The Causey Consulting Podcast

Decoding Job Descriptions: What Do They Actually Mean?

December 02, 2021 Sara Causey Episode 106
The Causey Consulting Podcast
Decoding Job Descriptions: What Do They Actually Mean?
Show Notes Transcript

Here we are in the midst of The Great Resignation and yet: so many companies don't get it. I still see job descriptions and terms that make me wince.

Key topics:

✔️ "Hungry" may mean you'll go hungry if you work there. Or that you'll be fired if you don't work 80 hours but get paid for 40.
✔️ I remember turning down a job offer when the manager told me, "I want you scared. I like employees who are scared. If you're scared you'll lose your house or get the car repossessed, you'll be a top producer." HARD PASS. 🤮
✔️If the company feels the need to say, "No one likes a jerk," ask yourself why that might be. It's such a silly statement of the obvious that it makes you wonder if they have a higher jerk-to-nice-person ratio on staff already. Or if they assume anyone who thinks for themselves  is a jerk.
✔️Anything that sounds like cult speak should be an automatic red flag.

Links I discuss in this episode:

Need more? Email me:

Welcome to the Causey consulting podcast. You can find us online anytime at And now, here's your host, Sara Causey. Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in. Today I want to talk about decoding job descriptions. And yes, I know I still need to sit down and record an episode about the great resignation, why I think it's happening, what the ramifications of it will be, and how happy I am, quite frankly, that so many people are saying no, we're not going to put up with terrible behavior and abuse from employers, we would rather just opt out of the system, instead of being abused. I think that a lot of positive things can come from that. In the meantime, before I do that, I want to squeeze in this episode about job descriptions. Because we have so many people who are looking to upgrade, they're looking to get out of those controlling awful environments and into an environment that's better. Whether you are looking for freelance opportunities, or you're looking to plug in and accompany this is important information to have. I'm going to start off with one buzzword that I absolutely hate. To me it's like fingernails on a chalkboard, and that is hungry. Ostensibly, it means that you're dedicated, you're hard working, you're the type of person that wants to go above and beyond the call of duty. You don't let obstacles get in your way you figure out a way to get around the obstacle. Okay, I get it. But what does hungry really mean? When we want to sit down and decode it? What are they actually saying when they use that term. And sometimes it may be that they're going to pay you so little money for the job that you're going to walk away from in Hungary. But in my analysis, and in my experience, here's what's going on behind the curtain. Hungry means desperate, we want you to be in dire straits in some way, so that you will do whatever you're told to do whenever and however you're told to do it. If that means you need to work an 80 hour week, but only get paid for 40. You'll sit down and shut up and do what you're told because you're hungry. I'll never forget there was a job opportunity that I turned down earlier in my career because the hiring manager weirded me out. I mean, the whole situation was like, he tried to lowball me on the salary. And I pushed back I had a proven track record. Even though I was earlier in my career. At that point, I had a proven track record of production. And so I clapped back and said, No, in comparison to the money that I'm able to make for these companies, what you're offering me salary wise, doesn't fit. Here's what I would need in order to take this job. And there was some back and forth along those lines. And finally, he told me, I want you scared, I want you hungry. If you're scared, if you don't know how you're going to make the next mortgage payment. If you don't know where your next meal was coming from. If you're scared, the car is going to get repoed you're going to be a better producer. I only want to hire people that are a little bit scared because I know they will close deals by any means necessary. And after I sort of picked my jaw up off the floor, I thought well, you know what, thank you for telling me. Thank you for telegraphing to me the type of person that you are and the type of manager that you would be because I can Absa freak and literally walk away from this deal with no hesitation because gross vomit IK. Now sometimes you may still encounter people that have no idea about labor laws and Equal Opportunity practices that will put things like young and hungry in their job descriptions. There's a link that I'll drop in the write up to this episode for Where Katie Pierce talks about seeing that exact phrase in job descriptions. And I'm going to read to you from that article. The hiring company only wants young whippersnappers. Basically they don't want anyone who has their own ways of doing things. Hallelujah. I'll continue to read. While the company claims the role allows taking ideas and running with them. My guess is that these ideas must be approved by the CEO, they will be working directly with as the ad also states that the candidate