Trouble Recruiting Talented Programmers? Make Sure You Know What You're Talking About.

Posted on July 24, 2007

Many people have varying opinions on whether the technology markets are booming or heading for bust. Whatever those opinions are, the job market for technology skills is rather healthy right now. Demand is very high, more employers are becoming skeptical about who they hire, and salary expenditures are for the most part, sane.

However, being an employer in this market is difficult. The barrier to entry for technology skills is fairly low, while the need for educated and experienced skills is high. It’s a common fear to hire someone who knows the lingo, but has a tough time delivering results within reasonable deadlines. Worse, you hire someone who’s lack of skill lowers the quality of your deliverables.

There are many factors to consider when deciding to hire a programmer or web developer, but when your company is finding it difficult to hire strong talent — try taking a look at your job postings first. As a freelance contractor, I tend to skim through the postings to keep current on the job market and possibly find potential opportunities. I’m continually hanging my head at many of the posts companies put up on a public site… such posts I instantly skip past — and I’m sure most professional developers with any self respect would as well.

Rule #1: Don’t let your HR person compose the job posting.

I’m serious. They don’t know what to put in the postings and can make your company look bad. I cannot count the number of postings I’ve seen from supposed technology leaders looking for Python developers with 3 to 4 years experience developing websites with Django. The poster obviously doesn’t know that Django wasn’t available for public use until the summer of 2005, making it barely 2 years old.

Rule #2: Know what you’re looking for.

This means doing your homework. Talented programmers have many options. They want to work for a company that knows what they’re doing and will give them the space they need to do their job and push themselves. The posts with senseless lists of acronyms get skipped over first. Being concise means you’ll have to give up shotgun tactics.

Rule #3: Be prepared to be flexible

Salaries are good at attracting opportunists and nine-to-fivers. A talented developer is passionate about the work they do. In your job post, be prepared to offer perks like flexible scheduling, telecommuting, research time, benefits, and extra vacation time. What may seem like a modest salary is generally good enough if it means that the developer will enjoy their job more. Great developers want to be interested in what they work on, or else they will just move on until they find something interesting and challenging.

I hope that these rules will help you to make better job postings. A poor post can make your company look bad and attract the wrong talent. Just taking a little extra effort can go a long way. Who knows, it may just reduce your turn-over and increase profits in the long term.