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Ask Slashdot: Why Are Tech Job Requirements So Specific? 465

Posted by timothy
from the based-this-one-on-my-nephew's-resume dept.
First time accepted submitter hurwak-feg writes "I am in the market for a new IT (software development or systems administration) job for the first time and several years and noticed that many postings have very specific requirements (i.e. specific models of hardware, specific software versions). I don't understand this. I like working with people that have experience with technologies that I don't because what they are familiar with might be a better solution for a problem than what I am familiar with. Am I missing something or are employers making it more difficult for themselves and job seekers by rejecting otherwise qualified candidates that don't meet a very specific mold. Is there a good reason for being extremely specific in job requirements that I am just not seeing?"
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are Tech Job Requirements So Specific?

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  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:50PM (#45550511) Homepage Journal
    I'm under the impression that the more specific a tech job requirement is, the more likely it was written to target one person, such as a specific foreign citizen on an H-1B visa. That or the company just wants to be a cheapskate, wanting the new hire to be productive from day two instead of taking two weeks to train him or her.
    • by Lodlaiden (2767969) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:52PM (#45550531)
      The "To hire specific people" may be spot on. Sometimes an employer will write a job posting as a way of promoting an internal employee, though they have to post it as an open req for staff, so it doesn't look like favoritism(sp?).
      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:47PM (#45550889)

        Sometimes an employer will write a job posting as a way of promoting an internal employee, though they have to post it as an open req for staff, so it doesn't look like favoritism(sp?).

        Pssst, wanna buy a bridge? Those absurdly specific job listings are to justify H-1B's. Promotions are promotions, and no one sees them as favoritism unless favoritism was the basis for the promotion. Absurdly specific reqs would be seen as favortism, if one favored Bob, when everybody knows Charlie does a better job and has all the necessary skills.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:21PM (#45551117)

          In at least one case it was to promote an existing employee. Me.

          My boss quit. His boss agreed I should take over, but corp. policy requires a job posting published for 5 days. The two of us sat down w/ my resume and wrote a description very unlikely to be matched by anyone else. 5 days later HR let my promotion go through and the posting disappeared.

        • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:42PM (#45551275) Homepage

          It's not about Bob vs Charlie, it's when you want to promote Bob but corporate/government policy demands you have a public listing and review external applicants. That happens very often in big companies, but in reality the person who is already employed there, experienced in the exact subject matter and in line for the promotion will with 95%+ probability get it. Often there's only one internal candidate because everyone knows if that person wants the job, they'll get it. Same thing if you have to hand off a purchasing decision, if people have already decided on a solution they'll write a very detailed requirements document that only one product could possibly fill. It's simply so that if people don't have the authority to make the decision they'll try disqualifying all other options.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054)

        The "To hire specific people" may be spot on. Sometimes an employer will write a job posting as a way of promoting an internal employee, though they have to post it as an open req for staff, so it doesn't look like favoritism(sp?).

        It may be to hire specific people, but it might also be to get someone that can immediately do the job without a whole lot of re-training
        and requesting new or different equipment or new software. Perhaps this comes right back to hiring specific people.

        Not every employer is willing tu pit up with the 6month retooling and retraining period that bringing in someone new withe their own pet tool set and their own hardware demands. Many know the job can be don with the tools at hand, and the systems can be main

        • by bmo (77928) on Friday November 29, 2013 @12:36AM (#45552859)

          After reading your post, there is not enough of money you could pay me to get me to work for you, qualified or not. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

          If you had my dream job, and it was a perfect match for me, I wouldn't take it. Because I would spend my entire paycheck on therapy.

          Not. Worth. It.

          If you want a robot, build one, jerk.

          --
          BMO

        • by Xest (935314) on Friday November 29, 2013 @08:02AM (#45554325)

          The only people who take jobs where they're doing exactly what they've always done are people who have been kicked out of doing exactly what they've always done.

          More competent staff have a constant interest in learning new things and if you're not willing to offer that in the job you're not going to get competent staff who can take your IT forward.

          Your philosophy sounds like an awesome way to ensure your company remains consistently mediocre in terms of IT at best, or on the path to obsolescence at worst. Certainly though you're never going to have an IT department that can compete with companies that are forward thinking and looking to constantly improve though.

