Most of us do not end up in employment that we might describe as vocational. Of course, some of us are nurses, train drivers and vets but the percentage of the population holding down what could be described as genuinely vocational jobs is fairly, if not very, low.

Indeed, if I take a randomly searched set of roles for one of the UK's largest employers, searched simply under ‘management jobs’, we can see people get to be things like Accounts Receivable Administration Assistants (not a management job, but dubious search returns are another subject), Corporate Commercial Managers, Workplace Facilities Managers and even a Programme Office Coordinator (Full Time).

In the long past days of engaging in ‘pretend play’ with my kids I often found myself on the receiving end of instructions as to who I was going to ‘be’, e.g. "Abigail can be the doctor, I will be the vet and Daddy you can be the Regional Programme lead."

Well, possibly not the last bit. 

Kids are inspired by the sort of jobs where they can see meaning. Which is, of course, true of all of us.

And yet, many people with roles for which the job descriptions sound, frankly, soul-destroying will be fulfilled, finding work that genuinely contributes to their happiness. For many, many people, formatting a spreadsheet is significantly higher on the pleasure-o-meter than dressing wounds or putting out fires.

The trouble is the jobs that need the most explanation are often the ones that get virtually none. My random trawl of job descriptions from a great employer (that will have invested a lot in employer branding over the years) led me to job descriptions that are literally a selection of dry bullet points. On the day of my visit to the site, a glitch had replaced even the company logo with a serial number for the role. Placing a possibly quite pleasant job into the context of prison camp guard in some strange dystopian future.

Yes, the opening pages of the website talk about the very real meaning of the work at the organisation in question, which affects the lives of most of us in the UK. But a huge percentage of applicants (over 40% based on our data from over 90m apply clicks last year) will get to the job description only. Some great candidates, who may have exactly the skills for the job and the emotional attributes to make them successful and happy in it, may lack the imagination to picture a future that is very badly described and not apply. While others may have the imagination to see a role that doesn’t really exist, apply and be miserable.

Great job descriptions should leave nothing to chance by giving a compelling picture of the role and everything a candidate should need to rule themselves in or out of making an initial application. 

Great job descriptions move from message to meaning.

Great job descriptions are rare. Failing to make them better will continue to result in some people missing out on great futures, some people being miserable and organisations being less effective.

So definitely we need to communicate the employer brand but we need to tell the story at the level of the job and we need to tell the story of the job. It’s not hard to do, we have the technology.


If you want to chat about job descriptions - or anything else related to talent attraction - you can find me on Twitter @GarethCEdwards or via email

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Executive Vice President, Europe

Gareth Edwards leads the AIA business in the UK, and TMP business in Europe, and is focused on driving the agency’s strategy and creating a business that is driven by creativity, powered by technology and focused on people. Gareth has held a variety of senior roles in the industry and has worked with a wide range of clients in sectors including retail, banking, professional services and central government to help them develop and execute their talent marketing strategies.