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After seeing a link to it on the SAGE mailing list, I happened to read Mark Dennehy’sblog post on Tips for hiring new engineers. I felt the need to make a few comments on some of his findings. Perhaps someone in HR, or a recruiter, will actually read this and learn a thing or two.

The basics of professional work – getting along with others, being able to manage your time, being able to communicate clearly and well, being able to work to deadlines – it is a waste of your time and mine to put these in the job advert. You aren’t taking random people off the street here – you’re hiring trained professionals who’ve working in this field for some time. It’s nearly insulting to tell them not to apply unless they play well with others.

Unfortunately there are some places where this is required. In the public sector, at least, the job ad and description set up fixed guidelines. If you have a job description that doesn’t include “plays well with others”, and the hire doesn’t play well with others, it’s immensely difficult to fire them - the hire’s failing wasn’t listed in the job description.

Don’t have the HR people write the technical requirements. You have engineers, use them.

I have to whole-heartedly agree with what Mark said about writing technical requirements. I don’t know why HR seems to think that they can write IT job descriptions - they wouldn’t attempt it for most other professionals. IT job descriptions should be left to IT people to write - and, more importantly, people who actually understand what the person will be doing.

And don’t class all those requirements as being absolutely necessary. Have two lists – critical, mandatory skills; and skills which would be advantageous to have. Because many professional engineers will look at the mandatory skills listed and if we see some we don’t have, we won’t apply.

Also a very good point. Even when I’m not actively looking for work, I usually get a lot of phone calls and emails from recruiters. Especially if I update my resume on one of the big job sites or post a consulting ad on CraigsList, I get inundated with emails and phone calls (which I usually refer to email, unless they’re from a big player). I can’t possibly spend the hours to read and apply to all of them. The first ones that get deleted are from people who obvously didn’t even look at my resume - entry-level (operator) positions, Windows admins, anything with a primary duty that isn’t even near my skill set (i.e. they just used keyword matching and never read anything).

From there, I start looking through the descriptions and building two lists - the ones that will likely get thrown out unless there’s some amazing thing that redeems them (i.e. a company that I really want to work for) and the ones that I know I’ll follow up on. Here are some of the criteria I use:

Likely to ignore:

  • I read the job description and still can’t figure out what I’d be doing.
  • The buzzword-to-content ratio is horrible.
  • The skills/requirements section lists every hot technology - a list that no human being can master.
  • The skills/requirements section has far too disparate of a list - something that only an engineer, administrator, programmer, and hardware designer could master.

Follow-up:

  • Use of the SAGE Job Descriptions.
  • An actual salary range, not “varies with experience” or “competitive”.
  • Some description of where I’ll work - size of the team, responsibility, work environment, etc.
  • Examples of current things the team is working on, or examples of what I’d be working on.
  • Skills/requirements broken down into mandatory and optional/preferred.
  • A description that was obviously written by someone who understands the technology.

In closing, I have a theory for companies (especially those in the public sector that have stringent HR/hiring policies) listing jobs in the IT sector: have both HR and IT write portions of the job description. Have HR write a paragraph or two with all of their non-IT-specific stuff, and then have the IT hiring people (preferably the manager the new hire will report to) write the rest. Put the HR stuff at the bottom. Break the skills/requirements lists down into “Technical Skills” (further divided into Required and Preferred/Optional/Bonus) and a “Soft Skills” section for HR (with the usual crap like “works with a team”, “eligible for employment”, etc.).

Everyone’s up in arms about the recession, high unemployment, and low job openings. Logic would dictate that it’s an employer’s market - and, to a large extent, it is. However, that doesn’t mean that employers don’t need to worry about making the advertisement attractive and descriptive. Actually, I’d say it’s the opposite - since I know that there will likely be hundreds of other applicants, I only send a resume in for jobs that I think I have a very good chance of getting. I’m sure I’ve skipped over good positions just because the description didn’t communicate that to me - and I’m sure I’m not alone.


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