When You Have a New Kind of Job

It’s easy to hire for a “normal” kind of job, where you say, “Developer” and everyone knows what you mean. But what if you are looking for a new kind of role, say, “knowledge management” or “social media guru”? Those roles are new. They mean different things to different people. Well, if you’re like my friend, colleague, neighbor, and job-seeker Jack Vinson, you actually help potential hiring managers by posting potential job descriptions on your blog, by asking “What is that thing?

In Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers Techies & Nerds, I have a section about what to do when you don’t know the essential technical skills, as in when the job is new to you. You have several options:

  1. Ask someone who does already know what the job entails, someone who already manages that job in another organization.
  2. Ask a recruiter for help defining the description. Use this with care, to make sure the recruiter does not over- or under-inflate the necessary skills.
  3. Use analogy. If you know the essential job functions, use analogy to explain what you need a candidate to do, even if you don’t know what to call the job or what the essential technical skills are
  4. Use a compensation survey to see if the job title is listed. Use this one with caution too. Once HR is involved, they might try to make the position more or less than it should be.
  5. Ask a potential candidate, like Jack, what the job description should be!

Not everyone needs a knowledge management person. And don’t get me started on social media guru. I have no clue what that is or why anyone would need one. I understand why companies need Jack. If you have a product development process or a manufacturing process and it’s stuck somewhere, you need Jack. He’ll figure out why and help you unstick and keep you unstuck (that’s the knowledge management part). That simple.

But the bigger lesson is that it’s really hard to see how to define these roles. Especially if the role is not neatly tied up with a ribbon and comes with a generic job description. Not all the work in the organization can be done by people with generic job descriptions.  In fact, I would say, that none of the knowledge work in the organization can be done by people with generic job descriptions. And that goes for administrative assistant help too. Who do you think really runs the organization?

So, when you have a new kind of job, don’t throw up your hands in despair. You have options for analyzing the job. Consider which ones are right for you.

About johanna

I help managers and leaders do reasonable things that work.
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