          Hiring people who don't know everything about the job is the best thing you can do, it's far better to have someone who is a highly competent fast learner with a genuine fascination with what they're doing because it's new to them than it is someone who is bored of it but "does it because it pays" and has shit productivity because they frankly don't care about the job, just as you don't care about their needs either.

          You're right that jobs are about getting work done and tasks completed, it's unfortunate that you're entirely unaware of the needs of people required to optimise this. Maybe you're staying afloat, maybe you're struggling, maybe you're even doing well right now, but I guarantee you that your attitude is sacrificing you profit potential, and I guarantee you you're only one of those little upstart's startups away from having the rug pulled right out from under your business.

    • by greg_barton (5551) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {notrab_gerg}> on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:56PM (#45550551) Homepage Journal

      This. The more specific the req the more easily you can say "no one in the country is qualified to fill it" and get an H1-B.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:00PM (#45550575)

      Your impression is correct. My immigration law professor talked about this during our visa lectures. The company will find an H-1B candidate they want then the corporate attorney writes a job app matching that person. Bingo, no one matches the description and you can then hire your H-1B.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by majid_aldo (812530)

        this is not the process to get an h1b candidate. this process is to process a green card. it's a labor certification process.. for the sake of "labor protection", the employer has to say to the government..look i didn't find any citizen or permanent resident for this job.

        • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:49PM (#45550905)

          Apparently you know more than an immigration law professor.

          • by tetranz (446973)

            If the law professor really said what is reported above then the professor is wrong. H1B is based on a quota. There is no requirement to advertise the job to prove that you cannot find an American.

          • by lucm (889690) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:28PM (#45551181)

            You mean: he knows more than someone who anonymously reported stuff he was allegedly told during an alleged visa lecture given by an alleged expert. This is called hearsay, I know this for a fact because it has been confirmed by this guy next door who once went to law school (I think).

          • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:40PM (#45551581) Journal
            It doesn't matter anyway. Companies will bring in people for fake interviews to say they tried to hire locals. Then they will hire H1-B indentured servants because they are cheaper.
          • I'd be interested in meeting this immigration law professor.

            It's already hell to find qualified candidates who can operate the specific and possibly unique IT infrastructure in your organization (for example, if you're a Cisco shop you probably want somebody who knows Cisco rather than somebody who only knows Juniper, but you *might* take them if you can't find anybody else) and H-1B visas are in very small supply relative to the need for that. If the company doesn't already have an H-1B visa allocated to t

      • It's so Evil, it's super Evil.

    • by bsolar (1176767) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:02PM (#45550587)
      The other reason is that many companies are not interested in training people anymore: they want someone already trained to put to the task immediately without additional costs.
    • I'm under the impression that the more specific a tech job requirement is, the more likely it was written to target one person, such as a specific foreign citizen on an H-1B visa. That or the company just wants to be a cheapskate, wanting the new hire to be productive from day two instead of taking two weeks to train him or her.

      This is exactly it. Extremely specific job notices satisfy the requirement of posting the job and finding no qualified citizen or resident, allowing the importation of the H1B worker. Unless you're applying for the job to satisfy unemployment insurance requirement, no point in even applying.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm under the impression that the more specific a tech job requirement is, the more likely it was written to target one person, such as a specific foreign citizen on an H-1B visa.

      This does happen, as employers themselves have told me.

      However, I think it's more common that they're just idiots. I work in a large tech company, and applied for internal reqs (no labor department requirements. And many job listings are as restrictive as OP describes. Months later, they still had not been filled.

      • by mark_reh (2015546)

        That's because the H1B they were hoping to hire got a job elsewhere.

    • I remember last time I was looking for work that one of the big requirements was "Must have valid work permit to work in the United States". They were quite serious about this requirement. If you were a citizen, then you obviously didn't have a work permit and so therefore you did not meet the qualifications of the job requirement.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Are you sure that's what they mean? Or are you interpreting that the wrong way. Your citizenship is a work permit. Couldn't this be interpreted as "we don't want to help you get work visa, and we want you to be able to start right away". Living in a government city I see similar stuff all the time. "Must have xyz security clearance" is common. The point is, they would rather hire somebody who has the ability to start work right away without any red tape than hire you and find out there's some obscure re
    • by Arker (91948)

      Yeah, those are basically your options.

      If it's an immigration thing they already believe they have the right person and they just now need to write a job spec that no one else will meet in order to get the visa.

