than A+B were worth separately. But if I were given the task of creating interdepartmental synergy in any organisation, without the essential authority to drive it through, I’d chuck it right back. Not because I have no staying power or competency, simply because for a mid-level manager, it’s like herding cats while being expected to turn them all into unicorns.

“Managing the KPI’s (sic) for digital activations.” Haha! My that sounds impressive doesn’t it? This is management speak for what normal people call hitting targets. Translation: if you can produce lots of nice graphs going ever upwards, you’ll be fine. If they don’t, you’re in trouble.

You'll be star if you can do this...

You will establish a roster of digital agencies and delivery digital asset management platforms to ensure efficiencies in delivering digital as a relevant channel. You will need to be personable, approachable and have gravitas. You will adore all things digital and this will show in your approach to everything you do.

I would adore to explain on my resume how I am passionate about “delivery digital asset management platforms”. Yes I have extensive experience of them all. From Royal Mail to Federal Express. Yup, I’m your man when it comes to delivery digital asset management platforms. And yes I really do simply ADORE all things digital especially digital delivery – analogue delivery is just like so totally ewww.

This is a 9 month maternity cover contract where you will be able to make an impact in a very short period of time.

Sorry but I don’t know how you can be so confident that I will make an impact in a short period of time. I mean, I haven’t even sent you my resume yet. I have to assume you have psychic superpowers. I admit I am impressed by that. And flattered too. Thank you.

Now for the serious bit. I will stop messing about I promise.

The point is this. Recruitment is a serious business. Every business wants and needs to get the best talent they can. But the best candidates are judging potential employers from the get go. And if you are not a big and well known business, a job ad might be the very first piece of information a prospective candidate sees. Which means the very least an employer should do is take some care to specify the job as clearly and professionally as they can. If you don’t, like here, the best candidates are going to at best ignore you and at worst put you down as a bunch of fools – which is a tragedy, because I honestly believe that's a totally avoidable own goal.

My guess is that this was written by someone in a recruitment firm and then emailed to the client for approval. Recruiters are busy people. Finely crafting words isn’t particularly high on their priorities. I get that and I understand it. Mind you, if this recruiter were recruiting staff for me, I’d definitely be on their case, because this sloppy piece of work has the potential to land us in court.

And whoever signed this off would be regretting their slackness too.

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