How To Create Relevant JDs for 21st Century Arts Marketers

We must have reached a tipping point in this business and whatever the reason, all I know is that the last several weeks have seen a few dozen requests from CEOs and VPs cross my inbox related to what sorts of tech oriented skill sets should be included on contemporary marketing, box office, and communication job descriptions (JD). Most of my Venture Platform users do this on a regular basis whenever an opening arises because they’ve grown to value marketing and communication employees that possess skill sets that let them hit the ground running with items related to web content management and email marketing systems but that group has expanded to include colleagues and readers outside of that user group.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-024Sure, everyone is used to listing knowledge of MS Office and Adobe products as required qualifications (although based on content that comes across my desk, I always wonder how many actually or measure those skills) but step outside that comfort zone and you’ll start to see a number of generic descriptions such as “comfortable with technology” or “fluent in point of sale systems and content management systems.”

Whenever I see requirements described in that fashion it tells me the people doing the hiring don’t know which technology platforms they use and/or have no idea how to determine if someone is actually qualified anyway so they are just going to wing it and hope it turns out for the best.

Fortunately, you don’t need to go down that path and here are a few tips to help guide you along the road of meaningful JD qualifications:

  1. Be specific. Instead of asking for “CMS experience” find out which system you use and include it in the description. Someone may have mad skills with Joomla 1.0-2.0 but if your CMS is WordPress based, a candidate with moderate WordPress skills up through the most recent release likely has more value.
  2. Ask for help. In order to identify which skills are most valuable, ask your existing technology provider for a list a specific skills which are most applicable to your systems. Using WordPress here as another example, is the candidate fluent in HTML tags so as to clean up formatting discrepancies from poorly structured source content or typical WYSIWYG oriented errors? Do they know what shortcodes are and how to use them?
  3. Don’t underestimate detailed skills. It isn’t unusual to find the recent crop of marketing graduates to possess a comparably high degree of basic programming and design skills such as rudimentary CSS knowledge. Trust me, if you have a marketing manager that knows basic CSS syntax and can explain what @media only screen and (min-width : 768px) { p {color: red !important;}} means, you will be amazed at what s/he can likely accomplish (and for the sake of reference, the media query via this example is pretty simple as far as CSS goes).
  4. One fixer is worth a dozen visionaries. I’m a big believer in bureaucracies making the difference between success and failure. Sure, you need a good plan but if it is executed poorly, you’re still going to lose whereas a mediocre marketing plan executed efficiently will accomplish far more. To this end, look for skills that are most applicable to preventing or fixing the host of day to day nonsense that cripples implementation. Does the candidate know how to quickly fix the inadvertent line break problem resulting from trying to copy/paste from a pdf file or will it take them 40 min to manually correct each errant line break one by one? Do they know how to link your Google AdWords account to your Analytics and Webmaster accounts and properly track user flow?
  5. Anticipate having good problems. In an ideal situation, you’ll have two or more finalists who all seem qualified for the position with no clear way to determine who should receive the job offer. A great way to identify the finalist is to have a few real-world examples on hand to test proficiency in skill sets most valuable to your organization. Fix common document formatting problems; edit one of your web pages; locate, download, and edit a guest artist’s high resolution image into a specific websafe aspect ratio; create a trackable link in Google’s URL builder and properly insert it into your website or email blast; etc.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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