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You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements” (talent.works)
348 points by pixelcort 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 245 comments

I've only once ticked of roughly 95% of job requirements. I didn't get the job. They actually cited the 1/20 requirements I didn't fulfill and said they can't hire anybody who doesn't have that.

They wanted a 100% candidate. Looking through the list of the things they listed as must haves and that they wanted an internal candidate I showed them it is statistically very unlikely they would even find a better candidate for this position.

The position had been open for almost a year. I think there's a reason. These are probably the same people that go to the press and whine about a shortage of engineers.

EDIT: Made a small mistake there. Anyway I only mentioned it after the interview was over. Not during.

They wanted a 100% candidate.

You sure about that? Maybe they wanted an easy way to tell people no. Maybe that 1/20 requirement was very heavily weighted compared to the other 19. Maybe they didn't really want to hire anyone at all or wanted to hire a specific person, but had to make a job posting for political/legal/policy reasons...

Great point. Having been on both sides of the hiring table, I can tell you that the candidate has no idea what we use to make decisions, because the candidate has no visibility into our internal issues.

Most of our decisions (especially to pass) have nothing to do with the candidate. And they have no way to know, so instead they over-analyze their resume or what was said during the interview to try to extract some kind of clue. Which is 99% wrong.

Some examples to give you an idea:

- we like you, you did well at the interview. But we have one position open right now, and Joe, who is the star engineer at our competitor, is making signs that he'd be willing to finally join us. We have been courting him for two years. So we put your application on hold, until Joe makes a move. Nothing you can do, and we sure won't tell you, in case Joe doesn't jump ship, and then we call you back as if nothing had happened.

- we like you, but we are about to close a new contract in the middle of Texas. If that contract closes, we'll need to hire someone ASAP there, instead of here. So while technically the position we have is here, we are waiting just a bit to see if the contract closes and if we need to shift our hiring. We should know this week, so no point in telling you anything. One week later, it turns out the contract is not signed yet, but it looks really close. Let's wait another week, we should know for sure by then... A month goes by...


I made an account just to say as a frustrated person on a job search right now with pretty good qualifications what you are doing is silly.

BOTH of your examples are things that in no way whatsoever make you liable legally and you have no reason not to tell the candidate in either situation. You could literally tell the candidate even vaguely that there might be issues that will take awhile to clear up before the company can make a hiring decision. You can vaguely say that these are based on internal business processes that you aren't at liberty to explain.

Please TELL the candidate that they did well and you would hire them and might be interested in hiring them in the future if not for 'vague thing that lets the candidate know it is the company and not you'. This is incredibly frustrating and there is no reason for lying about it.

Saying "I'm sorry, there's nothing you can do to make these problems go away" would cause me to give up on the interview process and look else where. I can't see a benefit for the company to let the interviewee know what is going on behind closed doors.

There's a talent shortage and employers hesitate giving information that would potentially close doors.

My recommendation: If they delay or have excuses then don't bother. How they treat you before is how they treat you after. My rule for professional communications is 24-72 hours.

Those are the most frustrating reasons. You wonder why people hate finding a job, its because of people like you doing this type of nonsense. Figure out what you want and need before wasting people's time.

Get used to it.

From the perspective of running several consulting/job-shop types of business, this happens all the time from clients/customers/prospects (who are effectively employers, and are in very analogous positions here).

We'll be going along through the process of sales, project definition, quoting, etc, and then all of a sudden they just go silent. No reason, no explanation, just ghosted. For days, weeks or months.

Then, suddenly, with no warning or explanation, they call/email again, and the process picks up as if not a day has passed -- the only difference is often they are in a bigger rush and want the project more. (seen similar with VCs too)

So what happened? Almost anything. Other business have their own priorities, and their own fires to put out, and can often quickly get distracted from a project.

The difference is one of perspective. For us the employee or service provider, this job is a critical priority. For them, it's one of many, even for top priority projects.

It's just not the same sense of urgency from different sides of the table. I've learned (after way too much anxiety) to just accept and ignore it -- mostly.

And the times I couldn't just ignore it and felt that I had to do something, and only barely managed to hold myself back? Almost always glad I played it cool (even if I wasn't cool inside my head).


If they treat you with disrespect initially then they will continue to do so as is their status quo.

Actually, I haven't found that to be the case with this phenomena -- as soon as they return, they are eager, engaged, respectful, and often write large checks, and there's no diff in their attitude on projects that have a sales process gap and those that don't.

I just don't put this int the category of disrespect, but of "they've probably got their own problems, so I ought to have a bit of compassion".

(If I put any unannounced hiatus in the sales process in the disrespect category, I'd have very few clients left, as I generally fire clients that treat us with any significant disrespect.)

It'd certainly be nicer if they were more forthcoming, but I've seen it in two industries, software & manufacturing, and it just seems that

1) they're writing the checks and determining the schedule, and 2) their schedule is often determined by THEIR clients, and when that has a hiccough, the entire downstream supply chain gets a cold.

I've just found it better for everyone to be sanguine.

Don’t assume parent is making this decision on their own, or even at all (inspite of using the proverbial “we”). Most of us are just caught up in the system with little recourse to go against it.

Of course, if you are using a proverbial “you”, my comment doesn’t apply.

> Most of our decisions (especially to pass) have nothing to do with the candidate. And they have no way to know, so instead they over-analyze their resume or what was said during the interview to try to extract some kind of clue. Which is 99% wrong.

I've applied to jobs that required a long and tedious hiring process and in the end unfortunatley I didn't get hired, but I also had nice HR drones contacting me to provide a thorough review of my application.

Regardless of your decision process, if you don't give any feedback to those job seekers you turned down then you are the problem. The reason why candidates overanalyze stuff is because you left a wide gaping hole by providing no feedback.

> The reason why candidates overanalyze stuff is because you left a wide gaping hole by providing no feedback.

Moving the goalpost to more specific information, weakens the employer position. Now they are no longer interviewing potentially qualified people, but interviewing people trying to intentionally pass themselves off as specializing in a few skills. Weak hiring practices are the norm, so the strategy of hiding information (the most valuable skills) benefits the employers. People are very good at faking skills at a cursory (or specific depth, like side projects), which is part of the reason Headhunters are derided, prepping both sides to fail for their own commission.

Frankly, I don't want the interviewer's feedback. There's a lot of superstition in hiring people because of how much luck is involved, meaning that there's a good chance that the reason they decided not to hire you is completely meaningless.

> Frankly, I don't want the interviewer's feedback.

That's great, but others do want it and also find any feedback to be very helpful.

I’ve never has to do either of those things in my hiring. It sounds like your company is incapable of proper planning.

Sounds like the typical big company with 10 managers above that position and none of them can't be arsed to make a real decision.

That's definitely an understandable thing the employer might do, but if they're still not getting a "good enough" candidate after a year, they're probably too demanding one way or another.

Of course, it's also plausible that they just never took the posting down.

Maybe they wanted an easy way to tell people no.

Either way -- in tech (and for some reason more so than in other industries) -- when it comes to hiring, it's head games all up and down. And generally to an extent far more than can really be called "necessary".

Well, it’s still poor hiring if that is the excuse: rude and unhelpful.

It's one thing for engineers to "be the HR department" at small companies. They are willing to let things slide because they know the candidate, especially after interviewing them, that they can fill in the knowledge gaps (well I don't know about the willing to move to china bit).

Contrast that with a large company with a specific HR department that is in charge of taking a job requirement sheet and finding and filtering candidates. These people have no idea what any of these technologies are, so for them it's a liability on their ass if they let people through that don't satisfy the "requirements". Managers, when you write up "requirements" and that is being sent to an HR department, keep in mind you might want to move some of those to a "nice to have" category.

That being said, there ARE competent, non-technical HR departments that do understand technical hiring.

Edit: Ohh... I wanted to add too, it's nice being in a startup where you really don't just "leave it up for a year". In a startup each and every candidate is literally needed when it's posted. It's kinda crazy and shows just how much larger companies hire just to hire if they can just sit on positions for a long time. Are they really "needed" if the position can go unfilled for an entire year?

If HR has no idea what the job means, they also shouldn't be the one selecting candidates and conducting interviews.

HR doesn’t really conduct interviews beyond maybe a quick high level screen. They select candidates, but also only as a high level screen, it’s up to the engineering team to screen more deeply and do interviews.

Of all places, Facebook had a pretty clearly non-technical person screen me over the phone.

Apparently they gave her a list of questions and answers. The questions were structured so that none of the answers were open-ended. ("What is the OSI seven layer model? What is a Unix signal?")

So, yeah, I'm not sure I would call it a real interview, but sometimes HR does get called upon to screen candidates.

This is different. The engineering team provided those questions so that the recruiters stop wasting their time on people who have no chance at all. They're just implementing the filter. HR themselves did not come up with any of them, and don't make the decisions. Also, recruiting and HR are not quite the same function.

I talked to a person in a similar situation... ironically some of the questions could have multiple answers. Pre ES5 and Post ES5 JS has changed a lot of the "rules". Specifically to scope/closures.

