Purple Cow Job Description?
I am not qualified for this job but…is anyone?
They are looking for the purple cow. The ideal candidate does not exist!
I am going out on a limb to say that most job descriptions are badly written.
In my last corporate job, I had an open position to fill. I had to write a job description. Did I know how to write a job description? NO!
I went onto Indeed.com and searched for openings with the same job title. When I found one I liked, I copied it!
Did I know what a good description should look like? NO!
I am sure that the job description I picked was as vague as any other one I had ever seen.
I was expanding my team for a training and certification program. I wanted a technical trainer who was familiar with the program and was already certified. We had certified less than a thousand people worldwide. The candidate needed to have five years of technical training experience and be located in Austin, Texas.
The odds of finding someone who was certified in the topic, had five years of experience as a technical trainer AND lived in Austin, was close to ZERO! No, it WAS ZERO.
I was looking for the Purple Cow!
Did I write the job description saying I wanted everything? YES!
Note: This post was originally posted in August of 2014 and updated in September of 2018
Dissecting the Job Description
We will want to look at:
- High-level job description
(More: Is the Resume Still Relevant? )
High-Level Job Description
Can you honestly see yourself in this job? One of the problems with high-level job descriptions is they are so vague. Do not write yourself off even if it does not look like a fit just yet.
Perform a Google search using the high-level job description and see what comes up.
Read through this section carefully. Have you actually performed more than half of the responsibilities described? If so, you are probably qualified.
More importantly, do you want to have all of these responsibilities? For those of us in the 2nd half of life, we do not want the grind of lower-level tasks.
Check out each item in the requirements/qualifications section of the job description:
- How many of the requirements/qualifications do you have? Make sure you meet at least half of the requirements/qualifications.
- Do you have equivalent requirements/qualifications? Do you have existing skills that you can map to what is in the job description? How long would it take, given your current experience, to attain what is needed?
Take some time to diagram out how your experience directly relates to these requirements. Creating a visual will help you determine whether this is a good fit for you, and give you a way to explain why you are a good fit.
Do you have:
- All of the required educational credentials?
- The preferred educational credentials?
- The experience that can be substituted for any of the credentials?
One way to get around having all of the educational credentials is to put in your resume a statement like the following:
20 years of experience in xxxxxx…in lieu of an MBA.
This will often get you past the applicant tracking systems and at least get you a phone interview for you to prove your worth.
Havard Business Review recently published an article Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified. Basically, the author opens the article with the statement:
You’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.
Women appear to be especially susceptible to the Purple Cow job description and will tend not to apply.
Ladies, is this true based on your experience?
Do Not Be Afraid of the Purple Cow
The purple cow job description is an outgrowth of the explosion of technology that has been injected into the hiring process. The fact is, most companies do not use this technology effectively, or to be blunter, they do not know how to hire. You may want to read my post on 5 Things You Will Never Know About the Hiring Process on how broken the hiring process is at some companies.
Lastly, if you are following a targeted job search strategy, you will have an internal contact within the company. Ask your contact to find out what the hiring manager is really looking for!
Your next job is going to come via a relationship.
Have you encountered a Purple Cow job description?