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Ravishankar Iyer

#SOTD 90: A job opening that reads like a story (Ali Abdaa

publishedabout 1 month ago
3 min read

Ali Abdaal is a well-known YouTuber with more than 3M subscribers, who creates videos about ideas and tools to improve your productivity, health and happiness (ambitious goal!).

He also runs highly successful online cohort based courses including 'Part Time YouTuber Academy'. Check if out if you want to up your YouTube game!

Apart from being an accomplished creator and thinker, Ali is also writes with clarity and heart. Check out his weekly newsletter 'Sunday Snippets'. I've come across some great book recommendations there.

Today however, I want to focus on something very different that Ali put out. Not a video, not a post and not a newsletter.

But a job opening.

It's for his Full-time assistant role.

How can a job application use storytelling techniques, you may wonder?

Here are four that I found (#4 is my favourite).

1. Clear 1-line BLUF (Bottom-line Upfront) at the beginning

Ali starts with a clear summary of the role:

I'm looking to hire an executive assistant as a full-time, in-person position to hang out with me all day every working day, and help me run the business, manage my life and create decent content that helps people live their best lives 😉

Check out how the description is focused on the benefits for Ali and his end customers.

2. Tell the applicant What's in it for them

After mentioning the role's objective, Ali moves on to why the applicant should strongly consider the role:

My 2 previous assistants (Elizabeth and Dan) have both moved on to different roles in the business. Elizabeth started her own YouTube channel which has really taken off, and so she's a key player in our Part-Time YouTuber Academy. Dan's become our head of finance / legal / HR / people for our team of 20.

In this section, Ali is answering the 'so-what' (is in it for me) question and using social proof (examples of successful previous assistants).

3. Be honest about who this is not for

Broadly, there are 2 aspects to the role - admin and ideas.
Being completely honest, I suspect most people (including me) would find the admin side super boring and dry. If that’s you, then please don’t apply for this job - having recruited for EA/PAs in the past, there seem to genuinely be people out there who actually enjoy organisation and admin and logistics. I don’t understand it, but if that’s you, then you’re the person I’m looking for.

If there are non-glamorous parts to the job, be upfront about acknowledging them... In fact look for people who revel in that kind of work!

4. Make the abstract concrete - use specific examples

Here's one of the requirements under the Admin section:

Helping me keep on top of iMessage / WhatsApp messages. Ideally each day you’d look through all my personal and work emails and messages, and figure out what we need to do about each of those.

Most job descriptions would just have that and nothing else. But Ali brings this point alive with concrete examples:

Helping me keep on top of iMessage / WhatsApp messages. Ideally each day you’d look through all my personal and work emails and messages, and figure out what we need to do about each of those.
1. Arranging stuff
You: We’ve got a Twitter DM from [author x], she’ll be in London next week and wants to hangout. What do you reckon?
Me: Hell yeah, I’ve been reading her books for like 10 years.
You: Perfect, I’ll figure out some times that you’re available for food and suggest some timings, and then I’ll sort the restaurant booking at a place that’s convenient for both parties.
Me: Sick.
2. Replying to friends
You: Ali, you’ve got a WhatsApp message from [friend X] inviting you to a birthday dinner on [date]. You’re free that evening, but you’ve got an early flight the following morning. What do you reckon?
Me: Yea let’s do it, and I guess if it’s really late I can always leave early.
You: Cool, I’ll confirm you’ll be there, I’ll add it to the calendar with travel time taken into account, and I’ll suggest some ideas for a gift you could take. The restaurant is a 20-minute walk away, and it looks to be sunny that day, so it could be a nice walk, or alternatively you could Uber it which would take 15 minutes.
Me: Cool, I’ll walk. This is incredible, you’ve just made my life infinitely easier. You’re the best.
3. Replying to friends v2
You: Ali, you’ve got an iMessage from [friend Y] who wants to hop on a call to discuss something important, they haven’t said what it’s about
Me: Cool, can you ask them to give me a ring at any point today and I’ll make time for it.
You: Sure thing, they’ll ring in a few minutes.
Me: Sick

I just LOVED this section. Note the concreteness of each example. The conversational tone. The 'show-dont-just-tell' approach.

It is a masterclass.

Most importantly, given the criticality of the role, it looks like Ali has written this entirely himself and not outsourced it to HR or an intern. His unique voice shines through every sentence.

Hiring is perhaps one of the most important roles of a leader - they should ideally put down the thoughts for the role requirement in their own words. Even better, make it a story.

#SOTD 90

Ravi

PS: Here is the context for #SOTD and the 'Ultimate Guide to Storytelling Techniques' framework I use - in case you joined this series late! Here is the archive of previous posts. Click here to subscribe.