But yeah, for the most part, those kinds of questions help. It does depend on what your needs are.

I’ve been screened by a Facebook recruiter without that experience. Sounds absolutely dreadful.

I had a very similar experience with LinkedIn a couple years ago.

At my company if a candidate doesn't check all the reqs but comes close, HR shows the resume to the relevant department and asks them how important the missing boxes are. We're willing to train employees, so we usually at least give the candidate an interview.

If I see a position that has been open for longer than a month, I assume they are not serious about filling it. Either they aren't really hiring or they don't want to pay the market rate.

That isn't right. We did hire, several times. More please!

I've been posting this for ages: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18358038

We have well over a hundred people doing that sort of stuff.

This idea of "filling" a "position" is wrong. There is a need for competent technical staff who can contribute to the team. We hire them as we find them. There isn't a fixed number of slots to fill with warm bodies.

Your ad is a “looking for people” type ad. The ads I skip are the ones with fairly specific skills that haven’t been filled after a month.

Looks like you do some interesting work! If I was a US citizen you'd be hearing from me.

Most of the job positions all of FAANG have posted have been open for months, some for over a year. They are really hiring and have no problem paying market rate. That's a counterexample.

If a company is really hiring and paying market rate, what's the situation leading to positions open for over a year? Unicorn-hunting?

I've been part of a hiring process that took a couple months (and by the end had management breathing down our necks to just hire -someone-), but that was because we were hiring into an out-of-the-way location that generally lacked the skills locally that we were looking for. Neither of which would apply to FAANG.

HR just leaves the same position open because it's not really a position, it's a category and they are too lazy to remove and add the same ad over and over.

Maybe they're willing to hire in depth for those particular positions?

The company I work at has an ad for "Senior Full-Stack Developer" and if 5 amazing candidates show up they'll probably hire all of them (or if just 1 shows up and gets hired the ad will remain online).

They are just being picky, and can afford to be picky. I’ve heard FAANG interview pass rates are pretty low, frustrating their recruiters to no end :).

Just because there is a job posting doesn't mean there is position open.

"keep in mind you might want to move some of those to a "nice to have" category"

I would add be more general if possible. Someone with 5 years of postgres sql will pick up sql server pretty quickly. So maybe just: Relational Database experience. Somebody who has used 5 different ui frameworks will pick up the whichever you use pretty quickly. So perhaps: Web UI development. Etc.

I've never worked for a startup, but when my company leaves a long-standing position open, it usually means that there's some work sitting on the back burner that isn't important enough to make it on to an existing employee's task list. Even in my small group, there's plenty of work that would be "nice to have", but isn't mission critical. If we find the right person to do some of that work, we will hire them on a short-term contract to do the work. If we don't find the right person, one of us will get to it eventually.

I have a feeling this isn't any different at a startup.

No, startups just never get to the "nice to have".

Sometimes in a startup the posting stays up for a year because you can't identify and successfully hire a good candidate. I'm thinking of more niche roles, sure, but I've seen it happen multiple times.

I disagree about startups not leaving it up for a year. I have seen plenty that do exactly that. I don't know what the motivation is but I'm guessing they just want to fish for their pipeline. And they don't need someone next week.

My experience has been that HR just passes the resumes to all the hiring managers who make the call to proceed. There are some more competent HR recruiters that could also prioritize candidates that are a better fit to the top of the pile.

Looks to me like a Green Card job. They wanted the job for an internal candidate and so they crafted in a way that only that candidate would meet it. The law requires them to advertise in a public newspaper of record or some such thing.

They can only really reject you for lack of qualifications for such a job ad by law so that's probably what happened. If it was open for a while, they probably have a few internal candidates they needed it for.

This is 100% it unless the GP commenter had some red flags. This also happens for visa reasons outside of the US.

I know of at least one person at a fairly well known UK company that had to undergo the same waiting process.

Generally if the position is ultra-specific compared to their other postings, it's for someone they have in mind.

Seems to me that this was a job put together with a specific person in mind and somehow that didn't work out and they just didn't know what to do after that. Seen this same scenario play out before at multiple companies.

This is most likely the reason. One of the requirements for an H2B visa is that an in-country hire isn't possible. And you make that impossible by asking for impossible requirements. You may have seen these as experience requirements in 5+ years technology that has only existed for 2-3 years.

I think h1b doesn’t have such requirement - only that the wage is in prevailing range...

applying to employer sponsors green card though does require proof of lack of local hires, and job reqs that are created to prove this often go to this crazy level and have to be met 100%.

Or it could be that that was the one criterion that was non-negotiable. Often there are one or two that are "must haves" and the rest are just wants. If you meet the must-haves, you only have to hit a couple of the wants in order to get an interview; but if you miss them, forget it.

Well, there were quite a few of must haves (just by the nature of the position), I already filtered out the ones that were optional before.

The ones that were listed as optional? Because often even if they're listed as required they're not (which is the point of the article). For instance, wanting someone to start right away, even though the listing has been open for a year... probably flexible.

>The position had been open for almost a year. I think there's a reason.

Fake job openings to keep HR people busy?

Or more likely fake postings to show investors they are a successful company that is hiring.

Internal hire doesn't show investors much, also there was an interview which is pointless for fake postings.

There are plenty of hires. I think it was one very picky department head.

Do they still require you look locally and "not find" someone before you go H1B?

Your numbers don't match your %. 20% is 1/5 and 30% is around 1/3.

Also I think you can drop the English requirement as most people willing to go to China will speak English (it is certainly not independent).

With this corrected, we get around 0.5 which still means it is unlikely they find someone.

Yeah, good catch, removed that. Doesn't really matter anyway for the point.

As a nerd I still enjoyed reading the calculations !

What? 1/20 == 5%


> I showed them it is statistically very unlikely they would find a better candidate

So I get where you are coming from, but not having the 1/20 requirement is a much easier excuse than explaining why they don't want someone who thinks it's ok to do this.

I only showed them after they already told me it's a no. I didn't really have a reason to be polite after that. I was just a bit incredulous. The job posting is still open now 1 year later, although they refreshed the date.

You should always be polite, you might meet them again in a different time and place. It sounds like this rejection bothers you a lot. You are in danger of not seeing the bigger picture because you are hung up on not meeting that single requirement.

It doesn't bother me that I didn't get the job that much. Just the headline of this thread reminded me of it. I already had a comfortable position and I have a new position now in a great team. I think it worked out for the best.

The only way in which this bothers me is that these (I assume) fake, unfilled jobs are used for political reasons. But that's a global problem.

There's a company in my town that have been advertising for a C++/C# dev since I moved here (around 4 years). What are they thinking? 'Give it another 4 years and we might get lucky'?! Also they post this job on job boards, which must be costing them hundreds a month. Something doesn't add up.

Maybe matching 95% made you too confident salary-wise. Maybe they just want a 50% who they can haggle down to working for peanuts as a junior because of those missing 50%.

Your information here is really asymmetric, so while I agree with you that there was probably a reason, it's really difficult for you to accurately assess what it was.

Maybe, they are waiting for a superstar, who knows?

From the "methodology" section of this post:

First, we randomly sampled 6,348 applications for 668 different users from TalentWorks. Then we extracted the qualifications from the original job postings and the users’ submitted resumes using proprietary algorithms. Finally, we grouped the results based on qualification match and regressed the interview rate using a Bagging ensemble of Random Forest regressors.

This is... not plausible. Effectively, they're trying to infer causality here, not merely do prediction. That has to be the case, because this is presented as useful advice---to go ahead and apply even if you don't meet all the listed qualifications. But when you're trying to infer causality you're doing social science, not data science, and that means you need to worry about omitted variables.

Here's an example: what if less qualified people who nonetheless apply are more confident. And what if that confidence is associated with other good things that show up on resumes, like attending prestigious schools, having had prestigious prior jobs, having a record of success in some other fashion, or even just doing things like paying careful attention to formatting?

This is why social scientists use tried and true techniques like old fashioned OLS regression with control variables rather than throw everything into a random forest and see if the hypothesized association standing on its own predicts things.

(Insert remark about how companies should be hiring data science people with science backgrounds rather than just pure cs backgrounds here)

Very well put, I agree completely. The absence of controls in their model for school, education, experience etc. means we cannot draw definitive conclusions from their analysis.

Another commenter also pointed out the fit curve. Note the wide prediction intervals starting at ~40% and frequency of points across all charts. It's hard to draw conclusions above that cutoff, since outcomes vary significantly and high-matchers are scarce. This may also be a failure of the "proprietary" qualification-extracting algorithms.

Most applicants also seemingly interview at a <10% rate, and the data in general looks fishy. I know they sampled from ~6,300 applications, but the joint distribution of matches & interviews seems bimodal: either you barely match and barely interview, or you greatly match and interview far more often.

Weird, weird post. It should be titled "we rarely see > 50% match in job requirements, which either says something about applicants or our proprietary algorithms."

All true, but I think even more fundamentally, they treat all requirements as of equal importance, and reported based on the % of requirements met. The requirement to, for example, know at least one programming language, is different than the requirement to have experience with a particular IDE. Someone who does not have the latter requirement is probably much more likely to nonetheless get a callback, than someone who has no programming experience, even though each might be one "requirement".