      If instead of that specific dodge, it's general policy, then you are looking at a common hiring strategy geared around hiring someone that in theory already has all the specific knowledge needed. That almost never really works, and usually those jobs seem to cycle quite frequently. Somewhere there is

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:51PM (#45550519)

    A lot of jobs require domain knowledge, meaning that they aren't all that hard, but require a few complex tasks to be repeated over and over. Employers are able to train someone faster if they've been doing similar work.

    On the other hand, you're a lot better off as an employer with a smart person with no experience in the field than you are with an idiot who's been doing the same job for years. That understanding hasn't seemed to trickle up toward management just yet. Maybe closer to the point, a manager can't tell a qualified candidate from a blowhard, or an unqualified one from someone who's simply insecure. So they settle for domain knowledge and hope for the best.

    You might do better looking at startups. They aren't all ramen and 15-hour workdays, and the environment's usually more conducive to good technical work.

    • by Splab (574204)

      We are currently hiring, instead of listing specific requirements our posting includes 3 assignments matching the kind of work the worker would end up doing (3 different languages and domains). Want to work for us, show us your skill, we are tired of receiving hundreds of "I'm the best certified programmer".

      So far it's been a nice way of weeding out the crowd.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:51PM (#45550521)

    Usually when it is a very specific requirement it is an Open Request that matches very well to a target candidate. Depending upon laws, contracting or sub contracting regulations, there is a requirement for an open job offer, and it can't be just given to the person that was targetted for the hire.

  • My sense is that a lot of the super-specific postings are written that way because the folks doing the hiring already have someone in mind. So they can say, "Candidate X may have an MS from MIT, but they only know Excel 2010 while my coffee buddy Ron is proficient in Excel 2013!"
  • by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:53PM (#45550535) Journal

    There are lots of reports of this problem. HR departments screen resumes and in order to screen down to a manageable number, they specify (and match for) very specfic requirements.

    Unfortunately, HR departments don't understand the hiring managers' actual requirements, leading to job posting that (for example) specify "x years of experience with Y language" when the language has not existed for x years.

    • by SJester (1676058) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:14PM (#45550669) Journal
      This is completely true. I worked for a headhunter for a while. I was the tech guy who would interview prospects and translate their skills into bullet points for people who need to read bullet points. Meanwhile I had a relative who was a hiring manager at a large firm, so I got to see what happened when the job reqs were sent from IT to HR, what happened when HR put out those reqs, and what happened when I would try to explain to them that Skill X is equivalent to or superseded by Skill Y, and that for example the lack of familiarity with Q was not a showstopper. HR is not populated by techs. These are people who are really good at filing and filling out forms, at shuffling paper, and at bearing up under my contempt for them. But I digress... A position would open up for a developer who was familiar with C++ and experienced with databases and had worked on, IDK, an IBM mainframe. HR would get the req and send it back up with a "Is C++ hardware or software? What model of databases? And is it ok if I should say "familiar with IBM" ?" Eventually the req goes out with "Must have three years of experience with C++, SQL Server, and System/370." This is a small, off-the-cuff and fictional example but it was repeated endlessly.
  • Two things: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:54PM (#45550545)

    1) A lot of times, job listings to the public are a required formality when there's already an internal candidate wanted for the position. In this situation, the job description will be written to fit that specific internal candidate's skills as precisely as possible.

    2) Job descriptions are crap anyway. If you think you can do the job, apply. If the company doesn't give you an interview because they asked for 5 years C# experience and you only have 4 years, you don't want to work for them anyway. That kind of hellish determination to strictly follow paperwork never leads to a fun work situation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Imagix (695350)
      For #2. If the job description says 5 years of C# and you don't have it (and your cover letter doesn't have an adequate explanation why that shortcoming won't be an issue), your resume will be immediately thrown away due to your obvious inability to follow direction. If you're not going to listen before you have the job, what makes me think that you'll listen after you have the job?
      • I remember seeing a job add long time ago that required 5 years experience with Java... when Java was 3 and a bit years old. That was amusing.
        • by Imagix (695350)
          I recall the same thing. "Must have 5 years of experience with Windows 95"... in 1998. I was thinking: "Uh, that's about 6 people in the world, and the all currently work for Microsoft...."
      • Re:Two things: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chelloveck (14643) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:20PM (#45550693) Homepage
        True, which is why you should include that reason in your cover letter. I applied for a job that was specifically looking for an experienced C programmer. I'd had a 2-day C class through my previous employer, but I'd never actually used it for anything. But I wanted that job. I sent them my resume along with a letter explaining why my experience was relevant despite not having used the language. The weekend before the interview I sat down with my copy of K&R and taught myself enough to write a print driver. I took that and code samples in other languages along with me, and was completely honest about my experience level -- and emphasized that languages are fundamentally similar, that I knew others and could learn this one. I got the job.
      • Re:Two things: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:40PM (#45550829) Journal

