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Why HR Departments Shouldn’t Write Online Marketing Job Ads

Almost every day I come across an employment ad for a digital marketing or social media-related position clearly written by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. A recent ad posted to Mashable by the Chicago office of a national nonprofit is a perfect example of this. I won’t name the organization here, though you can click through to find out who it is, but here’s a shortened version of what the ad said (emphasis added):

Director of Digital Strategy
Develop and execute an online outreach that will enable (this org) to reach its goals of building awareness, donors, and advocates…Serve as the organizational thought leader in the development of (this org’s) online communication strategy to increase (material) donations, financial donations and advocates…BA/BS in Communication, Marketing or Related field. Committed to organizational mission of ending hunger. 12+ years of progressive online media / digital marketing experience; including social media strategy and execution.

Whoa, there, big fella. How many years? Twelve? Or more? Really? Here’s why that requirement may shoot this organization’s candidate search in the foot:

  • The social-media space has existed in TOTAL for about six years, and in popular use for even less than that;
  • Total national digital marketing spends prior to 2002 accounted for less than 3% of overall marketing spends–meaning as recently as eight years ago, the majority of the marketing profession nationally had no experience with the online sphere, whatsoever;
  • According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of American adults weren’t even online in 1998, meaning most Americans didn’t even have email 12 years ago, much less the ability to be marketed to online.

Taken altogether, the implication is that the number of people who will have the years of experience required by this job ad is so small it’s almost ludicrous.

The ad was probably written by a well-meaning program or HR manager, pasting in “12 years+” as their organization’s standard experience requirement for director jobs of this level. However, because of that requirement, qualified candidates may end up rejected simply on the basis of them not having a mythical amount of experience that almost no one, anywhere, could possibly have.

And if they did, that means in 1998, unless they were working on fly-by-night banner ads, they likely worked for a top-flight, forward-thinking marketing firm or, frankly, AOL. And at this point in their careers, unless they’ve been recently laid off–which in this economy admittedly is always a possibility–I sincerely doubt a nonprofit could afford them.

The moral of the story for anyone responsible for releasing a nonprofit job ad into the wild is this: make sure you know exactly what’s in the ad before you publish it. If you’re not adequately familiar with the technology, terminology, or background of the job in question, have someone who is review your ad copy. And if you’re wondering why your digital-marketing or social-media candidate search is taking so long, it might be a good idea to run a reality check on your job ad.

Categories: Blog & Social Media Tips Branding & Marketing

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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9 replies

  1. You’re welcome, NPG. And drat. I should have copied that ad for posterity. At any rate, it was the Chicago office of a national nonprofit. I contacted them about the ad, too. As you might expect, they never responded back.

  2. Just keep running that ad for another 6 years and some people might start to qualify…

    Too bad I didn’t catch this entry earlier since the job posting has since expired, would liked to have seen what company is dangling such a high banana. Hilarious, thanks for the post Mike!

  3. George, that’s a really, good point. So why is it that whoever is supposed to be supervising hiring managers these days doesn’t actually seem to supervise them? I mean, when a job remains open for months or–as I’m sure all of us have repeatedly seen–gets reposted for months without a hire happening, doesn’t anyone higher up ever (ahem) take notice? Such jobs could remain open for so long not just because the hiring manager has unrealistic expectations about experience, but about compensation, too. This may be a tough economy, but no one with an immense amount of experience is going to be taking a pissant, poorly paid local nonprofit job. If they were laid off, chances are, they were the first to be rehired somewhere else, too. I mean, hello? Is this thing on?

  4. @Mike Doyle: That 12 years experience thing. I bet you a pair of tickets to that movie “Bear Nation” it was written by the hiring manager not the HR person.

    The high unemployment rate has really WARPED hiring managers expectations on talent. They all think there is some former Doubleclick or Google employee with 10+ years experience who can’t wait to get off the dole and take my open job on the cheap.

    Hiring managers tell me all the time: That person HAS to be out there. Then they wonder why their job is still unfilled after 90 days……

    In my non profit I would kill to have the marking person write my job ads. They are too busy doing sexy things, like planning events, posting things on the Facebook group and thinking about “brand identity” (do you see the irony here) to even copy edit my ads.

  5. Thanks, William. I’ve that experience, myself. It’s always a creepy feeling when you realize you’re having–very carefully–to educate the person who is responsible for allowing your interview process to move forward.

  6. 🙂 Laugh out loud is right. I like the analysis you did on the % of people who had email in 1998! HR is one of those departments I try to avoid at all costs. The majority of job postings are so non-specific it is easy to tell whoever wrote it has no idea what it says. The majority of recruiters I know admit to knowing very little about technologies they recruit for and when you get on the phone with one, it is easy to tell that they wouldn’t know .Net from Java.
    Nice post, Mike!

  7. Thanks, Phil. I give HR departments a lot of credit for wading through thousands of resumes in an economy like this. But this job posting made me laugh out loud.

  8. Great post, Mike. I’m digging your stuff.

    I can name a litany of things that HR people shouldn’t be able to do. This is clearly one of them.

    What? You didn’t work on social media before it was invented? I see….(check against you).

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