Why the Marketing Department Should Write Your Job Postings

8 02 2018

As I sit here, before the altar of the internet on my re-purposed kitchen chair, the sensation of the positive clicks of the ergonomically curved keyboard under my fingers remind me of times when coding was my life. It’s been over a decade and a half since I last made my living solving interesting technical problems and making those newfangled PC thingies do stuff nobody had ever done before. You know – back when people listened to music on CDs, and you could make toast with the hot air coming out of the back of your desktop PC.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed (at least on occasion… like pay day) a long and storied career since then. After moving to Canada I changed tack, started my own company, then began a whole new arc of learning and personal development as a Product Manager.

As I look back at the experiences and skills I’ve picked up along the way, I’m actually quite proud of how much I’ve developed – and equally humbled by the time and effort others have invested in me along the way.

Today, I sit at the cusp of another big life vertex (or is that “vortex”?). This time one thrust upon me by decisions made at a senior level in the company that (at least for now) employs me. As a result I’ve started to look at job postings with something more than the furtive glance that men normally reserve for when they are forced to walk past Victoria’s Secret… or worse: sit outside the changing rooms turning steadily crimson.

And so, as I read these job postings, I look at them with different eyes than I might have done in the past. I look at them with the eyes of a Product Manager – market and customer aware. Thinking how they are being received, for, as mentioned, I am now potentially an actual customer myself.

And, by and large, they’re exactly what you’d expect:

We need an X. An X in our company is expected to A, B and occasionally C. You should be able to D and E and ideally have experience F-ing.

But these are strange times. Worse… I live in greater Vancouver: a place that thinks it is so cool, it hasn’t noticed all the grown-ups sniggering at it. I will not pick on any specific company (especially as I need one of them to help pay my mortgage), but I do not exaggerate when I tell you that senior positions often require the applicant to have a whole 2-3 years’ experience.

2-3 years?!

Surely these applicants must truly be sages having lived so much of life! They can’t help but have seen a whole raft of projects begin well and then unexpectedly head somewhere dark and unsavoury, only to be redeemed (or perhaps not) by their steady leadership and perceptive solutions. They will be able to bring the learning they’ve taken from these experiences – good and bad – and apply them to the exciting projects these new postings offer.

Yes… that is sarcasm. But I’m only just warming up, please stay a while.

In a world where the job’s challenges are no longer a sufficient attraction (I know of a case where an applicant asked what the next job would be in 2 years’ time – bluntly acknowledging that they had no intention of staying in the role any longer than that and were shamelessly expecting promotion within that time-frame), this new breed of technology company must offer additional inducements.

And here, I assure you, I do not exaggerate: I have seen job postings offering “endless Perrier”; “gourmet coffee”; “fresh organic fruit”; “chill-out area”; “awesome views of the North Shore Mountains”; “office dog”, and my favourite so far – “massage chairs”. More than you might suppose actually list “paid leave” like this is an unusual thing to expect. This is definitely not your father’s job-hunt!

I admit though, I have also seen one casually mentioning “unlimited vacations” like it was a perfectly normal thing. But I fear Canadian holiday allowances must wait for a separate rant.

But back to my point – the marketer’s eye. If you’ve never read The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, you should correct that as soon as possible! It’s pretty much a standard text for business courses these days, but it’s an interesting read in its own right. Anyway, though it has many keen observations of human nature and how they might be, er, tuned to one’s advantage there is one in particular that I remember. To paraphrase, it is essentially “perception is everything”. Reality is one thing, but people are driven by their perceptions of a situation.

And this is the playground of your in-house product marketing team. Creating statements, tag-lines, images, packaging, brochures, videos, pretty much anything that can be sensed in some way, and using it to create perceptions of your products, company, brand in a customer or prospect’s mind. Positive perceptions, hopefully. At least that’s the intent. (We all know of the “misses” that can happen. Especially around Superbowl Sunday…)

So grab any marketing professional and they will tell you that every touch-point your company has with the public is an opportunity to create perceptions of the brand. That’s why so much time and effort goes into those “style guides” – so many mm between this word or logo and surrounding text. Make sure the colour is Pantone whatever, and not just any old red. They seem petty, but they’re protecting the brand – ensuring those perceptions are carefully controlled and manipulated.

Imagine then, when it comes to job hunting. You peruse the offerings one day, maybe see one or two opportunities with interesting challenges (and offering your brand of fizzy dog, or whatever floats your boat). You may even apply.

As quartz crystals moderate and measure the wibbly-wobbly flow of our lives, you might find yourself re-visiting those same cul-de-sacs of the interwebs a few days later. Perhaps several times over the space of a few weeks. Months even.

What then is your perception when you see those same opportunities being offered? Sometimes still offered. Sometimes re-offered, with a new posting date, but otherwise identical.

Of course, there could be any number of reasons:

  • Perhaps they filled the position, but the recruit didn’t work out (i.e. their recruitment process failed)
  • Perhaps they aren’t paying enough to attract the right candidates
  • Perhaps candidates don’t like what they find at interview
  • Perhaps the interviewing staff have unrealistic expectations
  • Perhaps their automated Applicant Tracking System is rejecting all the best candidates because they label themselves Y instead of X… even though it’s the same thing and a human would spot it instantly if they ever got to actually read a CV
  • Perhaps they’re “fishing” to see what kind of people apply, so they can fill other roles as they evolve

I tried really hard, but the only positive interpretation I could think of was that they might be growing so fast that they actually still need more people for that role… which might be true of junior roles, but not ones with labels like “director” or “VP” in the title.

So – the perception I personally am left with (and you may perceive otherwise of course) is that pretty much any of the possible reasons for lengthy or repeated postings of the same role means this company has a problem, and maybe I’d be best avoiding it. Worse… I might tell anyone thinking of doing business with them that they seem to have a problem recruiting staff, so perhaps they’ve got a limited shelf-life.

Extreme, I agree – but perceptions are like that. Now… if there’s a path to the public with that much power to modify perceptions of the company, wouldn’t you want your marketing group to have a say?