        I disagree. A lot of job postings really are wishlists. If they have four out of five of the 'requirements' it can still be worth applying at least if you are established in your career and field and are listing some prior experience.

        If you have most of what they claim to be looking for and a positive work history with good references its worth a shot anyway. The worst thing that happens to you is you spend half an hour tweaking your cover letter and uploading your CV, and then nobody calls you back. You are out pretty little if you either A need a job or B really think the position is something you like to do.

        If you do get to the interview have a story to tell about how you approached something unfamiliar and got up to speed quickly. You'll use this as your answer when the question comes up, "your resume does not mention any experience with $X, what about that?"

        This has worked for me in the past.

             

        • I disagree. A lot of job postings really are wishlists. If they have four out of five of the 'requirements' it can still be worth applying at least if you are established in your career and field and are listing some prior experience.

          If you have most of what they claim to be looking for and a positive work history with good references its worth a shot anyway. The worst thing that happens to you is you spend half an hour tweaking your cover letter and uploading your CV, and then nobody calls you back. You are out pretty little if you either A need a job or B really think the position is something you like to do.

          If you do get to the interview have a story to tell about how you approached something unfamiliar and got up to speed quickly. You'll use this as your answer when the question comes up, "your resume does not mention any experience with $X, what about that?"

          This has worked for me in the past.

          The problem is that a lot of screening is automated and I have little confidence that the automated screening has a "close enough" setting.

          Plus, of course, it's worthless when the job requires 2 years of DB2 and the applicant has 5 years of Oracle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:56PM (#45550553)

    The problem is, there are a lot of candidates out there now. A LOT. So we get real specific with what we want, because we still end up getting between five to ten applicants that have those things and thirty to forty who have almost all of them. If we were vague, we would receive probably between 100 and 200 applicants per job. And we're in an area that is NOT tech haveny. We're in the middle of the deep south.

    I remember a friend from google telling me they receive , on the average year, around 195,000 candidates, 30% of which make it to an interview phase. That number doubles every year and a half. By being way more specific , they are slicing that number in half. Or more. Instead of ALL the google employees having to interview 50000 (which doesn't count second or third or onsites that also occur), they're trying to do far less.

    Employers are facing a glut of software engineers/IT/etc. We're just knocking the numbers down to reasonable levels with these extra requirements. It'd probably be in your interest to go ahead and apply if you're close to all.. but rest assured, if you see an advert for a job that contains a lot of requirements, they will probably get 5 - 10 applicants that meet those around here.. and 300 - 400 in a more tech heavy area like the bay area.

    • by Zmobie (2478450) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:25PM (#45551147)

      Glut of Software Engineers? Where the hell are you pulling that from? Maybe Google has a glut of software engineers applying to them because they are a massive company in the industry, but your average or even above average software shop is starving for software engineers hence why they pay on average 60k+ to college grads and 150k to 200k to someone experienced. That is simple economics, because if there was a glut, then they wouldn't be able to command those kind of wages.

    • by jsrjsr (658966)

      The problem is, there are a lot of candidates out there now. A LOT.

      That's the exact opposite of the experience at the company I work for. My department has been trying to hire 6 software engineers with two or more years of C# experience for most of this year. So far, we've managed to hire two. Not sure what the reason is, but there is a dearth of applications from people with said C# experience.

      Maybe it's that we're not a typical software company doing web stuff (we do PC apps that configure our HW products).
      Maybe it's HR filtering wrongly.
      Maybe it's that we're in W

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am not sure, but there has been some evidence that job seekers target almost impossibly specific requirements to make sure nobody can actually fill the job. That way they can claim that the workforce currently in the US is not enough or good enough so they can ask congress for more H-1B visas to be put inplace to get cheaper work forces.

