Help me fill out a job description.
April 30, 2012 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I was given the task of filling out a job description for a programming environment. Should I respect the history of previous job descriptions when writing out this job description?

I am the technical lead in my group. The job descriptions have historically mentioned that candidates should have knowledge of .NET, Oracle databases, Crystal Reports, and IIS Server. I'm fine with applicants that have played with Glassfish, Java EE, and PostgreSQL. If they've used Ruby on Rails or Django or Node.js, that's great news for me. Is there something I'm missing when I widen the applicant pool? I don't expect my organization's infrastructure to change. I feel that knowing proprietary software is an unfair barrier to entry to skilled applicants. But I'm not HR or management so what do I know?
posted by DetriusXii to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Primarily what you might want to do is talk with the recruiter(s) who will work with your job description. They may not have the chops or experience to work with your new requirements. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but you should probably brief them so they don't get bamboozled by the terminology or what a likely amount of experience in the techs you want is. I remember having a few recruiters list 3 years' experience requirements with 1 year old technologies before I sorted that part out when I was writing job descriptions and participating in the hiring cycle.
posted by kalessin at 9:27 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe group the languages into technologies and techniques instead of just as an alphabet soup?

Experience with Database software (SQL, IIS, MySQL or Postgre, etc) and Object Oriented Programming (Java, Ruby, etc) required.
posted by empath at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

@kalessin: I took your advice and I asked HR to email me the last three job postings on the position. I'll spend some time looking it over.

I spoke with my manager about including me in the interview as a technical reference. I mentioned that our interviewing process got me hired and my junior coworker hired. I don't feel that the interviewing process was terrible. Just some forms of dialogue during my interview weren't present as both the HR person and my coordinator, who was interviewing me at the time, didn't have the current technical knowledge about their work to answer the nature of work effectively.
posted by DetriusXii at 9:54 AM on April 30, 2012

I'd definitely make it about groups of technologies rather than lists. One problem a lot of non-developers have is not knowing/understanding what skills are translatable to other skills, and which ones aren't. I've seen a focus on "Oracle" when "Savvy with MySQL/PostgreSQL" would do just as well (but "Experienced with Access" won't quite cut it), or an obsession over .NET experience when you know perfectly well that a good Java developer will pick up .NET quickly enough to suit your team's actual needs (But you don't want to ramp up someone without OO-chops.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:09 AM on April 30, 2012

You might also advertise for the person who thinks like you want, rather than what you will have them do. Saying you want knowledge of Oracle, Crystal Reports, and IIS is going to get you a bunch of enterprise-y buffoons whose spirit is crushed, when you really want to get the sharp thinker who learned new obscure language X on his own just because he looooooves that stuff and thinks about it outside of school and work. I say break with the past and get the autodidact, not the guy whose last job was buzzword-compatible with this one.
posted by cmiller at 10:11 AM on April 30, 2012

Saying you want knowledge of Oracle, Crystal Reports, and IIS is going to get you a bunch of enterprise-y buffoons whose spirit is crushed

Or, you know, it might get you people with knowledge of Oracle, Crystal Reports, and IIS.

You should be realistic about what you're hiring for -- if you're using Oracle but aren't writing a lot of stored procedures and don't need to get maximum performance, then it's probably fine to get somebody with no previous Oracle experience (or if you have people who *do* have Oracle experience who can mentor them). But if you expect them to start today and start picking datatypes and designing indexes tomorrow, you're probably going to want them to come in with some experience in the specific app. Similarly, IIS and Apache are both webservers, but configuration and performance optimization are pretty different between the two.

The other thing is, although lots of people are flexible and willing to switch between technology stacks, some people aren't; I know plenty of people who won't work on microsoft stacks and plenty of people who won't work on anything but. If your job description is all "java, ruby, python, C#, whatever" but the actual job is "C# and nothing else", you may get some disappointed people.

(Also, if you're the technical lead for the group and you had to ask to be included in the hiring process, I would say you probably have bigger problems than just getting the right keywords on the job description, unless you were the first technical hire in the group.)
posted by inkyz at 10:30 AM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I showed my co-worker (in my group) the job description I wrote. He immediately went on to say that having candidates outside the C# world were useless for our project. I'm up against a belief that assumes there's an infinite amount of knowledge to any programming language and so specialization in one language is the only route a programmer can take to become a good programmer. This is also similar to the belief that states Oracle DB is great and powerful, and yet complain when our SELECT queries take too long as we don't have the licensing agreement to make the query multithreaded.

I followed empath's advice in being general with specifics languages in parenthesis. I had left note summaries at the end. I commented on what I believed were necessary skills.

@inkyz: We don't code a lot though. We only needed C# when we wrote custom applications that interfaced with the application web services and Visual Basic for event triggers within the application. The application gives us a precompiled stub class dll, but we can still interface with the application directly in the language of our choice for future interfaces to the application's web services.
posted by DetriusXii at 4:57 PM on April 30, 2012

You might want to mention specifically which languages you actually use, even if you'll take somebody who isn't as familiar with them, so you can at least weed out people who don't like those languages.
posted by empath at 5:18 PM on April 30, 2012

@empath: I did so. I listed the specific skill sets we used. The programming language, the backend database, and the web servers aren't the important factors though. The workflow application, called Hansen, is the major source of our work and I think I never cared about the programming language choices as we're not typically building applications from source code.

I think I have one example of not being a pure C# shop though. Our manager would like us to eventually develop an automated testing tool. We have a potential Java dependency with Selenium Server for our automated testing. It's only a potential dependency as it takes too much work to deal with an application that only supports Internet Explorer.
posted by DetriusXii at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2012

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