The Purple Cow Job Description – Should I Apply?

Job SearchPersonal Branding

Finding A Job photo from ShutterstockPurple Cow Job Description?

I guarantee you have read a purple cow job description. It’s one of those that, when you finished reading it, you said to yourself:

I am not qualified for this job but… is anyone?

They are looking for the purple cow. The ideal candidate does not exist!

I am going out on a limb to say that most job descriptions are badly written.

In my last corporate job, I had an open position to fill. I had to write a job description.

Did I know how to write a description? NO!

I went onto and searched for openings with the same job title. When I found one I liked, I copied it!

I was expanding my team for a training and certification program. I wanted a technical trainer who was familiar with the program and was already certified. We had certified less than a thousand people worldwide.

The candidate needed to have five years of technical training experience.

I wanted someone who was already located in Austin, Texas.

The odds of finding someone who was certified in the topic, had five years experience as a technical trainer, AND lived in Austin was close to ZERO!

I was looking for the Purple Cow!

Did I write the job description saying I wanted everything? YES!

Dissecting the Job Description

We will want to look at:

  • High level job description
  • Responsibilities
  • Requirements/Qualifications
  • Education

High Level Job Description

Can you honestly see yourself with this title? One of the problems with high level job descriptions is they have become so vague. Do not write yourself off even if it does not look like a fit just yet.


Read through this section carefully. Have you actually performed more than half of the responsibilities described?


Check out each item in the requirements/qualifications section of the job description:

  • How many of the requirements/qualifications do you have? Make sure you meet at least half of the requirements/qualifications.
  • Do you have equivalent requirements/qualifications? Do you have existing skills that you can map to what is in the job description? How long would it take, given your current experience, to attain what is needed?


  • Do you have all of the required educational credentials?
  • Do you have the preferred educational credentials?
  • Do you have experience that can be substituted for any of the credentials?

One way to get around having all of the educational credentials is to put in your resume a statement like the following:

20 years of experience in xxxxxx…in lieu of an MBA.

This will often get you past the applicant tracking systems and at least get you a phone interview for you to prove your worth.

Do Not Be Afraid of the Purple Cow

Lastly, if you are following a targeted job search  strategy, you will have an internal contact within the company. Ask your contact to find out what the hiring manager is really looking for!

Marc MillerCareer Pivot

Check out my book Repurpose Your Career – A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers

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