    • by juancn (596002)
      It's not congress that matters, for certain visas the company has to do a reasonable effort to find someone locally before the visa is granted, so you post a job offer that it's essentially un-fillable by anyone other than the person applying for the visa.
  • by jonbryce (703250) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @03:58PM (#45550569) Homepage

    I've had headhunters contact me with jobs. When I say that I don't meet the list of requirements in the job spec, they tell me that nobody else out there does either, but I'm close enough.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am on the other end, I have been looking for a senior infrastructure engineer for about 6 months. We have very specific requirements that the engineer must experience with. vBlock, EMC, VMWare, Brocade, Cisco MDS, Commvault, Avamar, data center migrations, and Azure and/or Amazon glacier and a few other specifics that would be nice. Any single one of those we will let slide but not more than one.

    In my opinion, IT departments have been cut so thin, I need someone with the experience on the stuff we have

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You know, in the six months you've waited to find "the right one" you could've trained a promising applicant and been on your way? Now your six months behind and still waiting for the one. That, to me, means you didn't actually need day one results.

    • by h2oliu (38090) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:13PM (#45550659)

      Ok. I am confused. You don't have the time to have someone on staff, helping with 50-70% of the job, but you do have time to search for 8-10+ months with no one filling the job?

      Did I read that correctly?

    • by adamstew (909658) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:23PM (#45550713)

      Couldn't you have hired somebody at the lower rate you were looking for 6 months ago and trained them to be proficient by now?

      You say you don't have the time to train them... but for the last 6 months, you've been short staffed, having to do the work that this new hire is supposed to be doing, and searching for and interviewing candidates? With all the time you've invested over the last 6 months in looking for the "perfect candidate" and the extra money you are paying to actually bring them on board, you likely could've just hired someone who is mostly qualified (at the lower rate) and then spend the time you would've spent reading resumes and interviewing candidates to actually train this person...then you have them at a lower rate, and they can help with some aspects of their job while they are being trained.

  • by flux (5274) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:02PM (#45550585) Homepage

    If you can reduce the number of candidates you need to evaluate and interview, you are saving plain money. More effective to have them do the filtering in a distributed manner.

    Of course, you might miss the perfect candidate that way as well. But, you cannot really put a price to that.

  • What you should take from a list of specific requirements is that they don't know how to write a good help wanted ad. Contact em (a dev, not HR), be up front that you don't have what they're listing, but that you have experience in the skills behind the tools and that you learn quickly.

  • As others have said, one reason is to tailor the requirements to a specific internal or external candidate. Another is HR people who don't know the technology or the jobs and rely on system and/or internal documentation. They then punch the info into the requirements. They also punch them into the resume screening software. Now you know why it is so hard to get an interview.
  • H-1 B program (Score:4, Informative)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:10PM (#45550631)
    This is pretty well documented. In America if you want to hire someone for a tech job on a work Visa by law you have to "prove" there is no American capable of doing the job. The easiest way to do this is to have very, very specific requirements. There are law firms that teach companies how to do this without breaking the law, and the gov't is pretty much complicit in this (thanks to 30 years of non stop attacks on perceived 'Bureaucracies' brought on by people that don't like the DMV). Compounding this you have schools in India and China that exist to rubber stamp people with any qualification needed.

    It mostly works because the vast majority of tech workers aren't MIT graduate rock stars but rank and file workers. There's nothing wrong with that, but it means you're easily interchangeable. But us tech workers also have big, big egos, so we're convinced that Unions and lobbying to protect your interests is for losers who just couldn't hack it (and if they lose their jobs and end up a Walmart they blame themselves anyway...).
  • Because job training is a thing of the past.

  • They are testing your lying skills

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:11PM (#45550639)

    There is a good reason and a bad reason.

    Where I work, there is very little overlap in skills between the IT people. One person is responsible for the old IBM database, for example. It's not a relational (sql) database, so nothing I know from MySQL applies. When we replace the IBM database guy, we're going to need someone else who knows that exact system. In fact, because there are so few people remaining who know the system, we are engaging in an 18 month project to rewrite everything for MS SQL shortly before the person retires.

    My own job is programming Moodle, an LMS with over a million lines of code. That's roughly equal to an entire Linux distribution. Hiring someone with no Moodle experience would be roughly similar to hiring a Linux programmer with no Linux experience.