Secondly, the people applying who have <100% of the requirements, know this, and are trying to guess if they meet all of the _actually_ required criteria. The ones who apply anyway, and get an interview, might be doing a better job at guessing which "requirements" are real.

Thank you! Finally some reason.

I think many people write their job description's requirements, as if it were the opening stage of a negotiation. You list everything you want as if it were a requirement, and you will only get about half of that. But the problem is, it isn't a negotiation, it's a minimum spec (especially if you put the word "required" next to that line), and so many quite good candidates won't apply.

However, typically, I see 20-30 requirements, many of which (e.g. "passionate about software development", "good communicator") aren't specific enough to tell the candidate whether they are a good match or not (do poor communicators know they are poor communicators?). Of the rest, really only 2 or 3 are actual requirements, and the candidate has to guess which those are.

>I think many people write their job description's requirements, as if it were the opening stage of a negotiation. You list everything you want as if it were a requirement, and you will only get about half of that. But the problem is, it isn't a negotiation, it's a minimum spec (especially if you put the word "required" next to that line), and so many quite good candidates won't apply.

They have the option to distinguish "minimum/required" vs "nice to have", though.

> I think many people write their job description's requirements, as if it were the opening stage of a negotiation.

As someone who has written and hired technical talent - this is absolutely true.

> so many quite good candidates won't apply.

I agree with your sentiment but generally disagree in practice. The reality is I get 100's of applications that are nowhere near qualified for positions I've listed. We're talking like recent grads applying for a VP of E-commerce (~10 years exp on the spec).

Having many unqualified applicants is unrelated to how many good 50-75% candidates self-select against applying. It’s likely entirely different groups exhibiting the inverse effects of Dunning-Kruger.

> how many good 50-75% candidates self-select against applying

Got some data to back that up?

Applying for a job costs time and effort. All other things being equal, I will prefer to apply to a job posting where I meet more of the requirements than one that is a looser match.

Adding requirements that aren't actually requirements is a good way to get your posting sorted to the end of my applications queue indefinitely, or ignored entirely. I will apply to the closest matches first, and stop when I pass a time threshold. If your process costs me more than an hour, and I only tick off 50% of your listed requirements anyway, I'm probably never going to apply.

There are all kinds of new postings, added daily, that will jump ahead of yours in my queue. So if I am searching while holding a job, I only apply to postings with the very highest estimated payoff, which are the very close matches.

So, single point of anecdatum: I will self-select against applying. The threshold for matches depends on how motivated I am to change jobs. About now, I will even ignore 100% matches, if they don't have a salary range listed, and an easy application process.

I don't blame you and I agree with you. My point is that this is not how the market works.

You argument is like asking for women to stop being so demanding about all of the qualities they want in a man. Sure you can take a stand against that and say "I'm only going to meet women who match my exact profile and seek those who have realistic set of expectations". This is just simply not how it works and anyone who has individualistically "taken a stand" ends up losing out and just goes back to market norms.

In other words - a noble effort, but discrediting human behavior in aggregate won't get you very far.

What argument? This is what I actually do. I read job postings sometimes, and if a posting looks like it might involve too much bullshit to be worth the effort to apply, I forget about it forever. If the posting is crap, I don't apply. It's not my problem to contact the company and tell them why their advertisement failed to draw my interest.

This strategy works perfectly fine when I already have a decent job and wouldn't be averse to trading up, if the opportunity is right. If nothing seems good right now, I can still go to work. There will probably be more opportunities in the future.

But even when I need to find new work now, or run out of money to pay bills, I still shove the lowest estimated payout/effort prospects to the back of the queue. There is nothing any individual company could do to change my behavior. I will always pick the ripest fruit whenever I get hungry. I will always avoid wasting my own time with snipe hunts and wild goose chases.

Your dating analogy crumbles in a lot of very reasonable cases. Job hunting is only superficially like dating. Getting hired is not very much like getting married, unless you are in a cult featuring polygamy/polyandry for the leader (and maybe their top disciples), with chastity and celibacy for everyone else.

But in some sense, it is apt. If your profile says you're looking for someone who is:

  - rich
  - pretty
  - single (never married)
  - faithful
  - sane
  - attentive to my every need
  - definitely not an axe-murderer
  - also not a con artist
  - has a garish tramp-stamp tattoo featuring Yosemite Sam
  - minimum height 190cm; maximum weight 100kg
You are still going to get pinged by chat-bots and the desperately thirsty, but anyone fitting your bill has probably already overfilled their queue with prospects that are only asking for:

  - able to cook dried pasta correctly
  - not a *complete* asshole
And that's because those other people have requirements, too.

Ummm you just proved his point. Most startups are like cults lol. Hiring is exactly like dating with the hiring manager as the crazy cult leader.

Like so many hiring managers have veto’d a hire due to a perceived slight / offense.

It's not a bad point to be proven, but it's not "simply how it works". You can get along just fine without dating absolute nutters. And you can get hired without responding to unrealistic, overreaching job postings.

Go ahead and take that stand. The only thing you are missing out on is the very worst the world has to offer. Have reasonable standards, and uphold them. It's okay. If you can't find anyone who actually meets your standards, it's probably because their signal is currently being overwhelmed by the noise. You won't ever be able to find them if you just set a dumb filter just above the noise floor.

If a company wants five years of experience in a two-year-old technology, add them to your blacklist for a year, and just let them hire as many liars as they can find. If they're all working somewhere else, they're less likely to apply to be your co-workers. And that company certainly won't be paying 2.5x as much for 5 years experience as the market rate for 2.

And that's what's missing from the article. It focuses on the amount of overlap between candidate and job description, and completely ignores whether the posting itself is offering a reasonable compensation for the mythical candidate it wants. How many times have you seen "WANTED: full-spectrum engineer with 10 years of experience who is an expert in all levels of multiple technology stacks; 6-month contract-to-hire $60k/year, relocation required"? That isn't even hyperbole. It's cherry-picked and amalgamated from the worst postings I have ever seen, but it is not an exaggeration.

Those dating profiles with the unrealistic expectations are all about what the person wants, and nothing about what is offered in return. You're never going to get a partnership between equals from someone like that. You can certainly get to be the cult leader's consort/concubine, but you're usually better off with someone who actually values you as an individual.

I think it is more like recognizing that all the qualities women say they demand in a man are indicative of their unrealistic expectations so they're a waste of your time.

I'm not making a specific claim about a number, I'm claiming that they are separate populations.

But then there's that research that shows that on average, men will apply to a job if they meet less than half of of the requirements, so if you don't overspecify you'll be flooded with crap applications.

Of course, then you get the research that women will apply only if they meet >90%, so the overspeccing contributes to gender imbalances.

I think the population of those who apply when they shouldn't, and those who don't apply when they should, are probably different populations. In some cases, you want the population of people who are overconfident, or able to "fake it 'til you make it". But in many cases, you want the population who respect the project requirements as being real, and those might be the same people who treat the job requirements as being real. So, in at least some cases, you have created an anti-filter that will let through unsatisfactory candidates, but keep out satisfactory ones.

And there's the danger that by having your requirements too tight you've inadvertently created a asshole filter[1].

>An asshole filter happens when you publicly promulgate a straitened contact boundary and then don't enforce it; or worse, reward the people who transgress it.


> e.g. "passionate about software development", "good communicator"

Yeah, this is where bias and other cruft comes creeping in. "Passionate about software development" usually means, "our PM sucks, but he's the CEO's nephew, so you're going to work late to meet deadlines".

Or it could mean "our HR dept likes flowery language in job postings".

I.e., it means literally nothing.

Both are synonyms

I got a lot of traction in my early days simply ignoring the requirements and asking myself if I could do the job.

Some skills can be picked up easily. Others are difficult to teach. You have a detail oriented position, you need a detail oriented person. If they’re sharp they can learn pretty much everything else.

Hell I’ve taken over internationalization coding because I understand how grammar works in two languages and an inkling of Japanese grammar. I couldn’t translate a UI to save my life but the hard part is stitching sane sentences together from data.

We typically list a few must-haves and a slightly longer list of nice-to-haves.

A much preferable strategy.

so many quite good candidates won't apply.

Shame on someone for writing unrealistic or unnecessary "requirements", but also shame on the engineer who doesn't even apply because of them.

I wonder how truly good a candidate is if they get discouraged so easily. Maybe a hidden requirement 1 is showing a willingness to try to punch above one's weight or displaying some self confidence during the application process. After all, what's really the difference between 4 years of development experience in X language vs 5?

I don't want to waste my own time on an activity I actively despise.

I am perfectly willing to apply to a posting with missing requirements, right up until I have to create an account to apply, chop up my resume into pieces, and paste the bits into form boxes. That's when I say, "screw this, it wasn't a close match anyway".

If the application process is "attach resume document to an email" then I might even spend some extra time on the cover email, explaining why am applying without being a 100% match for the requirements.

