I’m Not Looking, But These Job Posts Just Suck

Job Description

BEWARE:  This is the beginning of a rant.  If you’re temperamental it might piss you off.  You’ve been warned, prepare to have a bit of rant with reality thrown on top for good measure.

I’m not looking for another gig.  I’m extremely happy with what I’m doing right now.  The Russell Team I’m working with absolutely rocks!  On our worst days we kick ass and on our best we kick ass, take names, and build lots of software with value for the company and users.  We produce software, with reasonable timelines, timelines that we have input into, with good business proponents, solid technology, quality code, and generally sound process.  All this with strong overtones of Scrum influence ala from the Agile Manifesto.  People on the team actually KNOW and have READ the Agile Manifesto – which is AWESOME!!!!  🙂

So now that I’ve got that declaration out of the way I want to write a very serious rant to managers who have never read the manifesto and claim they use an “Agile Process” or “agile” or whatever.  This is a statement and rant to those companies that go recruiting for top tier people (and rarely get them) with horribly written job descriptions and practices.  So let’s get started, and the developers out there, let me know if you are annoyed by these practices too!  I’d love to get an ear full form anyone from any side of this equation.

If you use an Agile influenced process (notice I said influenced, because really there is no such thing as an Agile Process – it’s an ideal, kind of like freedom and liberty) nobody should be reading or printing things like;

  • Agile = Agile Principles U Agile Best Practice
    Agile = Agile Principles U Agile Best Practice

    This project is being run using agile methodology.< Really? Which one? That isn’t very descriptive. It’s kind of like me saying, “I like to eat food, the cooked kind, sometimes, cuz it’s good!”  Yeah, really! Dear oh dear. Translation: “I went to a management conference and somebody said that I HAVE to use agile methodologies or I’d be a failure.”

  • Yeah, It's In There Somewhere, The Piece That Will Bind the Meaning of this Description Request!!
    Yeah, It’s In There Somewhere, The Piece That Will Bind the Meaning of this Description Request!!

    “Good understanding of software design and concepts and patterns.” <  First things first, there are way to many ands in that sentence. Second, Which design, concept, and patterns?  Microsoft’s, Computer Science, or Agile Manifesto related concepts. This again is a very vague statement.  Kind of like stating, “We want someone to write software that can write software”. For real!  😮

  • “Experience using Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework V4 with experience using Framework 3.5 with SQL Server.” WTF?!?!  Ok, you state you’re using the “agile process” but the first thing this does is prove you’ve probably broken the first manifesto point, people over tools. You’ve just declared tools, and in addition to that the tools are correlated incorrectly. Using SQL Server has ZERO to do with what .NET Framework you’re using. Using .NET 4 is almost identical to 3.5.  Declaring the version really isn’t necessary.  In addition, declaring a framework version with SQL Server would lead any decent developer to think that the project is already messed up since the tools description is correlating .NET 3.5 to SQL Server – which should make absolutely no difference.  Zero, Zilch, Nada!!!
  • “Familirarity with the basics of WPF, Silverlight, WCF, and Azure.” <- So every application in the universe is getting built?  This just adds to the confusion already generated by the oddball descriptions above. At this point a GOOD software developer would either stop reading and ignore the posting or be so curious as to why its screwed up they’d contact the recruiter or posting company. I know some developers that have literally contacted a company to ask, “what is being stated” in a job description.
  • “Awareness of Microsoft TSQL and database design principles.” <- Again, ok, but you already said SQL Server.  Maybe you mean some magical mystical unicorn generating SQL Server in that previous request and this is for just the SQL in the magical mystical unicorn SQL Service generating Unicorn TSQL Microsft TSQL Database Widget! Yeah, that’s it.
  • “Demonstrated ability to follow through with all tasks, promises, and committments.” <- Ok, I’ll admit, some places probably need to post this.  But when I see this, I’m putting my money on the idea the management probably sucks, and not a little bit but a whole lot. The other possibility is that the hiring staff have no idea how to communicate or infer if a person has basic abilities A company demanding the basic fealty of honesty and integrity in their employees in the job description something is SERIOUSLY wrong already.
  • Bad Communication Happening
    Bad Communication Happening

    “Ability to communicate and work effectively within priorities” <- Ok, with that previous demand of fealty and competence, this request right after is a HUGE read flag screaming that communication is most like NOT good in the environment the job is in.

  • Yeah, Do It, Do it RIGHT NOW!!!
    Yeah, Do It, Do it RIGHT NOW!!!