    On the other hand, I once spoke to someone who wanted to hire a "PHP guru". I tried to explain there's no such thing. What he SHOULD have been looking for would be a web PROGRAMMER who knows PHP well. In many cases, skill in the field is far more important than above-average proficiency with a particular tool, but management sometimes doesn't understand that. If the person doing the hiring isn't particularly skilled in the job they are hiring for, they just don't know what is most important. For example, I would argue that for web programming, the WEB part is super important - good programmers who aren't web programmers aren't in the habit of thinking about security at every step, or scalability, nor are they necessarily skilled at stateless programming. A manager who isn't a very web programmer herself wouldn't know that though, so the best they can do sometimes is to look for someone experienced with the tools the company uses.

    • Sometimes it is as others have noted: Because you are promoting an internal candidate. So ya, the requirements are tailored to that person. This isn't a pure evil "Oh we want to keep anyone else out," kind of thing but that we already have a guy who is trained and qualified on the stuff we use. So if we are to consider anyone else, they would need to be as well. There is no reason we'd want to hire someone that we didn't know, and that wasn't proficient with our systems when we already have someone who is.

    • by Chirs (87576) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @08:08PM (#45551991)

      My own job is programming Moodle, an LMS with over a million lines of code. That's roughly equal to an entire Linux distribution.

      What are you smoking? Just the linux *kernel* is roughly 12 million lines of code. Firefox is 10 million lines of code. The GNOME desktop framework is 8 million lines of code. The GNU compiler is 6 million lines of code. Chromium is 7 million lines of code.

      That's just a smattering of the packages that can be found in a linux distribution...

  • In many cases, it's because they don't want to pay to train you. And that includes paying for your time to get up to speed. There's a lot of time spent already understanding the deployment and development environment. If the company is working with a specific set of technology, then bringing someone in that has used related technology is often not good enough. There are specific design patterns that you use with different technologies, and specific ways of applying them for that technology. And they mi
  • because he works harder and can write a paragraph in English with substantially fewer grammar and syntax errors.

  • My suggestion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:22PM (#45550703)

    Things are so complex these days that even a small subarea is its own big world.

    A past requirement of "being good with computers in general" might today be an equally large job than of fully mastering some modern API.

  • by CrankyFool (680025) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:22PM (#45550711)

    (Context: I'm a hiring manager; my team builds big distributed software systems. Our choice of language is Scala, but the team chose to use Scala before anyone on it actually knew Scala, and we don't have strong preference for Scala for software developers we hire -- in fact, we don't look for specific language knowledge at all, but rather strong fundamentals (OOP, distributed systems, etc)).

    Assuming you're not looking at a company that's gaming the system (others have talked about the whole "I want to hire/promote someone specifically but I have to post a position so I'll post a position only my preferred candidate will satisfy" scenario), the other problem -- and I think this is a bigger issue -- is that most people are just bad at ferreting out talent as part of the interview process, and therefore opt for asking about very specific skills, because testing for very specific skills is actually much easier than testing for talent, for experience, for understanding of the system. Add to that, of course, that if/when your HR group is responsible for job descriptions, quite often they can't conceive of a more flexible, open-ended description because they can't effectively measure for that when filtering resumes.

    The unfortunate thing, of course, is that in the end the specific knowledge is probably not even what you're looking for -- certainly, it's not what we're looking for because what we want is the ability to solve very hard, complex, problems -- and these are the sorts of problems that are also hard to ask about in an interview, because any problem you can make significant headway on in 45 minutes is simpler than what we deal with. This really comes down to the fact that interviews are a test, a simulation of a reality (the person actually working with you), and people sometimes opt to build the interview (and the pre-interview process, like the job description) in a way that makes it easier to conduct that simulation, rather than in a way that makes it more representative of the actual thing for which you're testing. It's that "looking for your keys under the streetlamp because that's where the light is, even though you lost your keys in the dark alley" problem.

    • If you're working on a very specific project, you need someone with a specific skillset.

      I worked for a decade in linux kernel development for embedded telecom systems. The linux kernel has 12 million lines of code...you want someone who has experience with it, at least enough that they know where to start looking when they run into an issue.

      My current company is looking for people with experience with a particular open-source project, because it takes months to get up to speed and we're on an aggressive sc

  • Another slant... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Junta (36770) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:24PM (#45550723)

    We post specific 'requirements' fully aware that no applicant will meet every single one (well, it happened once when someone applied for a position after having left our group a few months prior). For us, it's more about describing what the job will entail and attracting people who wouldn't mind working with the stated technologies.