The difference is the expectation of a payoff. That application management system is going to automatically filter out mismatches, and making me do all the work to disqualify myself as a candidate. The email might get read by an actual person with an interest in the outcome.

Too many job requirements is a symptom of a bureaucratic hiring process, which is a symptom of a bureaucratic work environment. I've found cold-applying to these types of positions bares little fruit.

On the flip side, I don't mind an overly ambitious position description if a recruiter has reached out to me. I know I have an actual human on the other end, and they have enough sense to determine I might actually be a good fit.

I'm not sure if this is the best place to drop this anecdote, but I looked at a position where the responsibilities included working on the backend API and partner integrations, third party integrations, machine learning, internal tools and reporting, devops, and Postgres administration (including query optimization, horizontal partitioning, and reliability).

Since it was a small-ish company, I thought maybe this was just their generic "senior software engineer" posting. Nope. I asked them. They actually expected people to be able to work on all of those things. By my count, that's about 5 different teams that should be working on those things... except that this place has ~15 engineers. I self selected out of that process because, although I could certainly do the API and integrations stuff, if I'm the best person you've got to work on ML, your company is in bad shape.

I probably could have applied and gotten an interview anyway, maybe even gotten the job, but I know it wouldn't have been someplace I could do my best work. I'm very glad I'm not there.

I'll apply to a small company f I meet what seem like the most important of the requirementstc. . But it is a largedompany I assume that a large company filtered outjust by HR you don't meet 100% of the require. I've I used to but afterhaving never interview from ain those cases, 've stopped me.

Anecdotal, I didn't meet most of the requirements for my current gig, but I applied because they listed one framework I'd been using quite a bit. I ended up being getting hired and pretty much being the senior guy there.


I'm not a fan of HR in general and it's frustrating that they are often the clueless gatekeepers.

Sometimes it isn’t even an HR person. A computer will scan your resume and if you don’t match enough keywords a person won’t even read it.

This is bad too (in its current state of sophistication) but I still think it's better than having some HR generalist with 6 months on the job and no technical knowledge scanning resumes before anyone who knows what they're doing gets to them.

At least if you know your resume will be scanned by a computer before-hand you can optimize for that. It's hard to optimize for a person with no skill-set.

The place I've worked with the best HR department realized that they didn't have any legitimate role in determining whether someone was fit for a job, only whether or not they were fit for the company. So they'd handle the background checks, the reference checks, etc, usually after the phone screen and before the on-site interview. But they didn't have any say in who got the job other than vetoing candidates with company-wide disqualifying features.

I recently changed jobs and the company I work for now does exactly what you say in your last paragraph. It was the best hiring experience I’ve been through. A couple other companies I applied to followed the HR screen first and I’m sure I failed. What’s weird is the same company that denied me has recruiters contacting me on LinkedIn monthly, as recent as last week.

HR has one other job that you might not realize: make sure that your hiring/interview process is legally fair. You better not interview in such a way to make it impossible for some types of otherwise qualified people to pass (female, black...) while others find it easy (males, white...).

Ha! Often times they do that poorly as well.

My boss at a company I worked for recently wanted to hire a guy that is living in Poland but is self-employed in the UK. The HR said to him, literally, "we can't hire him because we don't know the implications of working with someone incorporated out-of-country". Yeah, not like it was their job to find out. That would be hard, could cut into their water cooler gossip time, no way!

I don't know the legal system in the UK, but my guess is that what you describe is not illegal. I would agree HR is lazy for not to find out, but they have still done their job with respect to my post since nothing illegal happened.

One of my favorite job search stories occurred many years ago. I'd posted my resume on Monster, etc. and also reached directly out to companies. For one company, I filled out their online application. It was the kind that asked you everything that was on your resume and then also had you upload your resume. About a month later I got a call from a recruiter at the company, passed the phone screen, and went in for an interview. During the pre-interview chat with the recruiter, I mentioned how annoying the resume submission process was. She replied that she found me while searching Monster for candidates and seemed surprised that their automated tools didn't flag my resume.

Here's a life hack: put every keyword possible in white text on the last page of your resume. A human will think it's a blank page, a computer will think you've hit every keyword possible.

I do the same thing, but with the public job description verbatim.

That's actually better, since in this case there's reason to the madness, which cannot be said for the typical second order ignorant HR person.

Maybe. How intelligent are the resume scanners? Just a few years ago, I shotgunned my resume to a bunch of big companies and experienced something like:

Resume: "Ported XYZ from Angular to React, built a Rails app"

Response: "Sorry, we need someone with JavaScript and Ruby experience"

I think it's best to have two resumes, one that's more or less a big list of keywords, and another that you can show actual humans.

I have a resume that contains a block on the left 33% of the page with the following:

\subsection{Technology Fluencies} Java \textbullet{} Python \textbullet{} PHP \textbullet{} Ruby on Rails \\ Javascript \textbullet{} NodeJS \textbullet{} ReactJS / Native \\ SQL \textbullet{} SQLite \textbullet{} MySQL \textbullet{} DB2 \textbullet{} Redis \\ Postgres \textbullet{} Bitcoin / Blockchain \textbullet{} REST \\ ActionCable / WebSocket \textbullet{} JSON \textbullet{} XML \\ ElasticSearch \textbullet{} JWT \textbullet{} JUnit \textbullet{} Jest \\ TestNG \textbullet{} Selenium \textbullet{} Robot \textbullet{} Maven \textbullet{} Ant \\ ESXi \textbullet{} Docker \textbullet{} Flynn \textbullet{} Dokku \textbullet{} Heroku \\ Analytics 360 \textbullet{} Google Tag Manager \\ Salesforce DMP \textbullet{} Github \textbullet{} Git \textbullet{} SVN \\ JIRA \textbullet{} Vagrant \textbullet{} Ansible \textbullet{} Perforce \\

\subsection{Additional Fluencies} Amazon Web Services \textbullet{} Agile Dev. \\ TDD \textbullet{ }SDLC \textbullet{} SaaS \textbullet{} IaaS \textbullet{} PaaS \\

> I think it's best to have two resumes, one that's more or less a big list of keywords, and another that you can show actual humans.

You can probably integrate both by having a keyword-only layer in white on white below the real text.

I mean, someone still had to decide what inputs to use for the algo. Ultimately somewhere a dumb human thought may have been involved.

I just applied via a recruiter for a position as a director for software development.

He told me the HR lady would like to see my abitur certification (sth like a high school diploma) ... I am 34 years old for christ's sake. I seriously considered not applying. Ah - and according to the recruiter an asset of mine is not being older than 40 - what?

In short - a lot of HR people are causing serious damage to companies and the industry in my opinion.

Perhaps companies over-list requirements because everyone knows requirements are not ANDed together. There is a scoring scheme that combines all of these, and the quality of the requirement.

And let’s be honest having spent “5 years of Python” at a Google is a different story from having spent “5 years of Python” at an Infosys.

To be honest, I’ve never seen a job description that exactly lays out what you’re going to be doing. And the reason for that is that hiring software engineers, you don’t actually know. You want them to also come up with what the future looks like.

Experienced recruiters (and employees) can see through the BS of job descriptions. Once the right candidate gets an interview it often becomes very clear there's a "match" to everyone involved and folks don't even bother to look at how closely they've "checked the boxes" in the job descriptions.

Sadly, many talented tech candidates early in their careers tend to interpret job descriptions far too literally and self-select themselves out of good opportunities. These same candidates also rely too much on responding to impersonal web-based job-postings rather than working through their networks of contacts, or just putting themselves out there and reaching out to real people.

I love the "looking for experts in X" followed by "with one to two years experience". And then I see my neighbor who is an expert in X, can code rings around anybody, but can't find a job after his company shut down. His only fault is he's 60.

I think there is an assumption that if a candidate doesn't have experience in 'Y' but they have ten years of 'X' (which is similar to, or a precursor of Y) then the candidate is somehow biased against Y or unwilling to work with it.

Two decades of OpenGL experience?, sorry we are looking for someone with Vulkan experience. Two years of OpenGL experience? when can you come in?

As someone who does hiring, I have a different interpretation. Let's say I'm a rails shop and I'm looking for mid to sr. level candidates and someone has 10 years of experience working on Java 1.4 spring based application. I think to myself "this is great, they are willing to do some grunt work but I need to know they haven't stagnated".

It's the stagnation that leads to lower job offers. You need to convince me that you were a dedicated employee for 10 years (which you are), but you also need to show that you're willing to learn something completely different. This can be a side project (doesn't have to be crazy, but slightly more then just going through the tutorial), certification of some sort, or _something_ that tells me you're not just going to write java-esque rails.

I would even go so far as I prefer people with diverse backgrounds, who are really willing to learn, so that we benefit from mistakes they made at previous employers.

> You need to convince me that you were a dedicated employee for 10 years (which you are), but you also need to show that you're willing to learn something completely different.

Have you actually had examples where this wasn't the case? This seems like a common sentiment that I myself have thought, but I honestly can't think of a single instance where a candidate with good experience or knowledge wouldn't actually be willing to learn something new, or wouldn't model code they write along existing idioms.

