derek toh politics at work

How to write job descriptions on job portals to attract talent

There’s a bit of confusion about how job descriptions should be written when you are advertising your jobs.

Most employers believe that in order to avoid an irrelevant candidate applying to their jobs, a job description should be an extensive document that captures ALL the roles and responsibilities of the job, along with a detailed list of every experience that the candidate should have before applying.

So if a candidate is irrelevant to the job, they will spend time reading this lengthy, detailed job description, realise they are not suitable, and then decide not the apply. And the candidate that fits the job will read the description and think “this is the perfect job for me!”, and apply to the job. Pretty sound logic right?

Not really.

Lengthy, overly-extensive job descriptions do not prevent a spammer from applying to your jobs (because they don’t really read the job descriptions anyway!), and in fact, causes a potentially good candidate to not apply to your job because of one of the following reasons:

  • The job description was just focused on the job, and didn’t really answer their question “Why should I apply for this job”
  • The job descriptions describes the “perfect” candidate, and a jobseeker spotted something a responsibility that they may not be experienced in doing. It may be only a small part of the job.

This idea leads to many poor decisions on how the job description should be written employers advertise their jobs. It’s the reason why many job advertisements are written badly, and fail to attract the right candidate to apply to their jobs.

It’s an advertisement to help you attract the right candidate to apply to your job. Therefore, stop thinking about this as a job description and start thinking about this as a job “advertisement”.

That’s it. It’s not a contract of responsibilities, you can sign that later when you actually hire the candidate. But when you first post that job vacancy, you need to be SELLING to the candidate, not keeping them out. Don’t think putting a long list of requirements is going to keep the bad candidates out, because the bad candidates probably don’t read your descriptions anyway, so you will get their CV regardless.

With that in mind, here are some guidelines that will have you craft an effective job description:

1) Keep it short

If you can’t capture what the role is about in three or four bullet points, you may not fully understand the job, in which case the candidate isn’t going to either. Less is more. Split it up into clearly identifiable sections, as a suggestion:

– Who we are (maximum 3 sentences, with information on what your business is about , the location and who they will be working with)

– Key responsibilities (maximum 5 bullet points, ideally 4)

– Requirements (maximum 5 bullet points, ideally 4)

2) Write from the jobseekers’ point of view

When describing the job, communicate from a jobseekers’ point of view, focusing on what they will find interesting. For example, if you are hiring an accountant, stating “you will be working closely with and learning from our company’s leaders to achieve our financial goals”, sounds much more interesting than “to submit the annual report by the required deadline, and to demonstrate good stakeholder management skills”.

3) Use simple language

Unless absolutely necessary, you should use simple language to describe what the role is about. Using big words only make the writer feel smart, and in most cases, does not actually help you filter out poor candidates anyway (remember: spammers don’t read job descriptions, you will only end up keeping a good person out). Your goal is to attract as many good applications as possible, even if they are not the perfect fit. So why scare applicants away with complicated language?

4) Inject some personality about your company

Write in a way that showcases who you are as a company. Don’t be boring. Tell a short story about your company and its’ vision, it’s people, or maybe just write the job description in a style that reflects the personality of your company.

I once saw a job description for a sales role that read “Your goal is to make money for the company so we can pay everyone and don’t have to eat maggi goreng everyday”. You could tell immediately that this company has a sense of humour, and may make a connection straight away.

Stuck? Here’s a simple trick

The key thing is stop thinking about a job description which you are posting on a job portal, as a contract of responsibilities. Instead, start thinking of it as a job “advertisement” i.e. you are using this to attract as many good applications as you can (don’t get distracted by the spammers, tell will apply to you job whichever way you write your job description).

If you are stuck in terms of how you would write a job description, try this. Ask the hiring manager “Why would a high quality candidate, that is already be employed elsewhere, be interested in this job?”. Be honest, and once you can answer this question, you can craft your job posting message around the answer.

 

What to do when there are office politics

Office politics. Too often, people watch others get rewarded due to relationships rather than results, and those that feel they are “real talent” get sidelined because they don’t understand the politics game. It may frustrate you when you feel you or your friends are more deserving of these rewards.

“That guy is such a yes man, always sucking up to the boss.”

