A job description recently went up for a high level position at a company. It was the the leader of the publishing arm of the company. Since the company had many high profile publications, and were facing fierce competition, they wanted to make sure they hired the right person. With the help of HR, they carefully crafted a job description that would encompass all the aspects of the position and the challenges that they would face going forward.
Who did they want for this position? Let’s look at the requirements for the candidate:
- An advanced degree – PhD preferred
- An advanced degree in a field that many of the customers of the publication had, but had nothing at all to do with publishing
Nobody seemed to tell these people that people usually get PhDs so they can be published, not publish someone else’s content. They also didn’t tell them that it might be helpful to have an advanced degree in, oh I don’t know, a publishing related field.
This reminded me of a few times in my career where I was told I could not move forward because I didn’t have a certain certification. Now, this certification wasn’t mandatory for any position I was applying for. It wouldn’t replace the experience, the knowledge of the organization, or the subject matter knowledge that I had accumulated. Would it have helped? Yes. Was it a deal breaker in terms of being able to do the job? No.
The above two examples, the degree and the certification are nothing more than vanity plates for the department or the organization. They are to be used for bragging rights, not for job performance. They will not help move business forward, get things done, or improve the conditions of anyone. Sadly, the opposite at times happens. The person meets all the vanity qualifications and is horrible at their job. The company or department has focused so hard on getting someone who fills out the vanity that they shortchange whether the person is a good manager, knowledgeable in the field, or has the qualifications that really matter. Everyone suffers then.
Let’s start focusing on what truly matters for an organization:
- Has the knowledge, skills, and background to do the job required
- Has an impressive track record of people management and leadership, showing how they raised the standard for people-focused leadership
- Can make a positive impact on the company and its people
If they happen to have an impressive piece of paper as well, so much the better. However, let’s put the truly important things first instead of the vanity plates.