I can't comment on every sector but it absolutely exists in the financial technology realm. Plenty of people working in tech don't view it as an evolving set of skills and it's common to have candidates come with 1 - 2 decades of experience despite ending their search for knowledge around java 3.

Really? You can't just talk to the person and gauge their enthusiasm? I talk to devs all the time and they typically wear their tech bias on their sleeves. You know who is hard core C# and wouldn't touch java w/ a ten foot usb cord after just a few moments.

At 60 you just got a few more years to work until you have to retire. It takes 2-3 years to really get comfortable with some bigger code base... So if you are looking for some longterm employee (if such a thing even exists), it's not worth it.

I disagree, unless you and I have radically different definitions of what "comfortable" means. If I'm hiring an engineer with the seniority I'd expect them to have at 20, 30 or 40 years in industry then I want them to ramp up inside of a year.

I'm not going to expect them to be completely self-sufficient within a month. But they should be capable of implementing performant solutions to nontrivial problems with autonomy and collaboratively reviewing code with their peers.

Stated another way - what are they doing for 2 - 3 years before they're comfortable that isn't worth it to hire them?

I meant comfortable as in knowing exactly how to solve something, instead of first having to read and debug through (legacy) code for 1-2 days everytime you touch some new area of the application.

For me personally the worst unsecurity is not knowing where to put new code, without messing up some architectural separation that I'm not aware of.

I think that level of security is only even possible at companies with small codebases or a high degree of siloing. I totally fit this description as a junior with 2 or 3 years experience at my first job where I wrote half the product. At my current job where I've been for 7 or 8 years I can't imagine anyone on any team ever achieving that. Maybe for a little while when you're working in some corner of the codebase that you happen to know really well, but not long term. There's just too many devs making too many changes and nobody "owns" any area. I bet a third to a half of the code I wrote 3 years ago is gone or heavily modified already.

I once worked on a very large project in the healthcare industry. During code reviews you had to provide evidence you did a full impact analysis because the system was so large that not a single person could keep it all in their head. We're talking millions of lines of code. Being senior doesn't make you a superhuman.

That sort of reason for not hiring a 60 year old is illegal in the US.

Yet it happens, ALL THE TIME, even for candidates that are 40-ish and higher. It is always trivial to find another reason to not hire an older worker.

Unless the job listing is specifically intended for interns.

You're conflating different things.

If you were hiring an intern and you got two resumes in order to comply with the law you'd have to consider a 60 year old intern still in college the same way you'd consider a 19 year old intern still in college.

Since they're over 40, it may not be worth it but it's also almost certainly illegal. Assuming the employer is in the U.S. and has over 20 employees.


Does US anti-discrimination law really operate like "you have to serve the protected class whatever the consequences for unprotected ones?" European ones typically require both weak and strong classes be served equally, not in results, but in the manner and the matter.

> Does US anti-discrimination law really operate like "you have to serve the protected class whatever the consequences for unprotected ones?"

“Protected class” is something of a misleading piece of legal jargon; “class”, in it, means something closer to “axis of differentiation” than “group”. [0]

So, “black” is not a “protected class”, “race” is.

(This gets confusing because there is a related concept in Constitutional anti-discrimination jurisprudence of a suspect class, in which “class” does mean “group"; blacks are a suspect class—a group historically subject to discrimination, such that government actions which discriminate against them are subject to strict scrutiny—and whites are not, but both blacks and whites are protected by employment anti-discrimination law because race is a protected class.)

[0] There's a wrinkle in that “age over 40” is an asymetric “protected class” in employment anti-discrimination law.

> blacks are a suspect class

Non-whites are a suspect class (relevant legal term was colored race).

I think you're confusing "weak and strong classes" with "protected and unprotected classes"

For example, national origin is a protected class and there was a case a few years ago where the EEOC got involved. It was a company owned by Indian-Americans(?) (might have been another nationality) who routinely turned down non-Indian-American job seekers (mostly whites) solely because they where non-Indian-American and they pretty much only hired other Indian-Americans and Indians. This was official policy.

So everyone's national origin is protected, no matter what it is. Everyone is in a protected class.

But say, people who have finger or face tattoos could be turned down for a job solely for having finger and face tattoos because people who have finger and face tattoos aren't a protected class.

Not sure what you mean by 'consequences' for the unprotected classes in this context, but the age discrimination case would only be valid if both the Over-40 candidate and Under-40 candidate were equally qualified, and the Over-40 candidate was rejected solely because they are too close to retirement age.

Note that due to the letter of the EEO law, there is NOT actionable age discrimination if all candidates were over 40, and for example, the 60 year old was rejected in favor of a 41 year old for the same reason as above.

edit: I should also mention IANAL

Always blame laziness and bureaucracy.

People need legal reasons to say no. In a bureaucracy, that means that administrative types come up with objective measures to identify the perfect candidate, or to defend against less than honorable or completely fake people who simply lie about their skills. I have seen every level of bullshit, from a guy who told me he dealt with conflict at his last job by taking a swing at his boss to situation where three different people impersonated a candidate. Sometimes institutions come up with unique ways to handle that.

In reality, the meaning varies depending on the bureaucracy and how stringent oversight is. If someone is going to get an audit finding for hiring someone with 4 years, 11 months of experience, they care. Usually people choose to see what they see. Another reason for the laundry list is that editing is impossible. In a big company, the recruiter in Timbuktu has a phalanx of bureaucrats between the job req and the hiring manager. It's easier to have a mandatory requirement for 15 years of Windows 95 experience and add Python as an optional skill than to re-write.

> And let’s be honest “5 years of Python” at a Google is a different story from “5 years of Python” at an Infosys.

I don't think I've ever seen an ad from Google that spells out years of experience in any given technology. Their requirements are incredibly terse, usually along the lines of 'BS/BA in Computer Science or equivalent, experience in some programming language'.

I read that a different way. I understood it as an ad from Company X which lists '5 years of Python' as the requirement. Candidate 1 has 5 years of Python at Google, and Candidate 2 has 5 years Python at InfoSys.

Does the Google experience really teach one that much better? Or is it just perception?

I mean, at the end you are just a little cogwheel in some big corporation anyway. The python tasks you need to solve there are probably just as mundane as everywhere else.

It's the perception, I've personally been passed on for jobs I would have been amazing at because I don't have any FAANG experience.

Startup founders looking for VC money want to be able to add "Team of ex-Google, ..." to their pitch.

That's precisely what I meant. Thanks!

Edited to hopefully clarify.

Google doesn't list years of experience per technology but they do have hard tiers for years of experience and their salary bands. So they don't care that you have 5 years-of-experience with Python but you're not allowed to be an L5 without 5 years of industry experience.

Google is extremely strict about the number and wording of job requirements (5) and nice-to-haves (either 4 or 5) allowed in job descriptions. This is a good thing, but it does sometimes lead to confusion on the candidate's end because JDs can be so general as to be useless.

Hah. That's an understatement. It's even worse for research roles. Try finding a research scientist position at Google which is substantially different from any other research scientist position.

That and the fact that by applying your CV is typically sent to 4 - 6 other offices around the country and world, each for identical roles.

>>And let’s be honest having spent “5 years of Python” at a Google is a different story from having spent “5 years of Python” at an Infosys.

Unless Infosys employees code on computers bought to earth by aliens, for their business software requirements, I can't even imagine what the difference between code written at Google and Infosys could be. Its code, at the end of the day. The differences are in productivity and quality of projects at hand.

You would also be a little surprised to learn given the narrow profit margins at places like Infosys, the productivity demands are way higher compared to any web company you will ever work at. That includes Google. There are places at Infosys, where your average joe is doing 3x - 5x more work, both volume and quality wise than Google.

Google is a classic example of Gate keeping through leet code style interview proxy. People getting in feel they are indulging in some highly intellectual activity and are a part of some special club. So they are above homo sapiens.

The typical differences between one implementation and another is:

Both implementations might work for the original use-case in the happy-path case. However as soon as the first unexpected error occurs, the bad implementation might break down. It might be a lot bigger in size than the better one and contain a lot of duplication. And it might not be extensible or maintainable, and have not (regression) tests. And of course the time it took to produce the codebases might have been very different.

Those are typical differences one sees between code that had been written at more professional software shops, and code that had been written elsewhere (e.g. by electrical engineers, students, non-engineers, etc.). However I have no idea how things look like at Google or Infosys, so I can't speak for those.

As a consultant I've seen the code quality produced by developers at several companies, and there is absolutely a difference. I've worked with experienced 3rd party developers on offshore teams who seemed unfamiliar with basic architecture patterns such as reusing code. Their productivity was incredible but they were incurring a lot of tech debt.

> I've never seen

I did that for the company I work at (Wire) and it worked really well! We got 50 Haskellers, some extremely qualified.

A lot of them had commented in how they specifically liked the job ad, so I'll post it here: https://medium.com/@neongreen/wire-is-hiring-a-haskell-devel...

> “5 years of Python” at a Google is a different story from having spent “5 years of Python” at an Infosys.