must be open to guidance, it appears they want someone who doesn't have a family or any life obligations and sees themselves as a mover and shaker before they've actually learned what it takes to move and shake successfully in a career in quote. There's nothing I don't love about that paragraph, because so much about what's happening in these types of companies is about conformity, which leads me to another read PFLAG another buzzword that you ought to be careful of, which is integrate, on the face of it, saying something like integrating it to the team integrating into the company, integrating into our process. That may not sound so bad. I mean, especially in comparison to saying something like, we only want to hire the young and hungry integrating into the team, what doesn't sound so bad? Let's pull the curtain back again, and really think about what that phraseology means. I had a phone call not long ago with a prospective new client, and the conversation was going very well, it seemed to me that this type of services that I provide was a good match for what they needed in a consultant. Oh, but then, when the snowball started to roll down the hill, it's kind of came into an avalanche. When when the train left the track, it went all the way off. They started talking about mandatory meetings and camping out on Slack channels, and daily zoom calls and lots and lots of what I call cowpoke round ups where they're going to enforce their will upon your time. And I thought, why on earth? Would any 1099 independent contractor agreed to that? I mean, yeah, okay. There's plenty of extroverts out there that I guess don't have anything else better to do with their billable hours than that. But I just thought, like, Absolutely not just No, no, and no, that was clear. Obviously, I wasn't that, you know, direct about it that I said, Hey, that that's not that's not what I offer, you know. And so I think you need to make the decision between Do you want the data and the information and the work itself? Or do you want the social components because as I very clearly stated, on my website, I don't do zoom calls, I don't camp out on Slack channels, I really work independently outside of your company to provide you with the best deliverable possible. And the person could not get me off the phone fast enough after that. I mean, absolutely. It was like, Oh, well, if you're not going to put the bit in your mouth, like a good little horsey, then go jump off a cliff. But this person used the term integrate multiple times in their effort to hurry me off the phone, and just get rid of me. It was like, integrate into the team, integrate into the culture, integrate with the CEO and integrate, integrate, integrate. And it was super clear to me that integrate, as this person was saying it meant conform, shut up, do what you're told to do. If we tell you even though you're not an employee of the company, and we quite frankly, have no authority over you whatsoever. If we tell you that you're going to get on a daily cowpoke round up on Zoom, you better damn well do it. And I've thought No. Just know. If you've seen Avengers in game, like when Captain America comes back, and he's like, No, I don't think I will know it was exactly how I felt. So be really careful of if you're on an interview, or you're reading a job description, and you start to see all these things about integrate into the team, integrate into the company, integrate into the culture, you know, you can start to read it as you must be one of us, one of us. Look. Another buzzword to be careful of in a job description is humble. Again, like hungry. Ostensibly, that doesn't sound bad. I've even seen job descriptions where the company would call out no one likes a jerk. And it's like, Okay, but why do you feel the need to say that in a job description? Is your culture hiring jerks? I mean, do you have a larger jerk to decent person ratio in the company? And if so, why is that mean? Why? Why would you allow arrogant egomaniacs to get into the company at some higher than normal average, like? So if you're reading a job description like that, I just want you to step back and say, Well, what's going on that they felt the need to say something like that? Are they some Charlie Nobody startup and they're trying to sound cool? Or do they just have a lot of jerks already on staff? And they don't want anymore? I mean, definitely things that make you go hmm. Another problem with humble is, it's another sort of dog whistle to say sit down and shut up. Because if you push back at all, we're going to deem you arrogant. We're going to deem you a Maverick, a rogue, somebody that won't just cooperate with the team. One of us, one of us, you better sit down and toe the line. Because if you don't, then we're going to tell you that you're not a good team player. Wow. Wow. Humble can also be a sort of dog whistle for we're not going to pay you very much. If you come to us and ask for a pay raise. If you just blow it out the box your production is outstanding. And you want to use that you know as justification for a pay raise and a merit based increase. Then, we're going to tell you to take one for the team and sit down And on that note, I would definitely add the phrase team player as something to just be careful of when you're looking at job