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Job Specs for Software Engineers: Who the hell writes these things anyway?!?

Job Specs for Software Engineers: Who the hell writes these things anyway?!? Featured Image

ATTENTION HR Professionals & Hiring Managers, it’s time to retool. It’s 2017. Dating is done via swipe. Cars park themselves. Reusable rockets are the hot new trend (keep getting after it Elon!). So, tell me….


Please STOP. No Mas! The age of NON-technical people (or people who don’t fully understand Software & IT professionals) being allowed anywhere NEAR a job spec or web posting should be LONG over. Why do you continue to treat a job spec like an unimportant piece of the hiring process when it should be a top priority? Really, I’m embarrassed for you guys.

As an experienced staffing executive whose been working with IT professionals my entire career, I’m literally UNABLE to send 90% of the job specs I receive from clients, as they’re THAT BAD.

Actually, they’re a joke. Candidates ask me for them all the time, and in only rare occasions, can I oblige. Instead, I’m forced into my alter-ego of writer, interpreter, and data scrubber. Clients - how do you expect to attract SPECIFIC, quality talent in this market and find that perfect candidate, if you have an intern or under-qualified person writing these vague, laundry list type job specs. Or better yet, are reusing documents from 1998? It’s ridiculous. Can you mention anything else you want on there? How about a software engineer that can cook you a perfect foie gras, run a 3-minute mile and work 100 hours a week? Will that suffice? And can you contradict yourself anymore? C#, ASP.Net, MVC, Java, Spring, Windows, Linux, Oracle, SQL Server. Huh? Can’t you just tell us about the core of what you REALLY need and not come across like you’re looking for a super hero? It’s not hard - it just takes time, and maybe a little bit of pride.

I love it when clients complain about resumes incorporating too many technology buzzwords in their “skills section”, without mapping them to actual job entries, or resumes being “too vague,” or grammar/spelling errors, when in fact, THEIR job specs are just as bad, if not worse. Who the hell writes these things? Half the time, I read specs 5x and still have NO CLUE what you want. Literally. But miraculously, after a 5-10-minute CALL with the hiring manager, it becomes crystal clear, I throw the job spec away and go about my day. It’s become second nature. Most times - very little of what was said on the call is actually ON the job spec and in many cases, contradicts it! No wonder your jobs are left open for months after you post them - the same people writing these damn things are the first people to evaluate the candidate? Really? THAT’S CRAZY TOWN! And you wonder why engineers & IT professionals list every technology they’ve ever touched - they’re just trying to keep up with your horrible specs or get through your “keyword scanner!”

If you want a C#/ASP.Net Developer with MVC and Entity - SAY IT! Don’t mention Java or QA or a “PMP is desirable” when it really doesn’t matter. If you want a Project Manager who has run development projects and has a PMP and CSM - then say that, and that ONLY. You don’t HAVE To fill 2 pages of content to constitute a job spec… all it does is confuse people. Let’s just get back to “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” Why be cryptic? Why use 50 words and all you need is 5?

It’s 2017 and we need a reset.

And if you really, really think using “power” words like looking for a “rock star coder” or “bad ass,” aggressively tout your beer selections on tap, or decide to go down the dark path of highlighting NERF gun battles in the office (we all know they only occur once in a blue moon), save it! People don’t really give a shit. And c’mon - “excellent communication skills?” Who admits they’re lacking there? “Strives for quality code?” Who admits they crank out shitty code? Just focus on the fundamentals what people REALLY care about:

  1. What is the exact technology base - what will the person be working with every day? What is the CURRENT environment and where are you headed?
  2. What is TRULY required and what is truly a PLUS? Define. Clearly.
  3. How big is the company and the team?
  4. What are the core benefits like - medical, 401K, vacation? This is what people REALLY care about. No one cares about beer or happy hours, if your benefits and 401K suck!
  5. What is your WFH policy? SO many of my clients keep this under lock and key, only to reveal once a person starts working there? Why? That’s stupid. This could be an enticing fact for someone in this day and age. Very easy to say, “if you do a decent job, yes it’s realistic to WFH X/week over time.” People care about it and use it as part of their evaluation process. Stop acting like your “The Skulls.”

Now, by no means am I saying that the job spec is the do all, end all, to a hire. There are a lot of moving parts and the recruiter/agency are a large part of that. But if this is your first step in the hiring process, don’t you want to start on the right foot? You expect a candidate to show up on time and in a pressed suit for their first interview - right? So - what are you wearing?

Get after it -


Michael J. Butti hails from the Philadelphia suburbs, and is a highly regarded technology staffing expert, who has helped companies large & small solve their most complex staffing problems and has helped shape the Delaware Valley technology landscape since 1997. Michael is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of TripleScreen Search & Staffing, based in Downingtown, PA.

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