Yep the Infosys guy has experience of being airdropped into unfamiliar companies in foreign countries, getting up to speed with business requirements and technical constraints and producing something reasonable in three months.

The Google guy probably spent five years writing Yet Another Messager App.

We actually tried to be fairly explicit in what you will be doing for our team:


We even set the requirements to match what we felt could do the job. The roll has actually been fairly difficult to fill though. Recruiting decks I have seen actually suggest creating more requirements and being vague in an attempt to lure more applicants. After this experience, they are probably correct. Lure them in then explain more after they meet the team (i.e. get them excited)

No, the problem is that you are looking for a unicorn in the first half of the requirements, then subverting it by asking for someone with only one year of experience in three things, then double-subverting it by suggesting that you want an academic who has nonetheless designed microservices and done machine learning. And it doesn't really help that you're in a large stodgy bank.

Let me rewrite this into two different job openings:

1. Junior Machine Learning Software Engineer

   Bachelor's Degree or equivalent experience /
   At least 1 year working with statistics, mathematics or engineering programming /
   At least 1 year programming in Python and one or more of Ruby, R, Matlab, C++, Scala or Java /
   At least 1 year of experience working on full stack solutions
2. Machine Learning Software Architect

    Master's Degree or PhD /
    At least 2 years of experience with cloud software design using microservices / 
    At least 2 years of experience with machine learning libraries such as TensorFlow, Pytorch or Keras /
    Demonstrated original research in this or related area
Do you see how different those two are? But you set up the ad to switch between them.

Not everyone knows. Especially on junior positions they often don't know.

What it does is that it biases hiring process against self-aware or humble without right network to tell them to exaggerate.

It's also partially caused by the fact that most of the time, HR people write those ads (maybe with some input by the division). A lot can get 'lost in translation' here.

Some of it is from asking the people already in or leaving that position (say, promotion to management) to write up the requirements.

re-post of my earlier post:

>I'm not sure why companies over-list [job requirements].

It's not companies, it's the individuals.

Consider this: in a corporate environment, a person that is responsible for hiring but that is not a stakeholder in the success of any particular project, is incentivized to prove that:

  - she or he made an effort ("I've posted N ads on top ten websites")
  - she or he didn't cause any particularly bad hires
The first incentive favors cookie-cutter hiring requirement lists and ads, in the "nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM" sense. Copy-paste an ad from a different project, adjust a few minor points, file it away.

The second incentive favors over-specifying requirements, in the hopes that no particularly bad hire will be made and then blamed on the requirements / ad author.

Suppose for a second a hiring manager or HR specialist were told by project stakeholders "certification X and skill Y are requirements", but figured out they aren't actually key to success - perhaps learning on the job would work out just fine in this case. So our brave hiring manager or HR specialist puts the certification and the skill in the "nice to have" section instead. Now suppose a candidate hired without the certification or skill ended up disappointing and underachieving. The manager or HR specialist would shoulder the blame for not filtering the hires well enough. Thus they play it safe and over-specify.

It doesn't help that there's a persistent, lingering narrative[1] in the press that pretty much all the skilled specialists are in high demand and in very short supply on the job market. This provides a cover for anybody who failed to attract candidates due to over-specified requirements - "the specialists are in short supply anyway".

Source: having been doing guerilla-style hiring with carefully redacted ads for a long while, with repeatably good results.


[1] the narrative seems mostly created by the prospective employers in hopes of driving the worker supply up, and thus prevailing wages down

Really well put from the corporate perspective

I'll give a perspective from a small company: boss is doing hiring, asks what tech we use, try to explain that I don't care if they know React, if they've used Vue/Angular/FooBar4Ui2038, good enough. Then some explanation that we should put specific tech to attract people with that specifically, & we can select for people who have tangent experience. In the end we hired some guy with experience with Ruby on Rails (we don't use any Ruby, PHP/C#/Nodejs)

Thanks for the anecdote, your company sounds like a pretty cool place to live given its openness to learn at work.

>from the corporate perspective

Aside of a brief stint at 15k-large corporation years ago, my customers tend to be small & medium sized businesses (10...100 employees). They seem to suffer from the "corporate-like" cookie-cutter hiring practices just as well.

It's been my experience that the worst hires are fakers who for whatever reasons do not consider themselves able to point to real capabilities, therefore they tailor their resumes to say they have done all of that stuff you are asking for and maybe a bunch more stuff.

The ones who won't - perhaps because they respect their personal qualifications enough to expect that they will get hired somewhere just might decide not to apply for the job, and perhaps it's these folks you actually want to hire.

>they respect their personal qualifications enough to expect that they will get hired somewhere just might decide not to apply for the job

From my experience people judge the company both by the hard facts, and also by the feel (impression, emotions) the first contact conveys - usually an ad, or word-of-mouth information. Potential employees will skip over word-of-mouth offers and ads that don't convey the kind of workplace they imagine themselves at.

While we may abhor stereotypes, there's often a kernel of truth to them; different professions attract predominantly different characters. The first contact better be tailored to either the prevailing character - or perhaps to the long tail, depending on the current state of jobs marketplace.

Point in case, first contact for sales associate ought to be much different - literally "make mad money, meet demanding sales targets, enjoy strong coffee & fast growth!" than for a highly skilled production worker - "good morning, consider joining team of experienced people like yourself; we offer efficient organization, well-supplied workspace and regular working hours, discounted meals and parking space.".

Heh, I think most autodidacts have discovered this independently. I'm a Physics-Major dropout, and have managed to find jobs in big brand-name companies that have "strict requirements" for a degree. Now, it's led to a level of imposter syndrome (I've posted about it on HN before), but at the same time, it demonstrates that these "requirements" are more "strong preferences".

Sadly, it does seem like the research-oriented jobs aren't BSing about their requirements; when I've tried to apply to MS Research and the like, they've always declined me due to lack of credentials, since the postings usually require at least a masters, preferably a PhD.

> Now, it's led to a level of imposter syndrome

I challenge that what you're feeling is imposter syndrome in this case. I posit it's the realization that at the next economic downturn, should you find yourself out of work and the landscape for being hired is more competitive, you are at a strategic disadvantage.

Upward mobility into Director/VP roles is also quite limited without a degree, even though a degree in CompSci has little to do with running a business.

I don't particularly worry about that stuff, honestly. It's more of a feeling of "I don't feel like I deserve this level of success when I didn't go through the proper steps".

I also don't have much interest in management/directing, though your statement probably applies to individual contributor roles.

> I also don't have much interest in management/directing, though your statement probably applies to individual contributor roles.

Interest aside, being qualified for those types of roles would raise the bar for salaries for individual contributors because both types of positions are competing for the same finite labor pool.

> It's more of a feeling of "I don't feel like I deserve this level of success when I didn't go through the proper steps".

The question, IMO, is whether or not an employer will feel the same way about you at some point in the future.

I think this applies to those who have a degree as well. Ivy league school vs state school. #1 ranked school vs #2. It's all relative, I suppose.

It's interesting how women seem to get interviews when matching fewer of the job requirements than men. Might be worth looking into whether this is due to gender discrimination in recruiting, or if women just apply to jobs that are a better fit, regardless of job requirements.

It's tough to draw conclusions from a pool of 118 industries. It could be that women are applying to less competitive jobs in greater numbers than men. That would explain both how they are getting more interviews and also why they are turning down more jobs.

Tech is a great example, where software engineering positions are very competitive and most of the applicants are men. This would pull down the numbers for men in general, making it seem like they need to fill more of the requirements for a job than women, when in reality they are just applying for more competitive jobs more often.

It would be more instructive to compare the numbers for the same type of job in order to see what the bias really is.

We also need the data on interview to hire rates to make much of it. Companies might just be more willing to interview women despite their lack of apparent qualifications in the name of diversity, but then can't justify the hire. That would seem to be a healthy phenomenon if it were the case.

That would still be discrimination though, just in a way that benefits an underrepresented group. Discrimination isn't always bad, and it is legal to descriminate in hiring if you are doing it for diversity.

It's not going to break the bank if they are not hired otherwise than based on their merits. Paying extra attention to a historically underrepresented class of people is generally considered not only meritorious, but necessary. I agree nobody should be hired without being the best for the job, but if an interviewer has limited time adding a few extra interviews for one group of people is the only practical solution. If it is hugely lopsided that is it's own problem, however the bump seems to be significant but not game changing.

We are trying to hire at the moment and most of the resume we've received have been from men.... we'd like to interview some women....one of the good resume from a female is missing their email address.... in my book that would have been an automatic no but...since we need female candidates we tried calling them for an interview...

Why do you "need" female candidates? And why, in general, do you have a desire to "interview some women"? Why do you view your candidates by group association rather than as individuals?

I don't understand why, if you have a bunch of resumes, do you seem to be holding out for some female applicants. Why not just interview the ones that seem like the best options and choose the best person for the job, regardless of their gender and how many qualified female candidates you have (or don't have)? You don't control who applies to the position.

Also, why would a missing email be an automatic no if they included another way to reach them using a standard method of communication? Or are you saying that they included no way of reaching them and you had to somehow locate a phone number for this person?

