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How to write a dev job post that inspires people and doesn't suck (mattdorey.com)
19 points by mattydorey on Oct 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

Your requirements list is ridiculous, and will exclude everyone you want to find. Does your applicant REALLY need to be the one guy in the world who has a degree, AND certification from a hardware vendor, AND has written scripts for Amazon EBS, AND has a background in cryptography, AND has built and configured everything from down to disk subsystems up to Java, etc... for at least 8 years? I don't think this mythical man exists, and if he does, he just might be worth so much more than you can pay that the list of off hours and customer support responsibilities would have him pass you right by.

I'm being harsh here, but I don't know anyone qualified that would look at that enormous list of requirements and actually apply. The only thing that list might be good for is catching lots of keyword searches on job sites, getting you tons of unqualified applicants.

His requirements list is written forbiddingly, which I agree is dumb, but it is not (at a casual read) a totally ridiculous role description for a very senior Unix web system admin.

I think the "here is the sort of person you are" bit is more alienating. You allocate part of your monthly budget to speeding tickets? You play Halo 3? Of course these obviously aren't phrased as job requirements, but are still alienating for the potential applicant, who gets the idea that his new boss is the kind of person who has odd expectations about behaviour.

Really? I loved that bit! I want to apply for a group of people who have personality.

Anyone who couldn't see that that was a bit of creative writing expressing the themes wanted is someone who's not really fit for the job, imo.

That's why it says "Things we’re looking for in terms of more specific skill-sets and experience:" and not "We REQUIRE you to have 8 years experience for each one of these bullets:".

That would obviously be absurd.

See, I don't like this job description. To me, it misses the point of job descriptions: to attract the best possible candidates. This is a very long list of requirements. They are indeed charming, and they do indeed sound all the right geek dog whistles. But they are all about why the candidate will be valuable to the company.

It's definitely better to be explicit and evocative about how important the role is going to be, and that does make this ad better than most HR job ads.

But an even better job post would spend the majority of its words selling the job to the candidate.

(Also, the skills list at the bottom is a straight-up unforced error. There are obviously candidates who are very much worth considering who will not meet all these requirements. From bitter experience: give anyone an excuse to believe that they're not qualified, and chances are they'll take that excuse. A constant thrum of feedback we get: people aren't applying to Matasano because they're afraid they're not "good enough", which is shocking for us to hear. Our only spelled-out requirement is "ability to code in any language"!)

My problem with this job post is that it is long. Very long. I'd start by cutting out the "key attributes" section (is it really a good idea to include "If you were hit by a buss tomorrow it wouldn’t matter." in a job post, regardless of the point you are trying to make?) I would then cut down the requirements section to something digestible.

I had a look at least one job listing from each of the five current posts in http://news.ycombinator.com/jobs and I think that they are all better examples of good job listings that don't suck. Most of them are succinct -- they say what the future employee will have to do, a few actual firm requirements that they have, and why I should apply (sometimes including some perks). They are formatted too.

I agree with too long. I found myself skipping the first sentence of each paragraph ("You watched the x-files a lot as a kid...") because I knew they'd be jokes.

Good luck finding such a teammate and making that guy work on a web based dental software.

Sigh. Posts like this slap me in the face that maybe we're in the wrong part of the world to do software business. Here's our list of interview questions for a web developer position we couldn't fill for the last 2 months.

  1. What is Javascript and why is it needed?
  2. Could you talk about HTTP GET and POST.
  3. What is OO? Have you "heard of" design patterns? (Most haven't even heard patterns at all.)
  4. Could you talk about any other languages than you currently use? (mostly ASP.NET and PHP)
We have seen very few applicants fulfilling us beyond the second question. And the ones that do cost an arm and leg. This happens in Istanbul, a city of ~15 million.

Well, we've managed to build a large and talented dev team with this approach thus far. I guess once we start having difficulty finding capable devs we'll have to lower the bar. Sigh.

Your [sic] okay with sometimes not getting the credit you deserve because you know most people just aren’t capable of seeing what you do. Your contribution is less visible because you’re constantly playing defense, fixing problems before they happen.

