Design Dilemma: Why Are Job Ads So… Weird?

Have you wondered why job ads for designers have become a laundry list of impossible requirements or why job titles have become so diverse? Instead of “web designer” or “graphic designer,” titles read “graphic communications specialist,” “marketing creative associate,” “social media designer,” or “art-thingy person to abuse.” All of these, however, demand full experience and job requirements of an experienced designer.

At a design organization meeting, we all tend to share job postings we have seen and laugh about the ridiculous list of required skills and wonder who among us could ever fill these God-like positions. The answer is: No one! So, join us as we delve into another weird Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.

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Wanted: Former Kryptonian

To my surprise, I received an email from a friend of mine about a job ad she saw. She’s a very talented and business-savvy designer who was confused about a this job opening and all the requirements. After reading the job requirements, I understood her confusion as to what the employer wanted and who would have those kind of abilities, and experience.

“Gigi” wrote:

The reason of my dropping a note is related to a recent article you wrote. Actually, I’m sure you’ve touched upon the topic more than once related to one’s worth as a creative.

I received a LinkedIn message from a former AiP affiliate who is now a “staffer” for The Creative Group. While I appreciate her thoughtfulness, I’m dumbfounded at some of the verbiage in the posting she’s sharing with the notion that I am suited. Have I gone soft?

Sample of Job Duties:

  • Responsible for all of company branding including print materials, website(s) and trade show graphics.
  • Create and/or update renderings of events and stage designs.
  • Communicate with clients and vendors to translate design concepts into viable solutions.
  • Create and maintain creative archives.
  • May be required to work nights, weekends, holidays, split shifts, as well as very early mornings and late nights.
  • Travel to show / event sites to provide graphics support.
  • Load graphics equipment into shipping containers. Therefore, must occasionally lift and/or move up to 75 pounds.

The “Job Req’s” are the usual, in my opinion, with the exception of the combo of these last 2 bullets being slightly over the top:

  • Proficient in the following software: Adobe CS InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator. Vectorworks and 3D Studio Max. MS PowerPoint and other presentation software, Audio & video editing applications. MS Word.
  • AutoCAD and HTML, CSS and WordPress skills a plus.

… All for the grand prize sum of $60,000/year… DOE (depending on experience, which means it could be less).

I see ads like this one every day. They are a laundry list of wants and desires, but one needs to have studied for two or three careers to fulfill them. I don’t know if they get filled with someone who fills 60%-80% of the list, or they just give up looking and change their “must have list.” $60K seems low to me for what they are asking. Moving 75 pounds of equipment is laughable, but not as much as the hours they are demanding.

I see lots of ads for a social media manager who has experience with all programming languages, web and graphic design, administrative work, etc., blah, blah. From what I can tell, they settle for a designer and hope everything else they want just kind of falls into place. What a world!

I could only answer back that she was too good for this “job.” Still, it begs the question of; do these ads provide candidates that fill the entire list of requirements? When they don’t, what happens?

The Dream Vs. the Reality

When you see a job ad that has very high hopes in finding a designer who is basically three people, wrapped up into one, it means one of two things:

  1. They have no idea what creatives do, how it’s done, how long it takes and why most creatives can’t lift 75 pounds while creating a website in AutoCad or PowerPoint.
  2. The person who had the job before dying of a hernia and/or frustration at being constantly told, “can’t you just push a button on the computer and fix this stock photo to have his hands up in the air?” was able to do everything they list on the job ad.

After I left one art director position, the magazine wrote up their job ad based on what I did on a daily basis. I sounded like a God! They eventually had to hire two people to fill all of their desired needs (what an ego boost for me!).

“If they expect more work than can be done in 40-80 hours a week… adding weekends, nights and holidays, just taking bathroom breaks will be a negative tick on your year-end reviews.”

Most of the time, it’s a wishlist of what they want for their business to move forward. If you can handle at least 75% of their requirements, then you should apply, but keep in mind several factors:

  1. If the application process is done through online forms, any skills you don’t have will knock out your résumé as it doesn’t fit all of the required keyword filters. Just add the missing skills into your résumé and explain that those skills are “beginner level” if you get an interview. Just sign up for and bone up on the basics before you start the job so you can fake it for a while.
  2. Hope nobody else being interviewed has more of those skills than you do. If so, break their arm so they can’t lift 75 pounds.
  3. Better to be in the running for consideration when the employer realizes that no human could ever fill their requirements and they settle for less.

There are, however, clues that you may not want to work for the firm, despite a ridiculous list of impossible tasks:

  1. “DOE” (Depending On Experience) either means they want less experience so they can pay less.
  2. When they realize they really need to hire two people to lift 75 pounds, as well as the other requirements, chances are they will split the $60,000 and probably not evenly.
  3. If they expect more work than can be done in 40-80 hours a week… adding weekends, nights and holidays, just taking bathroom breaks will be  negative tick on your year-end reviews.
  4. If they list, “at least one year of experience desired,” they desire paying you minimum wage.
  5. When it comes to working as a designer, take a career move and not just a job. You’ll get stuck in it for too long and you’ll end up hating every minute of it.

Get to Work!

We are in a time when owning a computer and graphic software, even the free stuff like Gimp, has people believing they are “professional designers.” They may apply to open job positions but they are no competition for real professionals. They might get hired by some fluke, but they won’t keep those jobs.

I’ve turned down quite a few job offers over the years, including several from large corporations because the job descriptions (and the money) were lacking as something that I would enjoy going to everyday, lifting my 75 pound rear out of bed. As I said to “Gigi,” she was way too talented to even consider accepting such a job as she described, and she knew it. When it comes to your career, don’t settle for craziness.

Send Us Your Dilemma!

Do you have a design dilemma? Speider Schneider will personally answer your questions — just send your dilemma to [email protected]

Stock Photos Courtesy of Creative Market