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Developer recruitment: how to read job adverts

redfred7 profile image Fred Heath ・3 min read

Over the course of my career in software development I've read thousands of job adverts and talked to hundreds of recruiters. I've learned one thing: to read between the lines. IT recruiters and hiring departments speak a different language to us, a language rich with subtlety and innuendo, a language which might seem simple at first but hides deeper meaning. As a service to the community I now present a handy translator from recruiter lingo to common English. Make sure you look it up next time you see the job-ad of your dreams.

What they say What they mean
An exciting opportunity has come up Exciting for us as the commission is huge; for you not so much
You'll be working in a dynamic environment You'll be working all hours under the sun while requirements constantly change and managers run around like headless chickens
An environment that rewards achievers unless you work 80-hour weeks you get no bonus
A work-hard, play-hard ethos You'll be treated like a galley slave by a bunch of imbeciles who think drinking 8 pints of beer every night is 'playing hard'
Our client is a leader in their field Our client thinks they're a leader in their field
A company with a high public profile The local paper once had a two-column article about them
You will be encouraged to take ownership of your own projects Success is shared, failure is all yours
A rapidly expanding company Annual cycle of firing & re-hiring
Salary is competitive ...if you're an a 18-year old looking for a summer internship. And it's 1982
Huge career progression opportunities Layoffs planned in 2 months
They're using tried and tested, enterprise-level technologies They're using Java EE
You'll be working on a complex, highly-configurable system They're using Java EE
You'll occasionally need to address issues raised on the legacy system They're using Java EE
A company driven by results Forget about Test-Driven Development
Development is centred around customer-focused delivery Cucumber is out of the question too
A self starter who can hit the ground running They are 10 months past the deadline
Looking for an enthusiastic team-player Your colleagues will be over-bearing sociopaths
A company that is disrupting the market A company that doesn't know the meaning of the word 'disrupt'
Ability to multi-task They want you to do three jobs but they will only pay for one
Full-stack developer required You'll be expected to function as a database expert, UX consultant, middle-ware guru, application developer and deployment wizard rolled into one. But we'll still pay you only one salary.
The company is currently transitioning from a waterfall methodology to Agile They don't know what Agile is but they like buzzwords
It really doesn't get much better than this It can get much better than this, but you'll never know it if you apply for this position
Send your CV in now so you don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity! [Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!]

If you know any others that I've missed please feel free to ping me.

PS: this piece was first posted on the Bootstrapped Thoughts blog.

[Edited 23-May-18] added Full-stack listing as per comments suggestion

Discussion

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josegonz321 profile image
Jose Gonzalez

It's funny because it's true!

Hey Fred,

Thank you for such an awesome and precise post. Being on the field for 15 years professionally now, I can relate 110%!

  • Best jobs I had gotten are thru word of mouth or applying directly.
  • Worst jobs been recruiters.

Not saying all recruiters are bad. There are some good ones, but they are really hard to find.

Here are other things I can think of right now:

  1. Reworking our legacy system into modern technologies. Meaning: We need suckers to maintain the old legacy system. Tenure people got dibs.

  2. Buzzword1, Buzzword2, Buzzword3. Meaning: clickbait buzzword. Gotcha!

  3. Fuzzball, kegs, ping pong tables, etc. Meaning: Long hours are expected.

  4. Unlimited PTO. Meaning: You need manager approval. Shame on you for taking too much PTO. Also may mean: We gonna work your ass off, I mean you are getting unlimited PTO!

  5. Full stack! Meaning: We'll throw at whatever the hell we feel like it. Don't want to do back-end? Tough! Don't care about front-end? Fix this layout in the website. Never seen a database? Learn it, aren't you full stack?

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mgaruccio profile image
mgaruccio

I feel like I'm the only one who has had success with recruiters... The best ones think like good salespeople and work with the goal of placing you multiple times rather than just to make a single good commission.

Easiest way to tell the difference is by paying attention to what they focus on, if they keep telling you about the great opportunity they have then run away fast, the good ones will take some time to get to know you and your career goals and only then try to place you somewhere that makes sense. The really great ones will also be super up-front about downsides of working at a company and then let you decide if they are worth it (something like "the pay is awesome, you get to work with modern tech, but they are going to expect 70 hour weeks and you'll never not be on call, does that sound like something you can work with?").

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redfred7 profile image
Fred Heath Author

In fairness, I've worked with a couple of recruiters like that, but -in my experience- they are the exception rather than the rule.

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mgaruccio profile image
mgaruccio

Yea you absolutely have to be careful and selective with them. Have definitely gotten burned in the past by not vetting the recruiter before taking the position.

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josegonz321 profile image
Jose Gonzalez

Yah, whenever they pressure you such as: "Need to know today or end of day".

Pressure from them is for the sale, not for your benefit. At least, that's been my experience so far.

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mgaruccio profile image
mgaruccio

99% of the time this is true, once in a while they are legitimately letting you know that the company is in a hurry and will be making someone else an offer if you wait. Knowing the difference comes back to trust.

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harrisonreviewedo profile image
HarrisonReviewedo

It would be great if you would share the experiences that you have had with the best recruiters on Reviewedo!

We are a brand new peer-to-peer reviewing platform for the recruitment industry. Where we are in our infancy, your reviews would be so valuable to other people out there in similar situations to yourself.

Join us here if you are interested in improving the recruitment industry: reviewedo.com/users/type

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yechielk profile image
Yechiel Kalmenson

Ugh, my CTO is now expecting me to take on web design tasks "because aren't you full-stack?"

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harrisonreviewedo profile image
HarrisonReviewedo

The best recruiters are hard to find. But this is something we are addressing with Reviewedo - a brand new peer-to-peer reviewing platform where working professionals and businesses can anonymously review the individual recruiter and the recruitment agency.

As we are in our infancy, it would be great if you could share your experiences with the best recruiters you have worked with to help other professionals out there!

Join here: reviewedo.com/users/type

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redfred7 profile image
Fred Heath Author

Thanks Jose! How could I forget about 'full-stack' developer ?! With your permission, I'll add it to the list.

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josegonz321 profile image
Jose Gonzalez

Sure thing! 🙂

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catcarbn profile image
Cat Carbonell

They want you to do three jobs but they will only pay for one

Contractor life. Sigh.

This entire post had me howling, though. omfg. 😂😂😂😂😂

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Expertise in [technology] required.

"We don't know anything about [technology], but have been trying to use for some time without success. Come train our managers while letting them think they're in charge."

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mnivoliez profile image
mnivoliez

"You will work in a challenging environment": "We don't know what we are doing, fix our code spaghetti"

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luqman10 profile image
Abdul Qadir Luqman

A startup: a single room office.

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khophi profile image
KhoPhi

Totally true.

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jfrankcarr profile image
Frank Carr

In my experience, "You'll occasionally need to address issues raised on the legacy system" really means "We have a massive amount of poorly designed and written code in VB6 and the original developer hasn't worked here in 10 years." It could also mean code written in other obscure or obsolete languages like Powerbuilder, SQL Windows, COBOL, etc.

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redfred7 profile image
Fred Heath Author

Indeed. I know of a Powerbuilder shop that used to refer to fixing powerbuilder bugs as "working on the legacy system" :)

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paullaudeman profile image
Paul Laudeman

Brilliant! LOL

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rhymes profile image
rhymes

Ah ah it's so funny! And sadly true :D

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georgeoffley profile image
George Offley

Some of the many reasons I loath working with recruiters.

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aabdyli profile image
Albi Abdyli

They're using Java EE or offering support to SAP products that a company worked on years ago without any documentation and duck taped code because they were missing the deadline.