I'm ok with a lot of people not giving me credit because I know I do a good job. But it's important that some people value what I do. For example, am I going to be paid more or less than a salesman? Is that role really seen from within the company as the mission-critical everything-depends-on-you role you're painting, or is winning new clients considered more important? Is that reflected in remuneration?

Also, please spell and grammar check your job postings. I do so for my CV.

I agree. The spelling and grammar errors are flags that this was written by someone who does not pay attention to detail. Someone who does not pay sufficient attention to detail has no business making the kinds of demands made in that job post.

"Our exact GPS co-ordinates are 40°18’47.86” N by 111°42’22.48” W at an elevation of 4,757’ (according to Google Earth)."

Dude, just tell us the location. No need to get clever.

Thanks all, this is good feedback. The intent behind this was to innovate in this area by making the posting stick out so that the posting gets more visibility but also helps weed out candidates. We are looking for one person and we want to set the bar high for this position.

I'm surprised that each requirement/attribute was taken so literally, but I can see how people could view it like that after reading it again.

To be honest, if we could find someone that met most of this criteria I think we would be very happy. I wouldn't say they need 8 years of experience in each area, however my hope is that they would have worked with these technologies over the last period of time in varying capacities.

It will be very interesting to see how people take this and who applies. Maybe I'll post the results up so people can see after the search.

Thanks for the candid feedback.


Something that has thrown me off here: The position very clearly reads as a senior System Administrator / Engineer, with some project management and lead experience. But the title is Director of Infrastructure. Speaking from my experience, a director is a manager of managers.

Is this req really a director role? If so, where are the criteria for the leadership and managerial components? The listing goes into quite a lot of detail about the technical side on things that would end up being optional when deep-diving with the right candidate.

If not, and it's actually a "director of the machines that compose the infrastructure", IMO the education bar is too high: I've never worked at Google, but I don't know anyone with a masters degree that gets Nagios alerts.

Lastly, as an outsider, I see "Customer up-time and data integrity is the most important thing in our company and we need someone who has the experience, depth and skills to lead this area of our company.", but the listing does not speak to the candidate's responsibilities with regard to the development / architecture of the software itself. A senior technical contributor or a manager with this charter will spend no small part of their time in design and code reviews. Frankly, in a lot of shops this position has to argue with Dev to keep them from doing things that seem clever but can't be operationalized, whether due to an unforseen technical restriction, or because the new idea will have a lot of corner / edge cases that will make administration of the application very error-prone.

Had I not moved across the country in the last year, I'd definitely consider throwing my hat in the ring... UT is on the short list of places I'd move next round, too. Good luck and please post a follow-up!

I know the job market is sick these days and many people are jobless, but I do believe that someone with such skills is already involved in a startup, working at a company or have filled his life. If this person left a company or get fired, he'll immediately find job offers (8 year of experience, he should be popular in his field!).

That being said, none of those you are dreaming of will look at your job post. Take a look at: http://www.google.com/intl/en/jobs/uslocations/mountain-view...

I like this job post. It mention requirements, role, responsibilities. Short and precise. I'm, however, more interested in the life at Google and the photos, which are covered in depth.

A charm to read, but I still find it too inflated. I guess it could be equally effective if it was twice as short bu to the point.

I don't like this description for various reasons.

One of which is you're is not the same thing as your: "What if you’re servers go down?"

I liked the quoted job description (i.e. the one _not_ to do) better.

Great input on what's really important in a job description. Interesting Gen Y take on making sure the job description has a "what in it for me" section, since I know Curve Dental has a fun team working environment. And, I do think the description could save a few words.

That said, Curve Dental is a rockin place to work. I've seen their HQ office and there have high energy and happy people. They are a "contender", not a "pretender" in the Cloud-computing space with industry pundants applauding their direction & leadership. Microsoft's VP said cloud programming is "tough" and so I'm sure the list of truly qualified technical people for such a job is short.

Best of fortune to those techies who qualify because cloud computing is where it's at and Curve Dental has the leadership and the funding to make a bunch of people happy on payday.

I think you'd better serve your client if your PR machinations were a little less obvious.

Absolutely. Whoever this is is really hurting this job post for this audience.

Wow. This was our PR firm. They took the liberty of getting involved in the discussion.

Sorry, this is totally inappropriate and lame.

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