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Improve your software developer job post

March 5, 2012


A few weeks, a hiring manager on Reddit asked the readers of cscareerquestions were they look for jobs, and expressed frustration with the developer candidates HR sent his way.  The developers sent up a few guesses about why the hiring process was going badly for him.  Maybe your HR people are filtering based on simple keyword searches because they have no idea what the position actually does.  Maybe you’re doomed because you’re looking for C++ developers in a city where the only other C++ work (high frequency trading) pays extremely well.  Maybe it’s your job description.

He posted the job description.  It was definitely the job description.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The software developer’s role is to design, code, test, and analyze software programs and applications. This includes researching, designing, documenting, and modifying software specifications throughout the production lifecycle. The software developer will also analyze and amend software errors in a timely and accurate fashion and provide status reports where required. ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS: Strategy & Planning • Assist other developers, analysts, and designers in conceptualizing and developing new software programs and applications. • Plan phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC) for a variety of projects. • Assist in the preparation and documentation of software requirements and specifications. • Research and document requirements of software users. Acquisition & Deployment • Conduct research on emerging application development software products, languages, and standards in support of procurement and development efforts. • Recommend, schedule, and perform software improvements and upgrades. blah blah blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH

Yes, it was formatted just like that, too.  But formatting aside, what’s wrong with this?  I bet it describes the position accurately.  It also describes every other software development position on the planet.  (Don’t believe me?  Google any of the sentences in the excerpt above and see how many postings use those exact words.)  This posting went on for another hundred words or so before it finally mentioned ANYTHING specific to the position.  3 characters, “C++”.

Don’t put anything in the job description that I already know!  Solid candidates aren’t interested in reading a description of a what a software engineer is.  They want to know what the job is like and why yours is better than the others they are considering.  Drop the bit about modifying software to meet business requirements, or the necessity of working well individually or in a team.  Instead, tell me:

What project will I work on? Is it fun?  Will it make a positive difference in people’s lives?  What will I learn while I’m doing it?

Is there any proof that the existing team is any good?  Maybe you have a nifty product already in the Market, or your lead dev speaks at conferences.

Are you willing to pay to get the best coders? If so, speak up!  N.B. The only thing “Market” or “Competitive” suggests is that you don’t pay a top-end compensation package.  It transmits no other useful information.

Does the hiring manager have actual technical knowledge?

Is there beer in the fridge?  Do people like each other enough to hang out after work?

Does your company have any personality?  Can you break through the Office Space-style language enough to show that a thinking human being wrote this, and a thinking human being will read my resume?

If you don’t know the answer to those questions, go back and talk to the development team.  Maybe even ask the junior ones, the ones who aren’t yet fluent in corporate-speak.  Ask them why they work at your company.  If they have a decent answer, that’s your job post.  If they don’t, you’ve got a much bigger problem.

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