    We had once upon a time not bothered listing the technologies we already knew a candidate would not have experience with, but we were inundated with applicants that made clear they were unable/unwilling to work with things they were not already familiar with.

    Now we list things knowing full well applicants won't have experience, but we still get applicants and almost always they might be a bit concerned they lack the 'requirements' but they always had the will to entertain learning new things and usually seemed to have the ability to actually become proficient.

    I of course have seen the more common thing, some 'public' job offer that was tailor made for a specific guy, but I know first hand some of these things are crafted with total awareness the requirements are not going to be met.

  • 1. To get more H1-Bs in
    2. To accomplish a specific, often short-term goal
    3. Empire building (hiring a lot of specialists under you makes you more important somehow)
    4. Limit the number of applicants
    5. Increase the odds of a good match for the company

    I think the first one is obvious even if it's not universally applicable. The second speaks to a larger trend of short-term goals and contracts. The third is one I experienced only recently and it turned out the actual skill and capability of the individual isn

  • Time is the issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by scrawlhead (2943633) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:30PM (#45550777)

    I have hired dozens of software engineers over the years. Most of the time I get approved to hire a new staff member because i) the project is late or ii) somebody critical has just left and the project is at risk of being late or iii) its a new project that I have to quickly staff or it will be late.

    I usually assume that it will take 4 to 12 weeks to find an appropriately qualified engineer, then 2 weeks for said engineer to give notice at his/her current job and then 2 months to ramp up on our existing product stack. During these 14 to 22 weeks, this new resource is either not providing any benefit to the project or is actually slowing the project down (ie during interview phase and during ramp up phase). This is always bad news and no VP ever wants to hear that velocity in his/her pet project cannot be improved for at least 14 weeks. Now imagine that I have to add another 1 to 2 months of slowed velocity while this new engineer upgrades his or her skillset (or occasionally downgrades to an earlier version). Ugh.

    That is why there is a huge preference for people that know the exact tool chain and software stack that the project is already running. Time.

    However, I (and most managers) personally don't care if you have some specific sub release of SomeLanguage++ 5 (for example). But you ought to have coded SomeLanguage++ professionally and well within the last few years on some significant project where you can point to some kind of value that you added. Your 2 months of SomeLanguage++ 3 experience from 2001 is not interesting to me.

    At large companies, the HR department may very well screen on precise versions of a software stack. Solution: use google to figure out what is significant about that release (if anything) and how it differs from your knowledge about the stack and then add that specific version of that software to your resume. The dev manager isn't going to care that you only used PHP 5.4.3 and not PHP 5.3.25.

    Even better solution (assuming its not the gov't or some massive corp): Find out who the hiring manager is and somehow get introduced to them. The devil you know. I totally prefer to hire people I have met that are known to people in my network. Why? Because I trust my network. I do not trust the Internet.

    Either way, the manager will want you to be able to prove in the interview that:

    a)You are a good person who is reliable, easy to work with, dependable and can hit the ground running and get me out of the hole that some sales guy dug for me
    b) You have specific knowledge about the technologies that you claim to know
    c) You have work experience to back up your claims
    d) You have the skills and capabilities to succeed as an engineer in my organization
    e) Ideally that you can do more than what is minimally required for the job

    I specifically recommend that you do not complain about the job posting in the interview. ;) Actually, don't complain about anything in the interview.

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:56PM (#45551363)

      tl;dr

      Your thinking is strictly short term.

    • I usually assume that it will take 4 to 12 weeks to find an appropriately qualified engineer, then 2 weeks for said engineer to give notice at his/her current job and then 2 months to ramp up on our existing product stack. During these 14 to 22 weeks, this new resource is either not providing any benefit to the project or is actually slowing the project down (ie during interview phase and during ramp up phase).

      This is reasonable.

      This is always bad news and no VP ever wants to hear that velocity in his/her pet project cannot be improved for at least 14 weeks.

      I understand, but that is part of managing a project. I have yet to see a project that allowed for people coming or going from a company. If you're not allowing for this, you're managing incorrectly. Ironically, with poor management that puts the squeeze on the programmers that are still there, you're encouraging them to leave as well leading to a nasty circle.

      Now imagine that I have to add another 1 to 2 months of slowed velocity while this new engineer upgrades his or her skillset (or occasionally downgrades to an earlier version). Ugh. That is why there is a huge preference for people that know the exact tool chain and software stack that the project is already running. Time.