    “Ability to work under tight timelines in a fast-paced environment” <- Again, this completely throws out any concept of maintained velocity, a good agile understanding, or any hope that someone actually read or understands the Agile Manifesto and Principles. It also provides the hint that maybe, with a high likely hood, management is grasping at straws trying to keep things going in the right direction.

I wouldn’t be very likely to respond to this job entry if I was looking. Matter of fact I’d warn people (kind of like I’m doing with this blog entry). In my next entry I’ll provide some actual GOOD job descriptions and things that I would look for, if I were looking (which I’m not, as I’ve pointed out).

Frustrated...   looks like it.
Frustrated… looks like it.

…and don’t get confused, I’m not being a prima donna or demanding blue M & Ms only. I’m merely asking that people get their shit together and treat their prospective employees with some honesty and integrity also. Hiring practices leave a LOT to be desired in the world of the tech industry. They’re horribly inefficient from both perspectives.  It is hard to find people and hard to find good gigs that one can truly be happy with. I honestly feel though that getting this straightened out, if it is to be straightened out, is a better understanding on the hiring side and on maintaining a healthy, functional, and productive work environment.

Stay tuned, and I’ll have the “much closer to ideal” job posting ideas up here in the near future.  For now, I’m done ranting about this.

10 thoughts on “I’m Not Looking, But These Job Posts Just Suck

  1. I very much agree with your post. For technical positions, job postings and resumes are a good litmus test to see if the company or candidate is technically sound. Like most things, there is more depth to this. Is it the company, hiring manager or an HR associate that wrote the post? Does the company build software or is their bread and butter building widgets? Does the company have an dedicated IT team or that one guy in the corner holding it all together?

    The answers to all of these questions likely land you back in the same place, is this the right fit for [me]? If [me] is a rock star developer who is highly evolved and experienced, the technical precision and use of adult words in the posting are relevant. If [me] is a struggling developer who loves to code, but is slow to learn and does just enough to get things working, the job post you describe might seem inviting. There are plenty of levels of [me] out there, all matched with their associated job posts.

    With that, as you have alluded to, companies don’t put enough into the hiring process. “We need another [X] because of the new deal we just closed” will produce a posting that has been resurrected from from the archives, is completely outdated and folks don’t make the effort to update. I personally think that someone who holds the technical reputation for the organization should be accountable for ALL technical position postings. This would at least catch some of these problematic postings.

    Keep up the good work!

    PS. I wonder how many postings get changed in flight by recruiting firms trying to find the best match. I know they modify resumes.

  2. I don’t think the problem is the writing skill of people who write job posts. I think the problem is corporate culture that reduces the subtleties of hiring to useless checklists. This is why so many hiring managers claim they can’t find the right people even as well qualified people remain unemployed.

    1. Valid argument Isaac, and generally, I agree. But as long as people keep asking for “specs” to fill they’ll keep getting the bullshit descriptions that don’t really mean much of anything. It’s sort of just sad. 🙁

  3. I saw this in a job posting recently: “Be a problem-solver, not just a problem alerter. Problem alerters are a dime a dozen. It is easy to sit around and point out the flaws of any system, product or organization. needs problem solvers. Problem solvers are the real innovators in this world.”

    As someone who had worked at said company, I can say what keeps the problem alerters from being problem solvers is not too much sitting around alerting. But along the theme of your post, that kind of diatribe does not bode well in a job posting.

  4. Nice rant Adron. Bad job descriptions are so frustrating. Maybe I can shed a little light on the matter. When I first got into recruiting I was frustrated daily by trying to interpret descriptions that are ambiguous, wrong or just plain silly.

    I’m not sure how much a bad description reflects on management. It could just be a busy manager or hr person who wasn’t able to get clear thoughts down on paper. It happens in every organization whether it’s functioning at a high level or not. Hopefully most of the time, the good organizations get it right.

    A year later I recognize that bad job descriptions just come with the territory. We do our best to clarify ambiguous descriptions or ask for better ones from the client. We don’t usually rewrite jd’s, but sometimes it’s appropriate.

    We find out a lot about a job from interviews. That’s really where the details come through. When we feel like the existing description isn’t really telling the story that we’re hearing from interviews we might do some edits to clarify. But it’s not super common for us.

    Just like a resume should reflect the basic skills and experiences of a person to be used to roughly filter a pool of candidates and frame the conversation in an interview. The job description should be thought of as basically just a rough outline to attract qualified candidates and help with filtering out candidates who aren’t qualified. All of the real work in the hiring process happens when people talk to people.

    Just my $.02. I’m always up for a friendly conversation. If anyone would like to discuss it further, hit me up on linkedin or twitter.

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