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You Get What You SEO For

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There are times when I long for a simpler, non-SEO-oriented world where job titles and functions aren’t twisted and deliberately conflated to be anything anyone might be searching for in a vaguely related discipline. As someone who tries to keep an eye out for opportunities, I find that much of my time is wasted by remarkably specific job titles that resonate with my skill set only to reveal that the skills and experience required for the position don’t have anything to do with the title.

Sure, there are some companies like Zappos that might have nonsensical titles like “Time Ninja” instead of “Administrative Assistant,” and I give those culturally-oriented decisions a pass. After all, most of us would love to work in a place where our position was less cookie cutter and more deliberately aligned with both our talents and the cultural identity of the company we work for. Likewise, I’m not bothered about the government-like titles such a as “Aviation Technical Systems Specialist,” because it is a given that those don’t mean anything at all unless one searches the specific requirements of the position.

No, I’m talking about positions with such lofty-but-simple titles as “Human Capital Consultant” or “Organizational Change Manager” or “Employee Engagement Consultant” that, upon further examination, are truly and purely technology implementation positions (in all of these cases). Why does this matter? Well, because as a person with limited time and very strong Google-fu (think kung-fu; words, not letters), I find that I still have to wade through dozens of results along the lines listed before I find a single job with skills and experience requirements that have anything to do with human capital, organization change, or employee engagement, as disciplines. Combine this with the multitudes of articles and posts by recruiters and HR complaining that they aren’t getting good applicants, then I can only say, you are getting the perfectly tuned nothing that goes with the fantastic obfuscation and vagueness of your job postings.

The only advice I can apply at this time is simply to throw the same advice given to applicants back at you: where you expect neatly tailored resumes, it is up to you to tailor your job posting for the type of candidate you want. As far as the complaining about unqualified applicants go, you really haven’t a leg to stand on if your posting comes up at the top of every search across dozens of professions — it should only be at the top of the relevant searches, not all of them. SO, if you want someone with SaaS experience in an enterprise environment, make sure that searches to that effect are what bring your position to the top of the pile. If you want candidates with specific soft skills, make sure the position is easy for those people to find. Hiding a technical job behind a soft skills title isn’t getting anyone anywhere, and is just adding to the frustration on both sides of the job search.

I dream of a time when I can search for “employee engagement consultant” and only see jobs with both that title (or something closely related) and actually requiring skills and experience with employee engagement, but I’m not going to hold my breath. In the mean time, while people continue to advertise for technology experts with soft skills job titles, maybe the people who actually need help with employee engagement and the like will flip the table. I think the best course is for them to step-up their active search for people with those skills instead of dropping a job posting and hoping it doesn’t get lost in the pile of similarly-searched technology positions. After all, there can’t be as many true experts in those high end soft skills as there are technology people, if the ratio of related job postings is any indication.

About the Author

Dr. Philip D. Mann is an experienced trainer, speaker, and problem solver who gets things done. His primary expertise is employee engagement and the people side of how organizations grow and (resist) change. He also knows a thing or two about the government works, and those principles apply to all large, bureaucratic structures. If you need help getting things done, reach out to Dr. Mann here on LinkedIn or at

Published inDecisions and Decision AnalysisEmployee EngagementLeaders and ManagersLinkedInRecruitmentRelationships

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