“He’s such a politician, never know what he says when talking to management.”

There’s this negative connotation about office politics. If someone is labeled a “politician”, the idea is that this person cannot be trusted. He or she is two-faced. Backstabs. Spends more time on relationships than on actually doing the work.

For people who resent this, they tend to behave in the opposite way, refusing to spend time outside of work with their managers. Believing that the work is enough to get them through. Resenting any form of relationship building with their bosses as a form of “selling out” on their principles. Quietly complaining to their close colleagues about how unfair things are, effectively, making them involved in office politics as well.

Why office politics exist, and it’s not because there are bad people

But the reality is, in large groups of people, office politics will be there and it will matter. How do you get buy-in from the team?

Not everyone necessarily responds to logic. Some value relationships over logic, whether it’s because of their natural personality or because no one is really sure what needs to be done anyway. So feels safer to take care of everyone’s feelings in case something goes wrong, in which case “we all made this decision together”.

People who resent office politics tend refuse to spend time building relationships, seeing it as “selling out” on their principles

People often have to make decisions based on imperfect information, whether they are your manager or colleague. Because of this, their trust levels with different people in the organisation influence how they make decisions, taking into account the interest of the people in their inner circle. It’s less risky when you can get buy in from your inner circle with so much uncertainty.

Understand that this is the reality. Understand that if you want to progress in your organisation, your ability to work with others is important, and many people rely on their feelings rather than logic when it comes to making decisions. Your brand and relationships with others matter.

And I’m talking about achieving a business goal, not a personal selfish goals. Being able to persuade others to make the right decisions and take action is an important skill, and relationships play a role in getting this done.

Wait, so we should have office politics?

Depends on what type of office politics.

People who believe they can get ahead in their careers by using relationships to hurt others are misguided and any competent leader or manager can and should spot this behaviour from a mile away.

Even though I’ve talked about how politics will exist when large groups of people are working together towards a goal, the type of politics that is malicious will damage the company’s culture and affect the company’s ability to make the best decisions.

Passive aggressive personalities that spend more time gossiping within their groups that hurt others. Those that are too afraid to confront, and backstab instead. Or those that focus on trying to get you to do worse, rather than focus on trying to do better themselves to get ahead.

People who believe they can get ahead in their careers by using relationships to hurt others are misguided

When this becomes the prominent culture in the organisation, good talent start to leave, and poor talent start to get rewarded, ultimately leading to businesses failing in the long run.

This is because good talent will soon realise that getting ahead is all about getting the boss to like you (which is what they don’t waste a lot of time on), rather than delivering results (which is what they are good at). They will get frustrated at the type of decisions being made which appear illogical.

So how do we reduce or eliminate politics at work?

The leaders role in managing office politics

This is where good leadership comes in. It takes a strong leader with the will to look pass their own emotions and relationships with others, and instead assess issues objectively using data and logic.

We all know this is not easy, because leaders are human beings too, capable of making mistakes, not having the confidence to damage important relationships, carry the same insecurities as any normal person, and in some cases, got to where they are because of their own relationships rather than actual results.

It take a strong leader with the will to look pass their own emotions and assess issues objectively using data and logic

Having said that, it’s not an excuse to try to judge others based on perception rather than actual results.

If you’re a leader, whenever you feel positively or negatively about someone in the company, stop and look at their actual performance, rather than how they make you feel. Is your feeling justified and is it fair?

Leaders should create a culture of transparency at work

Google is well-known for it’s culture, but employers often brush this off as an expensive luxury, referring mainly to the perks that Google offers employeees (such as free food) rather than looking at what makes their culture great. These often cost nothing.

For example, in the name of transparency, employees at Google are discouraged from complaining about other employees via email. In a popular book “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock, Google’s HR Leader, Bock writes about the first time he experienced Google’s commitment to transparency at work:

“The way we solve the ‘backstabbing’ problem, for example, is that if you write a nasty email about someone, you shouldn’t be surprised if they are added to the email thread… I remember the first time I complained about somebody in an email and my manager promptly copied that person, which forced us to quickly resolve the issue. It was a stark lesson in the importance of having direct conversations with colleagues!”

Even when it comes to sharing of information, the company “defaults to openness” by allowing all employees access to information about what is happening at the company.

