Business perspective

How to Write A Job Spec

So your company is looking to hire (again). The (dis?)advantage to the online space is that you don’t have to write an ad (carefully and though-provokingly) that needs to be circulated in print. However, it’s only an advantage if it translates into an opportunity to be as creative as need be (pictures! videos! woohoo). Sadly however, it seems that no matter how drunk the opportunity might be, it will never get taken advantage of.
Seriously. When last did you see a job ad that included *at least* one (non-stock) picture- or even some gratuitous colour?

Let’s say you’re looking to hire a developer/marketing guru/insert-job-title-here…
First question: who would be the best possible candidate (within your organisation) to strike a chord with other potential developers/marketing gurus/insert-job-titles-here out there seeking gainful employment?


Surely not?

I’ll talk from a developer’s perspective to illustrate my point.

Does HR really know how to communicate with another programmer better than a fellow of the realm? (unless of course that HR has had a career change, which is not unlike a sex change apparently)
I’m guessing not.

Does HR (or is this marketing’s influence?) also not realise that phrases like “fresh, dynamic company” apply to 99.99999% of all job ads out there. After all, who would advertise:

Boring, staid company seeks equally dull individual to maintain lack of office vibe.

So you’re effectively writing without really communicating when you drop phrase du jour into your ads.

Now also keep in mind that programmers, like any other jobseeker out there, are accustomed to reading 1000s of job ads. After a while, you can’t help but pick up the patterns, which, evidently is what a programmer is born, trained, paid, skilled and schooled to do. It’s like staring at those hidden pictures…

So the last thing you want to do is sound just like every other ad out there- unless the first thing you want to do is attract anybody who calls themselves a programmer. And in this day and age, it *is* scary at exactly what does flock towards the job title of programmer.

So here’s an approach: distributed problem solving. Get your developers to write the spec. Heck, get as many people in your company to write the spec.

Use HR for editing and to correct the offered renumeration. If your developers come back with…:

come slave away in our luxury offices overlooking the ocean with so much coffee on tap it would kill an elephant (seriously, George (UI) was taken to hospital twice last year with caffeine poisoning).
the pay is “ok” but the pointy-eared bosses don’t have a clue about things technical so you can just BS your time away and put up with the occasional demand.
overtime sux. at least the lan is wicked fast and we have uncapped ADSL with no firewall 🙂
p.s. my christmas leave just got cancelled thanks to an unreasonable deadline. bastards will pay!

Maybe you need to rethink hiring another head and spend some time “fixing” first?

But wait. You’ve also gained some valuable insight into the current group dynamic. That is an entirely different post altogether, needless to say, you can discern the inherent value therein yourself.
Oh, and one important tip: don’t give the task of writing their own job ad to your programmers with the air of a pointy-eared boss. At best, you’re going to get a copy-paste version. At worst, a one-liner: software developer required. apply within.

Done right, your devs communicating and reaching out to their peers works “better”. it’s more viral, more accessible, more appealing. It’s why the techie companies attract all the “cool” people because they speak the same language. But it doesn’t mean that just because your company doesn’t have a tech focus that it can’t do the same.

So here’s what i would like to see in a job ad:
It’s posted on youtube (for starters). It includes a view of the offices and some insight to the people i’m going to be working with; kinda like a:
“hi. my name is Martin. I’m head of engineering here at insert-company-here. looking forward to meeting you. bye.” and so on with key people.
and please include the receptionist. i’d also like to see footage of the coffee machine (in working order).
i would like to see/feel the buzz/vibe on a normal day. don’t go overboard with editing; candid is good.
and of course, i wanna see hardware. that’s important too. and workspaces, collaboration spaces and chill spaces.
you don’t have to give any secrets away, but if you can capture your ogranisation, it sells itself.

and if you can’t… erm… yes, well.. erm… right. look! ooooh. shiny.