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Why you shouldn't use a job description when hiring your next team member

Job description on paper
Cassie Nielsen of VMG Partners advocates for ignoring traditional hiring strategies in order to build the best team possible.

Cassie Nielsen thinks most companies are going about hiring all wrong.

"I hate job descriptions. I think they were the worst tool invented to the hiring process, ever," she says. Nielsen is Vice President of Talent for VMG Partners and works with the growth equity investor's portfolio companies—which includes Justin's, Vega and Nutpods to name just a few—to build their teams.

If you want the most diverse pool of candidates, hoping to attract the right people to apply to work at your company, traditional job descriptions might prohibit you from building the best team possible. Nielsen points out three reasons why this is.

  1. If you write a well-thought-out job description, you may be priming the candidate to tell you what you want to hear, which isn't very helpful to the process.
  2. Even more important, job descriptions are ripe with bias. Research shows that in order to apply for a job women or underrepresented candidates feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria. Men or majority candidates will usually apply after meeting about 60% of the criteria. So, just by using a job description with lots of bullet points, you're cultivating a less diverse pipeline for that position.
  3. Additionally, Nielsen points out, it's really hard to avoid bias language. But a tool called textio will give a score of how biased the language in your job description is, pinpointing words that may be more male or more feminine—words that may unintentionally weed out candidates that might be a great fit for the role.


What to do instead

So, what's a hiring manager to do? Nielsen believes job descriptions can be a necessary evil. "Less is more" she advises. Her advice is to use them more as marketing documents, with few, specific bullet points. 

An alternative option Nielsen likes is a scorecard, which is an internal document that interviewers use to evaluate each candidate. Instead of relying on a list of requirements, the scorecard focuses on S.M.A.R.T. goals that the person can accomplish in the role. And the beauty of this approach, she says, is that the scorecard can be used after the person who is hired in directing their goals. "I think that's an important way to kick off a culture of accountability, and so that you've level set on expectations early on," she says.

Something else: She says to emphasize more on focusing on why the company is an amazing place to work, rather than trying to get too granular and tripping up on language with the job requirements.


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