I find it fascinating that we talk about the past in a job description, what you’ve done. It seems backwards.

Think about it for a second. You’re a manager in a company that has a job that needs to be done in the future. You don’t have a) the talent required to do the future work, or b) the resources to assign to the problem.

You write a job description because there’s a problem that needs to be solved that no one can currently solve today. Now to be fair, a decent job description probably includes a paragraph or so about what you will probably be doing. Mostly it lists all the things you should have done to be considered for this future role.

And I ask you, awesome people, have you ever approached a problem in a job exactly the same way you have in the past in a previous role? No? Me neither.

Let me give you a real-life example of where I experienced this dissonance.

It was 2010, and I was interviewing with the CEO of Pandora, Joe Kennedy for the role of VP Ad Operations. I got the interview because current Pandora employees had recommended me for the job (thank you guys – still grateful) and my background showed that I had been rocking around in the Ad Technology space for a while.

Joe didn’t waste any time, and his first question threw me well into the deep end of questions to see if I “knew my stuff.” He asked, “So, do you think we should replace DFP as our ad serving system?” I responded, “I’m sorry Mr. Kennedy, but I think you’re asking the wrong question.” I then went on to talk him through why it was the wrong question, for the future of Pandora’s ad operations what I thought was the right question and the answer to it.

I won’t get into all the gory details of what we discussed. Let’s just say I said super sexy phrases like “scalable supply chain” and “incompatible units of measure.”

Ultimately I explained to him that based on what I’d learned (the past) that they would need to solve this problem (the future), and here was how I thought about solving the problem given more information.

As you know, I got the job.

So here’s the rub. Had Joe just interviewed me for the job as written, I wouldn’t have got the job. Looking at the job description now, they were looking for someone far more technical, someone who had actually implemented an ad serving system. In reality, my past didn’t match up with the job description. And no, this isn’t one of those “I don’t meet all the qualifications” situations that women tend to do. I really didn’t.

What I did know however was what problem they needed to solve in the FUTURE. Resolve problems before they started thinking about replacing their ad serving system. I knew too that I’d need to bring in someone with the background on the job description I’d read earlier that day.

We hired a LOT of awesome people at Pandora over my tenure there. Each and every one of them, like each and every person you’ve hired, was hired to do a job in the future.


PS. Yes – there’s a ton more to come on this topic. Even more on the similar ridiculousness of resumes. Stay tuned.

Originally published at www.joannabloor.com