> since we need female candidates

May I ask why? Why does it matter if the candidate is male or female? Why not just hire the most fit candidates regardless of their gender and be done with it?

   Why not just hire the most fit candidates regardless of their gender and be done with it?
Short answer, because you aren't actually capable of identifying them.

Longer: mostly because there is real value in team diversity, and it's almost impossible to remove your decision biases without actively addressing them. So if you identify a potential bias, it's not crazy to try and do something about it and see how that works for you.

There is a very real and pragmatic application for this very thing, specifically in AI work as identified by Fei-Fei Li:


edit: my phrasing wasn't very clear. I mean for having a team from a diverse makeup.

Because that's how you get Apple Health omitting a monthly bodily function that a majority of the population has. Diversity of perspective makes a better product.

Is that really the reason why Apple Health didn't include menstrual cycle tracking? Or did they just decide not to add it in additional to a bunch of other things?

Not super familiar with that example but another one is all kinds of technology not working well with darker skin.

Early versions of facial recognition had difficulty working with darker skin due to genuine technical challenges, namely lower contrast between facial features and the background skin color (e.g. dark eyebrows on dark skin vs. dark eyebrows on light skin). This was not solved by hiring dark skinned engineers, it wad solved by a different technical solution: infrared cameras that could better sense features regardless of skin color for example.

The developers of facial recognition tools were aware of the early devices' limitations, and dedicating resources towards an approach that worked better on subsequent iterations. Why people think things would have automagically worked on the first iteration if the teams building the devices were more diverse, and why people continue to use this as an example of the necessity of diverse teams is a mystery to me.

It's in vogue in Silicon Valley to bias hiring standards in order to get more "equality" on the other side.

This has little to do with SV.

I've worked in SV and elsewhere and the push to hire disproportionate numbers of women in tech roles in definitely stronger in SV.

For example, at my company 27% of our tech workforce is women, as compared to an industry average of 20% (figures are from our head of diversity). Despite already having an overrepresentation, we continue to enagage in discriminatory hiring policies that favor women and we've bumped our target for women in tech roles up to 33%.

I haven't worked outside of SV in 5+ years but this level of aggressiveness in pursuing diversity is not something I witnessed elsewhere.

I work well outside of SV and the push for greater diversity is a large endeavour in most industries (I've worked in many).

I really disagree with your wording, and the slant you're taking with calling an above average representation in your company as an overrepresentation. You're comparing your number to the current standard which is often considered insufficient.

But I think we'll probably have to agree to disagree on that point, because this isn't the subject of the thread.

> I really disagree with your wording, and the slant you're taking with calling an above average representation in your company as an overrepresentation.

An above average representation is the definition of an overrepresentation. I'm not sure why you are attempting to state otherwise. Whether you desire a larger representation of women in tech as a whole does not alter the objective fact that a company with a share of women in tech roles larger than the tech industry average has an overrepresentation of women in tech roles.

The statement that the current representation of women in [this wasn't exclusively about tech, but you continue to represent it as such] tech is somehow a natural constant, rather than having been possibly influenced by any number of factors. I mean, you can't objectively use the current representation of women in [tech/other] as a baseline for what you're arguing. It has bias inherent—one that you're using to argue that going above said representation is somehow discriminatory. That's problematic—if objectivity is the ideal here.

Whether or not the percentage of women in tech is influenced by other factors was never stated in my comment, why you seem to think I am denying this is the case is a mystery to me. Regardless of said factors, this does not alter the fact that having a portion of tech workers greater than tech as a whole constitutes an overrepresentation. This is the literal definition of an overrepresentation.[0] To claim otherwise is subscribing to an alternative definition of an overrepresentation, and you can see why doing so will generate friction with other commenters.

In case this was missed in my original comment, my company does have explicitly discriminatory hiring policies that favor women over men (as well as favoring certain races). To call my company's hiring policies discriminatory is indeed an objective statement - regardless of whether you wish to call my company's representation of women an overrepresentation.

To clarify, my original point is that while many companies apply discrimination to balance out underrepresentations, it is quite aggressive to continue to apply discriminatory hiring policies even when the favored demographic is already overrepresented by a significant margin. I have rarely seen companies outside of SV go to the these lengths.

0. Merriam Webster defines overrepresentation as, "having representatives in a proportion higher than the average", https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overrepresented

I think you missed my point.

I was stating that your figure on the current representation of women in the industry may not be an objective representation but may be the result of many factors, and is not useful as a baseline for beginning to even determine what is over- or under-representative. Therefore, it can't be objectively considered.

But, that's all for me on this subject for now. All the best...

You still seem to be subcribing to an alternative definition of an overrepresentation. Whether or not factors influence the baseline population does not lessen the objectivity of measuring representation. You seem to be under the impression that the definition of an overrepresentation is, "having representatives in a proportion higher than some perceived ideal average." While under this alternative definition it may be fair to say whether not not a representation of women higher than the current average is a subjective statement, I am speaking in terms of the actual definition of the word which refers to representation with respect to the current average - not some perceived ideal average. When the proportion of women in tech is 20% and a company's proportion is greater than that, then an overrepresentation exists. The fact that you may think the proportion of women in tech may be greater absent certain factors does not affect the objectivity of that statement.

So it is indeed because of gender discrimination/diversity?

I recently was involved in drafting a job posting that was extremely flexible. For example it didn’t specify a particular programming language, just listed a few and said “or other similar languages”.

However the essence of the posting was clearly for a programmer. Significantly more than half the people that applied were not programmers. We saw some resumes from seemingly quite accomplished statisticians but we were not looking for a statistician (or “data scientist”).

So I think which 50% matters. If someone is a self starter and has great communication skills but can’t program she isn’t going to be hired as a programmer.

A recruiter once told me "we ask for God in person, hoping for a prophet, we are happy when we get the followers".

That's doomed to fail because the only applicant who qualified was over 30 and was visbly middle-eastern.

That's a good way to get the worse part of developers divided by their Dunnin-Kruger score.

I think that Dunning-Kruger effect in interviews is a very real problem going the other way too.

I worry that the questions that I only ask questions of candidates that I think are important and that I already know the answer too.

If you're looking for good hires you're going to want people who know stuff you don't and finding that out is tricky because of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Unfortunately in Bay Area and specially at FAANG you need 0% of job "Requirements" on your resume as they will leetcode the shit out of you in the interview without asking one relevant question pertaining to your resume or even to the actual job. One of the reason given for this is that the stack used at these companies is completely homegrown so your experience using framework $X for $Y years has no relevance

Someone I know applied for a designer AND front end dev position at a startup. He went through multiple rounds plus a project. This describes my friend:

- super passionate (paying customer for while) about the product

- great designer with a few years of experience

- degree in CS from a reputed school

- picked up react recently

- few years of work experience doing design and coding

He got turned down by the startup with the excuse that they would like someone more senior who has worked on a product like Facebook. I could just smh because from everything I know, if you are senior and worked at fb, you are unlikely to be (or want to be!) an AMAZING designer AND front-end dev.

Recently I've seen a lot more job ads with minimal technical requirements and rather a focus on more generic skills.

That's good but please, if you aren't Google or Facebook, don't take it to the other extreme. If I have no idea about your tech stack I'm not going to apply, and the same probably holds true for a lot of experienced developers.

I've noticed that smaller companies tend to fill their job requirements section with tons of stuff, larger companies do it less, or at least separate things into must-have and nice-to-have sections. Yet there are others who still have words like Flash Development, Macromedia and Dreamweaver in their list of requirements.

If you're looking for a job, just keep applying and don't stop till you actually have an offer letter in hand. Don't wait for the employer or recruiter to send you feedback after a promising interview. There are SO MANY reasons a company might decide to go for someone else. For example, culture fit, which sometimes means "will this person stop everything and play foosball with us in the middle of the day?"

This data is weirdly bucketed and the fit curve looks sketchy. I don't think it's a robust finding and I don't trust it.

Doesn't seem to have stopped a lot of people confirming their anecdotes though.

I find that very frustrating. When a person is looking for a job he or she is stressed out already, and when reading all those huge qualification criteria you sometimes really feel like a total loser, not knowing anything at all. It's really important to still try and send a CV and go to an interview with a positive attitude, willing to learn that is. But I'd really like to see some reasonable hiring criteria, so you can know for sure that you have what they're looking for.

That does match up with my job search I just completed. I sent out 5 resumes, got an interview on every one where I had a majority of the qualifications, did not get called on the 2 that were more off-target.

But I'm not sure that the sales pitch this article is trying to make is valid. They claim at the end that they'll get you 5.8x more interviews. But is that good? In my 3 interview processes, they each brought to light reasons why it was not a match in one or both directions. The article even touched on that, as candidates will self-screen out of jobs that aren't quite right. It would have been a huge waste of time to expand that to 10-12 interview processes that were not matches. Especially when I didn't end up taking a job even from the ones that went well, and re-joined an old team instead.

The screening that happens in the hiring process can feel frustrating when you really need a job, but I appreciate being screened out when it would not have worked anyway. It saves everyone time, and hopefully puts me in a healthy long-term role that will last for years.

