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Getting Your Job Ad Replied To [Aug. 11th, 2012|02:31 pm]
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Joel Spolsky had published an essay titled “Getting Your Résumé Read” on his Joel on Software site, which gives very good advice for job candidates who want to apply for work. Today, I am going to cover the opposite direction: give some advice for employers who publish job ads in hopes of finding employees. I have seen my share of bad practises among the many job ads I have read, and can tell which ones make me more willing to apply.

Before I start, I am going to share a small item, which I originally planned to publish as is, and later decided to expand into this post, which I have titled “The Worst Job Offer Ever”. After I wrote it, I thought that posting something like that on my blog will make no one want to hire me ever again, so don’t take it too seriously. I am not singling any particular “wanted” adverts.

From: lamejob@gmail.com
To: programmersforum@yahoogroups.com
Subject: BEST JOB!!!

A promising startup with a young, dynamic, environment is looking for a
talented software developer with the following skills:

* Team-player.
* Independent.
* Detail-oriented.
* Considers the big picture.
* Ability to work under pressure.
* Willing to work for stock options.
* B.Sc./B.A. in Computer Science/Software Engineering or equivalent from a
prestigious university with an average of 93.1415% or above.
** M.Sc. an advantage.
* 10 years of experience in JAVA.
* 25 years of experience in php/Mysql.
* 1-3 years of experience in PERL, PYTHON, ror - an advantage.
* 10 years of OOP/OOD experience in C++ and COBOL - a must.
* windows/unix/LINUX sys admin experience (3-5 years).

Please send your CVs in MS Word format to lamejob-jobs@gmail.com .
Sent from my iPhone.

I hope you agree that it is pretty bad. Now for the rest of the advice:

  1. The first thing you should do is to spell the requirements precisely. What does the candidate must know for the job? Please consider avoiding giving a number of years of experience because this is annoying. “1-3 years of Java experience” — are people with 4 years of Java experience underqualified?

  2. You should also give a precise description of the job: something like “Ruby-on-Rails expert”, “Perl expert”, “UNIX Systems Administrator”, “PHP expert” etc. That way people who do not match this description will know better than to apply.

  3. You should also use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax. Perl is not spelled “PERL”, Python is not spelled “PYTHON”, and it's MySQL - not “MYSQL”, “Mysql” or “mySQL”. It's also “PHP” - not “Php” or “php”.

  4. If you have a successful business or planning on having one, then you should get your own DNS domain such as mycompany.com, set up E-mail hosting for it, and send the job posts from there. Sending from a Webmail provider such as “@gmail.com”, “@hotmail.com” or “@yahoo.com” will make a bad impression, and indicate lack of professionalism.

  5. You should also use a standard desktop, or a comfortable laptop computer to type and phrase the message - not a mobile device which results in more error-prone and less Netiquette -conforming messages. Make sure that your E-mail lacks any of the branding or advertising signatures such as “Sent from my iPhone”.

  6. Specify the formats in which it is possible to send the résumé, for example Microsoft Word, OpenDocument Text, XHTML or PDF. This way the candidates will know which formats they should send and you will have less problems reading their E-mails. That is one thing the worst job advert I gave did right, but naturally many people will appreciate the ability to send in different formats to the proprietary Microsoft Word format.

    Also specify whether it would be possible to send a link to an online version of the résumé for easy viewing using your favourite browser, and avoid the hassles of opening attachments and their myriad formats.

  7. Please don't require an “ability to work under pressure”. Most developers are naturally going to perform worse under pressure, and you should make sure you avoid pressuring them as much as possible. In order to attract developers, it is a good idea to advertise that your company normally operates on no more than 40 hours of work in a week — see what Evan Robinson has written about it in “Why Crunch Modes Doesn’t Work: Six Lessons”.

    If you do have a pressured environment (which is unfortunate but a fact of life), say “We have a pressured environment.” instead.

  8. Another good idea is to encourage candidates to show off their open-source projects and web-presence (home sites, blogs, etc.). However, “show me your GitHub page” may work for some people, but will leave a bad taste in the mouth, and will offend some other people, because some people prefer some of its alternatives (include me).

  9. You should spell the location of your offices (at least roughly) and specify how much one can telecommute, if at all.

  10. Whatever you do, please don’t post the job ad to the same forum more than once every few months. Posting the exact same position several times will make people annoyed and they may complain, filter your messages, or request that you get banned from posting on the forum.

  11. It is a good idea to mention some of the software management practices your company employs, such as using version control, writing automated tests, performing code reviews, refactoring, or pair programming.

  12. Finally, as Joel mentions in the original essay, you should make your ad stand out. One good example was once posted to the Israeli Ruby developers mailing list:

    Subject: Developers Developers Developers
    Looking for developers who:
    * want a full time, salaried position
    * want to work in a fun, young workplace
    * want to work in an environment that allows them to use (just about)
    whatever tools they wish to get the job done
    * know and love ruby
    * ideally have experience with php and python
    * want to work on large scale rails/merb projects that have nothing to
    do with "the social web"
    * want to drown a puppy every time they hear phrases like "the social

    This job ad (and especially the two last items) makes a stance, and makes the readers feel empathic towards it.

  13. Good luck!

Copyright and Licence

This document is Copyright by Shlomi Fish, 2012, and is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0 Unported (or at your option any later version).

For securing additional rights, please contact Shlomi Fish and see the explicit requirements that are being spelt from abiding by that licence.


[User Picture]From: shlomif
2012-08-13 01:34 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the comment

Hi Tomer,

thanks for the comment, you're raising some interesting points. Let me address them:

First, I don't think anyone could apply to such a job, as PHP itself invented about 15 years ago, so no one, including the original programmers could apply to a job that require 25 years of experience.

Well, that was part of the joke - an exaggerated amount of experience - but I may not have delivered it well enough. That put aside, I did hear of candidates or job offers inflating the number of experience beyond reason - such as saying one has or need 5 years of experience in .NET when it only existed for 2 years. Anyway, I hope you understand it better now.

Second, I think you are missing the point of using private mailbox out of the company domain. Some companies want to review your CV without letting potential employees to know what is the company behind the ad (For example, are you willing to work for Microsoft?), and sometimes the ad is sponsored by recruiting companies who gets paid for each successful recruit, thous they can't use the company name and don't have a mailbox in the target company.

Third, some companies have referral programs for their own employees, so after after a successful referral the employee gets a bonus salary – These people actually have a mailbox in the company domain, but prefer to use their private mailbox while they are at home.

I admit I have overlooked this, and so this is a fault in this post. That put aside, I have seen enough job posts from CTOs or CEOs of companies which mentioned the company name, and were sent from an @gmail.com address. Moreover, if you represent a recruiting company (case No. 2 in your enumeration), you should send a message from the recruiting company's domain - not some web mail address, for the same reasons, as I mentioned. And in regards to case No. 3, my point still stands, because it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

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