Job Ad Red Flags: Technical Minutiae

Ever see one of those developer job postings that reads like the hiring manager sent out a mass email to every developer in the company just saying something like, “Please send me a list of every technology you’ve ever used at this company,” and then combined every list together to form the ad?

Looking for an experienced software engineer.


.NET 2.0, .NET 3.5, .NET 4.0, Visual Studio 2005 Professional, Visual Studio 2008 Premium, Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise, ASP.NET 1.0, ASP.NET 2.0, jQuery 1.7, jQuery 2.2.4, PowerShell 1.0, …

And then give no details about the work environment, philosophy, or any sort of non-technical human consideration?

I completely understand if your company builds all of its software on Microsoft technologies, that you probably aren’t looking for Java developers. Or if you want to avoid hearing from Ruby on Rails developers when your project is embedded C. Mentioning the general constellation of technologies that you need someone to work with is a good idea for everyone involved.

laptop with stickers

But focusing your outreach effort to potential hires on a laundry list of technical minutiae shows a lack of understanding about what’s important. The hardest problems to solve in most software organizations are not technical problems but human problems. Talk mostly to the human being you’d be hiring and the other human beings they’d be working with.

Below is a great example of hiring for a technical role in which the writer takes a human tone first. In this case the company Stripe is hiring for a Web Developer role:

We’re looking for someone with:

  • 3+ years of experience as a web developer
  • Experience building public facing websites that work elegantly across commonly used browsers
  • An extreme attention to detail and deep empathy with design
  • An interest in helping startups
  • Advanced knowledge of modern HTML and CSS

Perks of working on this team include:

  • This is a new and very small team with lots of opportunity to help shape the future
  • Working closely with Stripe’s world class design and marketing teams
  • High impact role as we spin up our customer acquisition machine
  • An opportunity to focus on fit, finish, and polish of frontend output

The only specific technologies mentioned here are HTML and CSS, which, of course, any person developing for the Web would need to know.

The copy is mostly written to a human being who likes building high-quality websites, rather than a list of the technical details by which Stripe has implemented their website. (Check out Stripe’s careers section for more great stuff like this.)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career as a software developer, it’s that technology is almost certainly the least important aspect of software development. Hire a human being, not a list of technologies.