Applying Storytelling Techniques To A Job Description

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It almost seems like HR gives the following guidance to the copywriter before drafting a job description:

“OK. You know what’s at stake. I suggest you review the job listings from our competitors and borrow what you consider to be the best elements. This is no time to go rogue. Be smart. Let’s use what’s already working. Great. Have that new description to me by the end of the day … Of course I’m not looking for new, but you know what I mean.”

How else do you explain the homogenous dullness that permeates this type of writing?

I posted on horrid job descriptions late last year, picking on a particularly bad Facebook job listing:

I would characterize them [Facebook] as boilerplate and pedestrian – take your pick – lifted from the Job Descriptions 101 Manual that seems to dominate Corporate HR America. 

In a nutshell, that’s the problem.

Everyone is writing the same stuff.

It took a few months but we’re finally applying storytelling techniques to our own job listings.

You can see how this plays out with a recruitment ad that’s running in ReadWriteWeb and Mashable over the next month.

Job Title: Senior Communications Consultant

What most accurately describes you, PR person or storyteller? If the latter, keep reading.

We’re retooling our consultancy to take a holistic approach to communication campaigns. Think earned media + owned media. Our programs increasingly blend traditional PR with thought leadership, digital properties, social media, SEO, etc. – all underlined with the type of storytelling that has relevance to the target audience as well as influencers.

Regardless of the assignment, clients come to us for a combination of brainpower and passion.

Naturally, this particular role calls for smarts, op-ed grade writing and a track record in triggering client reactions ranging from “Well done” to “I’m naming my first born after you.”

Here are a few specifics that start to dig below the surface of the type of person we’re after:

  • In a world where anyone can access a digital megaphone, we believe content based on storytelling techniques is the answer to sustaining thought leadership campaigns. Are you the type of person who flags anecdotes during evening reading?
  • It’s not exactly enduring or endearing if you only reach out to someone when you need something. Yet, most communicators only contact influencers when a client has a news announcement. Do your interactions with influencers deviate from the norm, reflecting more of an industry source?
  • We don’t expect you to be a SEO guru (or live on Mt. Sinai), but ideally you know how to scrutinize a title tag in the source code.
  • Are you a brave soul? While everyone seems to “zag,” do you know how to a) develop thinking that “zigs,” and b) counsel clients with strength of conviction on the benefits of going the “zig” route?

We suspect these qualities call for at least eight years of experience.

If our thinking resonates, we’d love to hear from you.

I’ll report back next month how the storytelling made a difference.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a new gig and think you could be a fit for the role, by all means shoot me a note at lhoffman@hoffman.com.

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  1. [...] over on the employer side, my friend Lou Hoffman followed up this week on a post from last year about how poorly written job postings/job descriptions are. Lou refers to [...]

  2. [...] Looking for something more strategic? Ok, try this on for size. Backed into a corner I’d admit that there are strategic steps a company can take to make its communications program successful. Strategically hire a senior level communications professional. The point is that the public relations and communications industries are merging and changing and most likely the successful strategies of tomorrow will not be created by non-communications professionals, so the most strategic step a company can make is to hire the right person capable of leading and let them lead. If you need help writing a strategic job description, check out Lou Hoffman’s approach to Applying Storytelling Techniques to a Job Description. [...]

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