descriptions. Or if you make it to the interview, and the people are talking about team player over and over and over again, that's another red flag about the importance of conformity within the team or within the entire company itself. They may not give you very much room as a freelancer or as an employee to come to the table with your own ideas, or to even have time off, or time to yourself, if you're the type of person that wants to work with headphones in that may be deemed not a team player, I had a job that I really enjoyed were working with headphones was totally fine, I would sit at my console and do my thing. And it was never a problem. No one ever said, hey, look, you know, it's not good for you to sit there with headphones on. But I had another job where I was told it is perceived around here as being rude. If you sit and work with headphones on, you need to have those headphones off. And you need to be able to listen and engage with your coworkers whenever they want you to. And it's like, what I mean, there are some people who need a more quiet environment, or they need some white noise or some music to listen to, to help them focus to drown out a lot of noise or chaos that's happening around them. So be careful if they're really, really emphasizing the importance of you being a team player. To me, when I hear that there's nothing about it that says you can come to us with new ideas, you can innovate, you can be creative, it's really about conformity. Something else to be careful of is the phrase works closely with. And this can be a danger sign in a couple of different ways. One is if the job description is telling you that you're going to have to work closely with insert 10 Different people or 10 different departments here, they are going to work the hell out of you, you are going to have no peace, and you are going to be expected to be all things to all people all the time. So you want to be very mindful of that. Another is sometimes if it says you'll work closely with whoever and they're not spreading you thin across multiple departments. It can mean whatever that person says, the CEO, the department head, the VP, whomever whatever that person says goes, and you may be saddling up with someone like Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, where if she calls you in the middle of a hurricane, where no planes are allowed to fly out, you better do everything possible to get her out of there, it doesn't matter. If you are having a family night, it doesn't matter if you have to call the National Guard the Air National Guard to airlift or out you're going to do whatever you're told, because that's part of working closely with the CEO. Now we're in every company that uses the phrase works closely with is it going to lead you to Miranda Priestly? No, probably not. But again, I'm just trying to decode some of these job descriptions for you. So that hopefully, you can avoid stepping on a landmine. I would also suggest that you use caution with job descriptions that seem to have an over abundance of weird added benefits. And yes, I'm using benefits in air quotes. You know, it's kind of like companies that instead of giving you a pay raise, they'll say, Well, we'll put a foosball table in the break room. Okay, but I can't, I can't mail a foosball table to the mortgage company, I can't put food on the table with a foosball table in the break room. Like who, who even cares about that anymore. I remember seeing a job description and the pay for the position was quite low, it was probably, I would say 20 to 30% below fair market value. But they had put in the job description. We will allow you to watch unlimited training webinars. And then we also have a weekly mental health counseling session with best tips about how to stay sane during the pandemic. And I'm like, okay, but like that still doesn't erase the fact that you're paying 20 to 30% below market value, like unlimited training webinars and a once a week zoom call, you know, it's like, how does that even fit in with HIPAA? I'm not even sure that that that's something that people ought to be doing but like, okay, so you you want to be mindful of the fact that sometimes companies will throw in weird added benefits that don't really do much good for you in an effort to underpay you. Something else to be careful of is just an utter lack of information in the job description itself. If someone has posted something that's maybe three or four sentences, and you're not even really sure what would be expected of you, then obviously Do you want to exercise a lot of caution and that I mean, sometimes it's just a scam, it's somebody posting something that's not even valid to start getting information that they can possibly use for identity theft. But I see sometimes with freelancing in particular, especially on those freelancing websites, you know, I recorded an episode earlier this year, called Why freelancing websites suck. And it's been one of the most popular episodes of this year, which is not surprising. We have so many people looking to leave the cubicle zombie life as Scott Grayson calls it, we have people wanting to get out on their own and make their own way. And so those sites like Upwork, or freelancer, or Fiverr, provide a good outlet for that, at least theoretically, I'm of the