“Alvaro, I was very happy about taking this job, but now that I’m three months in, I realise this job has nothing to do with the position I thought applied to. I don’t like it at all”. These are the very words an old friend shared with me a couple of months ago when he came to me for help. 

Believe it or not, this happens more often than one would expect. And it happens because of one of two reasons:

  • Our over eagerness. It could absolutely be possible that the job ad didn’t tell the whole story, but it’s prudent to also acknowledge the power of our premature excitement. We’ve quickly glanced through the summary and the requirements, saw that our skills and experience kind of matched the ad and before doing any further research, clicked send on our application submission. 
  • Or desperation. Later on, during the interview process, we are in our “sales mode”. Instead of asking the right questions, we let our need and desire for getting the job get in the way of our better judgement  (“I need this job as of yesterday”) or we have rose-tinted glasses and miss the warning signs that it’s not a match after all (“This all sounds great. Where do I sign?!”).

If you think about it, job ads don’t even reveal the tip of the iceberg. 

They are an important first step in the whole hiring process, but many times offer mainly a romanticized picture which is further obscured by the hiring manager in their attempt to find “the ideal candidate”. Making matters worse, job ads read as a shopping list of fantasy requirements created by multiple people (people that may or may not be directly involved with the position or know the ins and outs of the job), or could even have been copied and pasted from other job ads that are not connected to the vacancy itself. 

So before you jump the gun and put yourself out there as the perfect candidate, consider understanding the fallacy of jobs ads in general and try to get a better picture, not just before the first interview, but through the whole hiring process.

1) Lack of a clear problems and challenges

What is the number one problem you need to solve in the first 3,6,9, or 12 months? What’s the THING you need to accomplish? What are the main barriers ahead for that position which you’ll need to overcome?

Common content blocks within a job ad “usually” contain:

  • A job title
  • A brief description about the organisation
  • A summary of the position
  • A list of responsibilities that come with the job 
  • A list of requirements for the person applying (such as“must have and nice to have” requirements) 
  • Hiring conditions (Salary, contract duration, other benefits, etc)
  • Contact details (Email or telephone of recruiter, person in HR or Hiring Manager)

However, if you look closer and attempt to read between the lines, little to no information is available regarding the main priorities for the role, in terms of expected accomplishments within certain timeframes. 

Do you need to successfully launch a product? Will you need to enter a new market and generate revenue where nobody has done so before? Do you need to finalise a project under an impossible deadline? 

2) Lack of clear key results 

How will you know you will be doing a good job? What indicators are there that signal you qualify for a salary increase? How will your performance be judged and reviewed and by whom?

The list of responsibilities is the best place to start. That is, after all,what they will be paying you for. Show that you can offer them the best return on investment, and you just might get the job. However, before celebrating, be sure to have through conversations, beginning with the hiring manager. As you progress through the hiring process, ask to speak with some of your potential future colleagues to get a better feeling and understanding of what you will be doing and who you will be doing it with. Measurable key results are a two way street. It’s time well spent to get an introduction into how success will be measured, by whom and based on what objectives. What can they expect from you and vice versa.

It’s one thing to be responsible for:

  • Designing and running campaigns. Optimising them and then re-running. Recruiting and managing local agencies, and getting the best out of the relationship. Collaborating with our FMCG partners to develop bespoke campaigns.

It’s completely another one to: 

  • Design and run two annual creative campaigns in collaboration with external agencies that result in generating 1M leads and converting that into 4M annual revenue in our main FMCG category. 

3) Lack of team dynamics, politics, culture and tensions

Is the boss a respected individual to work with? Will they invest in your growth? What is it like to work there? Are cross-departmental communications healthy? What’s the composition of the team you will be working with? How do they deal with challenges? How do they solve internal conflict?

These are the “daily life” sort of question that will shine a light on what will keep you motivated and coming into the office day after day. The atmosphere, the team and how they operate within the larger organisation, stressful projects on the go, relationships with external suppliers and how integrated the internal administration systems are (like CRMs and databases). How are new staff members trained and by whom? What would ex-employees say about working here?

4) Lack of transparency 

What’s the budget (salary) for this position? What are other benefits in the package?

Pingpong tables and cereal bars are nice, but they won’t pay your mortgage and bills. So to save everybody time, job ads should be transparent about their offering (even though you and I both know that organisations aren’t always). So to overcome this, see what you can find out online, research the company. What are people that used to work for the organisation doing now? You both don’t want to waste time in the preliminary stages only to find out later that there’s a mismatch between salary and the job responsibilities. 

5) Full of vague language (or requirements overkill)

If the potential employer can’t describe what a job entails, how will they operate as a manager? If they list tons of basic requirements do they actually know what  they are looking for and what really gets the job done?

A job description full of vague language should be a major red flag for you, asit suggests an unfocused employer and a job that will lack structured goals and unclear expectations. 

We have all read that one job ad packed with phrases that either didn’t make any sense or listed out so many impossible skills and requirements, that was ridiculous overkill.

You know, like requesting 20 years of experience for a junior position. So before you spend time and energy tweaking your resume, writing a cover letter and mentally preparing for an application portraying yourself as the ideal or perfect candidate for a situation you barely know anything about, try to envision what your life would look like, and then decide if you would actually like to proceed. Is this list of impossible requirements foreshadowing the impossible demands that will be made on the “successful candidate”?

So what should you do in order to overcome these five problems?

Ask questions. Multiple times, in different ways.

Do your research either online or talking to people inside (and outside) of the company.

Be honest with yourself about all you know and have learned about the role before taking up on an offer.

If you think taking the time to find out the reality of a job is a waste of time, if you feel that doing research and asking humans you don’t know is out of your comfort zone, or you tell yourself that you don’t want to inconvenience people, imagine going through a whole application process during weeks or even months only to find out months later of signing a contract that you don’t like working there after all. 

To your success!

Mr. Cover Letter

Looking for a job is time consuming and frustrating. Mr. Cover Letter has everything you need to clarify your story and value, engage with hiring managers and get shortlisted and land a great job, faster.

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