No One Ever Really Fits a Job Description, So Let Applicants Write Their Own

Most of the time, regular job postings are terrible.

As anyone who has been on the job market knows, reading the flat, convoluted prose of corporate job listings can be an intimidating and demoralizing experience. Postings often don’t describe an organization’s actual needs, but rather a generically perfect candidate—one that companies don’t actually expect to find.

That’s why some companies, including the rapidly growing e-commerce retailer Everlane, are trying variations on a “Name Your Job” posting, where applicants are encouraged to write their job description and title for themselves:

“There are a lot of people interested in Everlane—we get about 250 to 300 applications a week,” CEO Michael Preysman tells Quartz. “We realized that at any given point we had only 10 or so job postings. If there are good people that love the brand, we want to find a job that fits them. If we don’t have one, why not let them come up with one?”

The posting has lead to a several hires at Everlane, including a head of recruiting who made a good case that the company needed one, and a head of social storytelling with a nonprofit background who helps the company highlight its focus on transparency.

Everlane’s not alone. “Name your job” listings have become increasingly common, particularly at startups. Two months ago, the financial technology startup Payoff put out its own.

“It’s rare that you find somebody who exactly fits the job spec you put together anyway,” Payoff CMO Carey Ransom tells Quartz. “You’re constantly trying to figure out, in a fast-growing company like this, how this person fits a job spec today, and how they’ll fit in the future as the organization grows.”

The looser listings create opportunities for candidates to think creatively, Ransom says, “as opposed to a resume and a cover letter where we already wrote the spec and probably have a bias as to the type of person we’re looking for.” It’s the rare chance for an applicant to define exactly the job they want.

For job-seekers, it’s a useful thought exercise even if you’re looking at a company that doesn’t have this option: It helps you define what you’re looking for, examine why you fit at a company, and to make a case for what you can contribute that’s unique, before sitting down to write an application tailored to a position.

And for current employees, this approach to postings signals that there’s room for people to be ambitious and determine their own career paths.

Even though its program is new, Payoff hired a marketing and product management specialist who wrote his own job title and description (he started just last week). Several other people are in the interview process for jobs they outlined.

Preysman attributes the program’s success to an increasingly entrepreneurial population of job seekers. He says he hopes the system attracts the kind of nonconformist thinking his company values: “One of our sayings is that if you were a straight A student that skipped class, we want you.”

It’s not always an easy process though. The applications that come through this freeform style of posting aren’t all brilliantly creative and insightful: “You get really good ones, and you get really bad ones,” Payoff recruiter Amanda Ferriss tells Quartz.

Payoff got one applicant offering to serve as the company’s masseuse, for example, and another suggesting hiring a general contractor, just in case the company decides to build a new office. Others tended to be on the vague side.

But despite these pitfalls, both Preysman and Ransom recommend “name your job” listings for small, entrepreneurial-minded companies. It’s extra work, they say, but it’s worth it.

(Image via Ollyy/Shutterstock.com)