opinion that using those sites as a means of getting started having a proof of concept, getting some good reviews under your belt, that's great. But I do not believe that you can build a lasting and sustaining financially lucrative practice, just using sites like that, sorry, throw rotten tomatoes at me if you want. But that's, that's my opinion. And it's based on my own experience. But you will see these job descriptions that only provide you with two or three sentences of information, I need a recruiter or I need someone who's an expert in HR to help me make up some manuals. Okay, I mean that that's not nearly enough information to go on. But then sometimes in these huge Costco style whatever they're called freelancing websites, I just totally on an Ultron moment, I lost the word there. Humans create a smaller people. Uh, Children, I lost the word. Oh, anyway, so people will use these freelancing websites and they'll put not nearly enough information out there for you to be able to make a cogent decision. But then they'll have like 20 30 40 50 proposals, and it's like, you guys can all fight for the scraps. But I think I'd rather hold out for the nice filet mignon steak dinner. Something else to be careful of, especially in freelancing or 1099 contract type gigs, is whenever the job description says this is very easy, or this is very straightforward. I would do this myself, but I don't have the time. If you're seeing anything like that any verbiage of that nature, you want to be really careful, because those people have the tendency to micromanage the hell out of you. And it's like, okay, well, is it really that easy? It's so easy that you could do it. Theoretically, if you had more time. I mean, what's the expectation going to be like here, I've heard some true horror stories from people who took on work like that. And then they got paid something like seven or $8 an hour and had to do unlimited rewrites or unlimited revisions. So you just want to be really careful that you're not taking on somebody who's completely unfeasible because in their mind, whatever they're asking you to do is just so simple. Now, my list is by no means an exhaustive list. I feel like this episode can, I'm sure have multiple sequels as time goes on, because I feel confident that I will see and hear about more things that are just migraine inducing. Before I close out this episode, I do want to read off 2021's most annoying business buzzwords, and this was posted on the trust radius website. Of course, I will drop a link to it. But I will read these off because in addition to just being annoying corporate buzzword sometimes they also show up in job descriptions as well. So here we go. Number one, the new normal. Number two, synergy. Number three, circle back. Number four, take this offline. Number five, pivot number six, unprecedented. Number seven, think outside the box. Number eight, bandwidth. Number nine work from home. Number 10, low hanging fruit. So I guess I would add something else to sort of be wary of whenever you're reading job descriptions is if they're using terminology like we are allowing you to work from home, or you will be permitted to work from home through the duration of the pandemic. A couple of things to say about that. One is we really don't know where the bottom of this thing goes. We don't know when or if there's going to be an end in sight for COVID. And the landscape of work has changed so much that people who have gotten comfortable with working from home they've proven not only to their employer, but also to themselves that they're capable of doing it. They've gotten accustomed to not having to take the kids to daycare or not having to worry about scheduling not being micromanaged or watched all the time. They may be tired of long commute tired of having to dress up to just go sit in a cubicle for no real reason. They may have a wardrobe now that's mostly jeans and sweatpants and they're not going to give that up It's like, okay, you're telling them that you're going to allow them to work from home during the duration of the pandemic, but you're talking about some span of time into the future, and you have no idea what that span of time is going to look like. So it's a bit foolish in my opinion. The other thing is the boot to the back of the neck style terminology, we're going to allow you, we're going to permit you, it has an era of we don't really like it, what we would really like is for everybody to go back to the pan Opticon and sit in their cubes so that we can surveil them, and we can all see what everyone is doing all the time. But we'll go ahead and tolerate this whole work from home fat until COVID breaks and then we can come and you to come back to the office. Just think about whether or not you would want to work for a company that's like that. If they're not able to change with the times if they're stuck in some bygone era where the company was God your boss was King and you had to grovel in order to survive at work. Is that really a place that you would want to work for? Probably not. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. If you haven't already, please take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and share it with your friends. Thanks for tuning in. 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