On the other hand, you keep doing what you're already doing.

I have a really high ratio of interview / job offers, but that's because I choose to apply for jobs where I had nearly 100% of the requirements.

I think this was a mistake. I should have taken more risks, try to apply for more challenging jobs that aren't completely in my comfort zone.

My strategy has been to take a new position that is a good fit for my current skill set and allows me to grow in the direction I'd like to move. Coming from the linux side of the house, I wanted to move more into software engineering. Each job hop moved me into more and more software development-centric roles.

Fortunately for me, it's usually meant an increase in pay as well, though I didn't maximize pay at each hop. I could have been paid more at different firms I declined during each move, the position responsibilities were always key for me.

Wondering if there is a corpus of "stop-phrases" like stop-words which will include gems like "passionate about software development", "good communicator", "truth-seeker" and the likes.

It might be interesting to do a basic pre-processing of the JD to remove all such stop-phrases before evaluating the role being offered.

In my experience, unless you meet all of the requirements in the req, and substantially exceed a few of them, you will probably be passed over for a candidate with "more experience in technology X".

Not that I apply for jobs to get jobs, not to get interviews. Getting called in to interview means next to nothing.

"They're more what you'd call 'guidelines.'"

As someone who hires for technical roles, I tend to profile the roles into a 5 X 5 grid. 5 core areas of proficiency, 5 levels of proficiency. a proficiency of 4 across the board is uncommon.

If I can find a 5, 4, 4, 3, 2 of combination of that, I'm happy. That's about 70%. That sort of profile should also provide learning opportunities for the candidate and typical that is intrinsically motivating for technical types.

Unless HR prescreens all the applicants before they make it to staff, then you need 200%, or 0%. Sometimes it's rather frustrating working for bigcorp.

The most interesting thing was 12% interview rate - is that normal? I was discouraged when getting 20% rates, maybe I need to apply to more stuff.

I think it's pretty dependent on your application strategy. Some people are fairly R-selected in their strategy. Large number of applications, but little customization of resumes for each job and no cover letter. Others are more k selected, they'll write good cover letters and change up their resume to better highlight relevant experience.

Most important job requirement - get a warm introduction to the HR / Hiring Manager via an existing employee of the company!

A lot of job descriptions are written overly precise to specifically include or exclude internal candidates.

Could be, but what if the requirements you're missing are supposedly essential for the job? Some jobs say you need to know X programming language. What if you're a good programmer but haven't worked with that particular language? Should you bother to apply?

I did, and it worked out fine for me. However the languages are a bit similar. I went from C# to Java. I was upfront with it, and showed my eagerness to learn and develop.

They did only give me a 1-year contract, and a stipulation to get some Oracle cert but did support me throughout. Now that I've shown them that I can adapt (be productive/billable, and got the certs done) they offered me a permanent contract (indefinite period of time).

So yes, bother to apply. But put the work in to show them you can adapt.

My last job hunt resulted in a 12% success rate of getting an interview, which matches well with this data.


Too soon.

This forum is on an intersection of progressives, who by default champion womens' causes, and entrepreneurs, who favor expanding labor pool to lower workforce costs.

HN will needs to see a lot more papers & articles on this subject to start turning around on the issue. Find more documents, post them, and hunker down for a few more years. Generation Z will get this sorted out once it starts joining the workplaces.

Point in case, most of HN is staunchly pro immigration with little to no restrictions, for what seems to be mix of ideological reasons, and labor pool expansion reasons. However there's a glaring exception: the (american) H1B visa program. A lot of HNers have learned of the magnitude of terrible abuse and wage suppression the H1B holders suffer, and thus prefer serious reform of this program. Awareness of the facts on the ground makes one question the ready-made ideological answers.

Generation Z will get this sorted out once it starts joining the workplaces.

Are they noticeably less ageist than any previous generation?

That one I don't know. They seem tolerate me just fine so far, for what it's worth. Call them "realists" perhaps? While gaming, they are well aware I have much worse reaction times and working memory than them, but I can make it up with relevant experience to certain extent.

You raise a very good point, and I will take care to spread the message of "respect your elders". Obviously behaving respectably is a prerequisite. I think the Gen Z-ers feel a less hung out to dry by the adults than the Millenials, so there ought to be less resentment and less distrust.

On the other hand, the holders of higher education degrees may end up looked down with a degree of sneer in a decade or two, due to the current title bubble.

You can eliminate all kinds of selective bias and incompetence by first filtering candidates based upon a battery of personality tests. You don't have to know anything about the candidates until this pass through the initial filter.

Aside from personal experience, can you point to any data on this, and maybe go into some more detail?

When I think of personality tests, I think of quack science. "Do you get angry a lot?", "Is it easy for you to get angry?", "Would you say it is difficult to make you angry?, and four other similar questions in a 200 question quiz. They ask the same thing multiple ways to try to know if you are an person categorizable as x, y, and/or z, and anyone sensible will put the socially desired response.

An interesting take on this is CultureAmp's surveys, where they determine your working style and can rate how well you might work with different colleagues. I work great with someone I scored a 98 with. Turns out I also work great with a person I scored a 4 with. So, while fun, it seems all bunk.

By the 5th time you see the question, you're fuming so you shout, "YES! I ANGER EASILY!!!!"

Ahem... Sorry.

I worked at a place that was bought out and the new team immediately made everyone take a battery of these style tests. A few days later they did a mass firing based on the results. I survived long enough to find work elsewhere.

Firing based on test results sounds illegal. Same reason why employers can't give iq tests to candidates anymore IIRC.

Fair point. It happened after the tests, but I've no way of knowing if it was because. Just seems suspect.

I assume that you're in USA as you don't say, what law prohibits it? Any insight on the rationale?

Presumably it is not illegal to require a particular educational level or particular certificate pass which are likely to be close proxies for an "IQ" test result?

Not in the US myself, but this is a US discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3772897

While technically not always illegal, giving an IQ test is a minefield for HR and that's why almost everyone avoids it. It all boils down to whether it is required for the job or not, and whether it would discriminate against someone who could otherwise do the job but fail the test.

I have only seen this in practice once at a little hedge fund called Bridgewater. It sounds like you are making assumptions of what you think the testing is without any frame of reference.

Also, anger is an emotion opposed to a personality designation.

ok, and? We've also seen "how many pingpong balls can fill a school bus" from the likes of Google. They eventually learned it was not a good filter. If a personality test truly is better, I want to know because I'm involved with hiring at my company.

What qualifies Bridgewater's take on this? How have they leveraged it and to what effect? Correlation, causation, all that jazz too - if I want to be taller, I should obviously play basketball.

[edit] you edited your response as I posted mine :) Yes, I'm assuming what a personality test is because you've given us very little to go on. Give us more. Honestly, if it is better, I'm sure others want more than "this practice is good." We want to know how, what, and why.

> If a personality test truly is better, I want to know because I'm involved with hiring at my company.

Then I recommend getting in contact with a behavioral health professional.

> What qualifies Bridgewater's take on this?

Their success and retention.

When I went through the Bridgewater process there were about 6 different personally tests I took. Some were more precise than others. I measured a 96% objectivity score which is a statistical anomaly. I ultimately dropped out as I found a less risky position in my local metro far away from the east coast.

There are companies with practically zero attrition rates and are successful; lots of companies can claim what you are claiming. Again, what you are saying is the same as "if I want to be taller, I should play basketball."

Then you should gather your own data and independently draw your own conclusions.

In my experience selective bias cannot be avoided unless you remove humans from the initial selection process. It is also my experience that potential in a given field is a predictable quality not discerned from resumes.

That’s my secret: I’m always angry

This sounds like the old joke "avoid employing unlucky people by throwing away half the CVs you receive".

What is the optimum personality type to employ for a specific role anyway? You might hire based the idea that you want people who won't "rock the boat" and just end up with a group that are shy of giving you bad news.

Most companies could save a lot of money and have similar results just by taking a random resume, verifying that the person can legally work the position and hiring them - don't even read the resume, much interview. If you cannot show your hiring process produces better than the above why are you doing it.

You are a visionary beyond our times.

Nice one, after all those sweatshops trying to interview like if they were Google (w/o any of them ever working there) the next logical step would be having random people administering "personality tests" found after a few minutes of googling or searching on wikihow ;D

Competence is hard to assess without having to ask hard open technical questions. The alternative I hope you are not seriously proposing, going with gut feelings or "personality tests", is actually the epitome of surrendering to bias. Don't do it, resist.

Personality tests are probably one of the worst ways to filter. It is actually a signal the company has no idea what they are doing and more than likely has terrible management.

Oh yeah, that's just what we need. Unicru tests for software jobs. I'm gonna go ahead and say STRONGLY DISAGREE, chumbo.

What is this proposed personality filter letting through and what is it filtering out?

IN: INT* OUT: anything not NT.

I used to really like the MBTI-type stuff, but honestly think it's kinda nonsense now. You need a diverse team to be the best imho.

This is absolutely it. MBTI is garbage, but since I've always consistently tested INTJ, when they start personality-testing doors start opening.

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