This is a stark contrast to what most other companies actually practice, which is to share information only as required, keeping most information at the top, and not bothering to explain decisions by just referring it to a decision made by management. If you don’t have all the information, you have no choice but to trust management.

When a leader says “just trust me because you don’t know everything, it’s a management decision”, it creates a culture where leaders become lazy at thinking through their decisions. This lack of objectivity and accountability creates an environment where negative forms of politics will thrive.

When a leader says “just trust me because you don’t know everything, it’s a management decision”, it creates a culture where leaders become lazy at thinking through their decisions.

What we can all do to stop negative office politics

Work hard and deliver results, that’s always the most important thing. Embrace the fact that office politics will exist when large groups of people are working together, just hope it’s not the malicious or negative type.

If you’re leader, and you sense your subordinate prefers spending time building relationships with you rather than on the actual effort of achieving results, remind them always that they will be measured on their results. If a colleague starts to gossip, show them that you are disinterested. Remember, allowing these things to happen on your watch could be just as bad as participating yourself.

And always encourage everyone to be transparent and speak with candor.

If you’re in an environment where you feel people are using politics for the wrong reasons, and your leadership is not doing anything to discourage this, always politely challenge and ask questions. Ask your leaders why certain decisions were made. Keep everyone accountable, regardless whether they are your leader or your colleague, to make objective decisions based on logic rather than emotions.

And if you risk damaging your career because you might upset your boss… well, do you really want to be in an environment like that anyway?

“Whoever you are, or want to be, you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”

— Marshall Berman

derek toh malaysian fresh graduate

Malaysian Fresh Graduates Have Attitude Problems?

Here’s an interesting article that’s been going around social media recently about why many Malaysian fresh graduates remain unemployed. It seems, we can all basically sum it up to them having attitude problems. In fact, the article breaks this down into several key reasons:

  • Unrealistic salary expectations – RM3.5k to RM6.5k
  • Poor communications skills
  • Dreaming too big (it seems, if you are from a “small” university you should work with a small company)

Understandably, employers who agree with this are furiously sharing this article on social media, along with expressing their own frustrations with their experience of hiring Malaysian fresh graduates.

But many of the fresh graduates that I have interviewed or hired did not actually show such “bad attitudes”, therefore I am a bit confused. As a startup, our salaries are fairly modest. Yet we’ve hired many quality Malaysian fresh graduates. They are matured and capable. Their communication skills are good, their attitude is decent, and they certainly could work in any multi-national company, yet they are working in a small startup (are they dreaming too small?). Continue reading →

recruit malaysia

Recruit using Linkedin for FREE

Linkedin is a great way to recruit and approach passive candidates. Yet some employers tell me that they haven’t had any success or that response rates are poor. As someone that has successfully recruited passive candidates via Linkedin without the paid recruiter account (i.e. I’ve been doing it for FREE!), I believe it’s all about using the right technique to approach these candidates and this makes a big difference in how successful you are.

Here are 3 of my top tips to help you be successful when you recruit via Linkedin:

Continue reading →

Radical Candor

Before we jump into how radical candor works, I want to write about the “conventional” or adviced method of giving negative feedback. In my previous jobs, we’ve always been trained to manage communication with colleagues, especially when giving negative feedback, using a common technique where you “sandwich” the negative feedback between positive ones, to get your message across but not hurt egos too much. The idea is that this allows negative feedback to be received without demotivating your team. Continue reading →

Looking Back at Alliance Bank Bizsmart Challenge

Last weekend, I went to YEC KL, organised by the same team from Alliance Bank Bizsmart Challenge, which WOBB was fortunate enough to be in the Top 20 last year. We learned so much from being part of last year’s Challenge, and made so many friends along the way. One year is a long time in the startup scene, so I thought it would bring back some good memories if I got to see everyone again.

I did write a post about the top lessons I learned from the program as soon I finished it, you can also read that post here. And almost one year later, here’s how some of these lessons have turned out. Continue reading →

Being Lazy

I’m sure throughout your career, you’ve come across people who want to do as little as possible to get through life. It’s their self-identity, they tell themselves that they are lazy, and therefore they are. Sometimes  this makes them feel cool. Sometimes this makes them feel smart. Continue reading →