      I understand your frustration, but programming is a very time consuming profession. If the VPs do not understand that, then it

  • by heretic108 (454817) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:44PM (#45550859)
    The job market is very tight, so employers are spoiled for choice. They will seek employees who can hit the ground running immediately. In this environment, they see even a week's learning curve as a waste, and would rather hire someone ordinary who can be immediately productive rather than someone great who might take a little longer. Watch out for this changing as the economy recovers, and jobs again become an employee's market.
  • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:20PM (#45551109)

    People in IT tend not to understand that how the rest of the world operates is vastly different.

    We rightfully or wrongly think we should just learn on the job. That we have the skills in terms of general programming and people should just hire us and we will learn whatever specifics are needed.

    The rest of the world simply does not work this way. They operate on a you go to school/learn a trade and then you do that specific job... and you should be able to do it. As a result, when you have people trying to hire for a technical position, the HR person will tend to put in the requirements as they know.

    Now some HR people are getting about this. Some hiring managers are getting smarter and putting in more general requirements. Some HR people are getting smarter in terms of not screening so much for key words... but the general problem is the same.

    The rest of the world operates very specifically.
    A brain surgeon doesn't just get hired as a heart surgeon.
    A divorce lawyer doesn't just get hired into a corporate law position.
    A bus driver doesn't just get hired as a truck driver.
    An electrician doesn't just get hired as a plumber.
    A fork lift operator doesn't just get hired as a crane operator ...

    And if you take yourself out of the tech bubble for even just a second, you would see how the rest of the world works. The amount of training someone else gets before they touch a new piece of equipment or even a process.

    Again, I'm not saying how we do things is right or wrong. There are pros and cons to everything. But just understand the rest of the world operates much more like the very specific certifications that you complain about.

    • by jafac (1449)

      This was the whole fucking point of computer languages in the first place.

      So that, not only would programmers NOT need to specialize. . . .
      But also, so that a company that works in a niche technology would have a wider supply of workers who can easily adapt to that niche technology.

      So that brings us back, AGAIN, to the main point of this discussion: HR and recruiters DO NOT UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY, or the workers, or the skills. Therefore, their job requirements suck.

    • A brain surgeon doesn't just get hired as a heart surgeon.

      A brain surgeon also doesn't get hired as "10 years of experience doing brain surgery with brand X scalpels and brand Y CT scanning equipment".

      They're expected to train as part of the job, and they're given a certain amount of time and money to keep current.

  • by ddtstudio (61065) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:30PM (#45551195)

    Funny, in the UX world, the opposite is a well known issue. That is, most "UX" job listings will say that the requirements include coding (not just front-end stuff like CSS and HTML, but you should have built your own kernel from scratch just for the love of it, and please include your github), a full range of user research experience (and show you process), proficiency is three prototyping tools (and this better look polished, though... prototypes), and mastery of Creative Suite (and show your elegant, gorgeous interfaces).

    In reality, nobody does al this. And if they did, how would they fit in to your team and workflow? I suspect most recruiters and hiring managers, especially in startups, don't really know what "UX" is. And especially in startups, they think it means, "I have this wizard idea – you just have to build it." (This often correlates with the "I don't need to learn about users; I took this class in B School so I know the market.")

  • Hiring managers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday November 29, 2013 @01:02AM (#45552967)

    Hiring managers are usually idiots. They are almost always non-technical people. What does upper management do with good, team players... company men that understand what needs to get done, but have no useful skills? Management. Dude can't even program his VCR... also he still has a VCR... and he's quizzing me on how I'd write a Select statement?

  • by supernova87a (532540) <kepler1@hotm a i l . c om> on Friday November 29, 2013 @01:54AM (#45553115)
    Take this analogy:

    What if, as a condition of financially supporting your decision to get married / begin a family (with a boatload of money you couldn't pass up), your parents required that you post an ad to Craigslist and evaluate all reasonable potential spouses who replied? Despite you already having met the person you already want to marry?

    I imagine you'd be pretty specific about what you were looking for too.

    Not trying to trivialize the situation, just trying to illustrate that it's almost as complicated as dating. There's a lot of things about a candidate that can't be captured in simple qualifications or experience. And staying with a known quantity is way easier than searching for something that may even be better, but highly uncertain.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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