What’s wrong with today’s tech job descriptions?

Job descriptions, Developer job descriptions, Senior developer job descriptions, how to write a job descriptions

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“Love brunch? Have we got a job for you? Live for brunch, drink an Aperol Spritz®, look great, and collect a paycheck — it’s a hard job but, hey, someone’s got to do it.” This job description for Chief Brunch Officers sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

But it is true. In 2014, Campari launched a wonderful social media campaign for Aperol lovers to spread the happiness of the delicious Italian aperitif, which has been touted as the most fashionable drink of 2017. Sigh! Although such dream roles are few, we’d settle for good jobs that at least sound appealing.

Job descriptions are what your applicants see before all else. It can accomplish so much if done right.

And, this is especially true in case of tech jobs.

When you ask for team players, whatever do you mean?

Do you mean they shouldn’t ideally question authority? Heaven, forbid.

Or, “Works with minimal supervision” means what? That if anything goes awry, he or she gets the blame possibly? Or it could just mean what it says: your manager is too busy to keep after you and expects you do your job.  

Point being made: Enough with the meaningless, ambiguous job descriptions already!

It is really up to you how you want potential hires to perceive your organization and responsibilities that go with the roles.

Like The Adler Group CEO, Lou Adler, says, “It seems obvious that if a company wants to hire people who are both competent and motivated to do the work required, they need to start by defining the work required. Yet somehow this basic concept is lost when a new job opens up. Instead of defining the job, managers focus on defining the person. The end result is not a job description at all, but a person description.”

Most JDs demand you be a team player, be innovative, take initiative, show leadership skills and a willingness to learn, perform in a fast-paced environment, etc. Which applicant is actually going to admit a lack of these skills which you can’t test until much later anyway? How are these relevant in your very first advertisement of an open position? According to a Monster survey, 57% of applicants broke into a run the minute they spotted phrases such as “ninja,” “penetrate the market,” “rockstar developer,” “hit the ground running,” and “self-starter” in the JD.

When will they stop with the ill-defined job requirements?

Courting candidates is quite the order of the day now. A time when big companies could command as they wished is no longer possible. Today, highly skilled workers are in the driver’s seat. They get to choose who they want to work  for and negotiate a lot more than they did before. So, companies really can’t afford to mess up while recruiting.

After analyzing best-performing job listings for a 6-month period, Stackoverflow found that “the average apply rate for the high-performing group was 30.9%, and the average for the lower was 3.2%.” One of the main reasons for their high performance was a clear and comprehensive JD.

        Seriously outdated job descriptions

You know what is really irksome? Employers using antiquated job descriptions (JDs) that should have been binned a long time ago… If you can remember your job description for your current role, then take a bow. Not many of us remember what it said; it was so lackluster and generic. Half the time, it bears no resemblance to what we are doing now.

        Incomplete, vague job postings

What’s the point in advertising for abstract skills instead of telling them how they will grow or what they will own, learn, and improve? Tell them what skills are absolute must-haves. Don’t ask them if they are going to be committed. (Like you’ll believe them anyway.)

Answer these questions before keying in the JD.

  • What is in it for the candidate?
  • Why should a developer feel excited about the company/role?
  • Are you describing enough about what your product is trying to achieve?
  • How is your product impacting the globe? (Developers will find one more reason to join you if they feel their work in the company has a larger agenda.)

    Confusing Ruby with a stone that’s red and shiny

Techies get it that a job role is more than a job. They get it that a job encompasses all sorts of qualities that are conventionally deemed non-job specific. However, they’d appreciate it if the recruiter knew if just knowing Java, and not Python, could jinx their chances. Talking to talent acquisition personnel who are clueless about the job requirements can’t be a whole lot of fun.

         Unrealistic expectations

Companies advertise for developers who must know a string of programming languages. The tendency is to stuff the JD with many programming languages but, in general, a programmer is likely adept at not more than two or three. And what happens with the “over-optimization” of JDs is that some programmers use the languages as keywords in their resume. And eventually, this comes to bite the hiring managers when they go out to source and find that most programmers know almost half the languages on the planet.  Over-optimization takes the fun away from life! Haven’t you seen this video – I miss the mob?

      Ridiculous, impossible requirements     

What’s really strange is when firms demand experienced professionals for jobs that are fairly new in the market. For example, if you advertise for programmers with 7 years of experience in a language that was introduced only 5 years ago, who exactly do you expect to get?

Also, before creating a JD, a recruiter should know the demographics and the sizable pool of a skill/requirement in a particular region. This sets realistic expectations and the JD will have more clarity.

      Unheard of job titles

The Monster survey also found that 64% of the respondents were unlikely to apply for a job if the job title was not easy to understand. (Here’s an interesting infographic about the dilemma of job descriptions.)

According to an Australian Employment Office poll, 48% of employees say the role they were hired for isn’t the job they’re doing. For people in IT-related fields, misleading job titles are nothing new. How horrible it is when you sign on to be a project manager of an “entire group” and all you end up doing is leading a team of two (including yourself)! (It happens.) If you want a Technical Lead for Windows/Cloud, then say that and list the major skills instead of saying Technical Lead and giving a bunch of vague tasks.

How can bad job descriptions harm you?

With badly defined roles that helped you hire “talent,” you can expect to see poor productivity, higher absenteeism and turnover, and unhappy employees later on. Also, a survey showed that 78% of IT job postings are guilty of using meaningless jargon.

Rather than looking for Ivy League degrees, focus on the skills you need and tell them how they can grow with the company. It is ok to talk about the culture and the company, but not at the cost of a concise, clear, and comprehensive summary of key responsibilities. Culture and swag may win you good people, but you do need top quality talent to get the numbers going.

Sometimes, even imaginative JDs can translate into something awful or funny (if you’ve got a sense of humor). Jeff Bertolucci gave a Craigslist Wanted Ad a funny twist: Wanted: Skilled app developer who “will be paid from the profits of the app/business with a percentage stake in the company.” Translation: Until then, enjoy living out of your car. The point being that no-nonsense and clearly defined descriptions are a safer bet.

In today’s candidate-driven market, it pays to be savvy about every aspect of hiring. This makes streamlining their tech recruitment strategies imperative for hiring managers, talent acquisition officers, and recruiters. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something as high up the list as using online automated evaluation tools or crafting an attractive, realistic job description. It’s got to be well-designed if you want to have your share of great programmers in such a competitive industry.

On a side note, just what is a rockstar developer, a digital prophet, or a data science ninja?

PS: For more such insights on tech recruitment, we invite you to join our LinkedIn group – “Yours Truly HR”

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