Skip to main content
EmploymentHuman ResourcesRecruitment

Wordle Up: Job Descriptions for the Digital Age

By September 1, 20113 Comments

Some of you may remember my blog post last year about Job Descriptions being a waste of paper.  Well my views on this haven’t changed much at all.  In fact, if anything, I probably believe this even more vehemently than before.

Job Descriptions in their traditional form are such a painfully inert HR production they make me shudder.  People are not machines.  You cannot direct employees to undertake certain tasks by listing what percentage of their job will entail opening mail, what percentage greeting clients, and what percentage conducting sales calls.  The more you try and categorise a job, the more you attempt to constrain employees into straight-jackets of HR documentation and pre-ordained behaviours, the more they will switch off from the company’s true goals and visions and spend their time on Facebook instead.

We are in the digital age now where the entire way we access, acquire and digest information has changed utterly.  If any of you out there right now are writing a “White Paper” to release to your community to try and convey a sense of expertise in a subject…Stop Now.  Information consumers have regressed to childhood tendencies, requiring pretty pictures along with words to speed up understanding of data, and the vogue nowadays is for “Infographics” instead.  Even back in 2008 the web guru Jakob Nielsen stated that:

“On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”

So with all of this in mind, we at Rice Consulting faced a period of inward reflection last week.  Having decided that the time will soon be right to add some recruitment, administrative and marketing support to our team, it dawned on us that we might need to hash out some form of Job Description so we could actually get down on paper exactly what the role might look like and what type of person might be suitable to fill those shiny new shoes.  Over a nourishing Friday lunch of Velvet Burger with Double Browns, we poured forth our sparkling, and sometimes slightly strange, ideas onto a piece of paper.

What we ended up with was kind of reminiscent of the scrawled algebraic equations Russell Crowe wrote all over his dormitory windows in A Beautiful Mind.  And then, determined not to succumb to the eye-glazing drabness of a tradtional Job Description, I remembered the presentation by Simon Townsed of Deloitte at last month’s Australasian Sourcing Summit.  There, Simon introduced me to Wordle.  This is a website where you can enter a bunch of text into a box, click a button, and it will magically transform your words and data into a Word Cloud, which depicts words that occur more frequently as larger than words used less frequently.

So we did this for our jumbled up and confusing “job description” and this is what we ended up with:


Click here for a larger version

Pretty cool huh?  What we had created was not only a lot more visually appealing and interesting than a standard JD, but also enabled the viewers to very quickly assimilate the information and create an almost instant sense in their own mind of what the job might entail, what weighting would be placed in what areas, and whether their own preferences and tendencies would successfully marry up with what might be expected of them in the role.  And it took just a couple of seconds.

We then tried it earlier this week with another old-fashioned job description for a particular internal recruitment role.  The Wordle that was produced created an instant sense of the really key, important skills and experiences required for the right candidate, and immediately conjured up suitable candidates we had been interviewing over the past month, without even needing to resort to a “keyword search” of the database.

Try it for yourselves.  Find an old JD, or one for a role you are currently recruiting, copy and paste the text into Wordle, and see what is produced.  Any candidates suddenly spring to mind?

Wordle up people.  This is the end of boring old job descriptions as we know them.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Bree says:

    Great point!  I tested this by pasting a recent press ad I ran… Scarily for me, all the key words were task based.  As a recruiter, I pride myself on engaging at a “personal” level with my candidates and tapping into motivators and emotions as well as on the job tasks.  I’ve realised with this example I need to work on the balance of key-words I’m using.  What a wonderful tool to measure this?!

  • shaneo says:

    “They do lawyer things.” Best job description that I ever received. Wouldn’t look so good in Wordle though 😉

  • Karalyn says:

    Love the wordle. I use it for resumes as well!!