Debugging Job Titles

August 21, 2014

Blog | Culture | Debugging Job Titles
Debugging Job Titles

Job descriptions and titles are an area where the tech industry needs to reflect.  When the dotcom bubble erupted in 2000, it took with it “new economy” daydreams. Recruiting for a “Chief Code Monster,” “Rockstar Coder” or “JavaScript Ninja” is a dead giveaway that your culture hasn’t caught up with reality.

If your team is really competent, and you reliably complete successful software projects, you know it isn’t magic.  It’s not because you hire coders with super-human ability.  It’s a result of your team’s competence, professionalism, integrity, and work ethic.

So, why the job descriptions that read like 2000?


Ruining the Soup

A software project is like a professional kitchen in a lot of respects.  A well-run kitchen has one boss – the head chef – and several others doing a variety of things to make it run smoothly.  Their titles match their responsibilities.  They’re held accountable to their duties, and everyone knows how things should go.  But if everyone is called “Head Chef,” no one is in charge.  If your entire team is superheroes and ninjas and rock stars, whose job is it to unit test? Who is accountable when bugs surface? Certainly a rock star doesn’t deal with browser compatibility issues.

Let’s be honest, do you want to work with divas? Do you want to work with people who think of themselves that way?  I don’t.


Describe People, Dreams

Your workplace isn’t staffed by magical code-slinging robots.  They’re humans, albeit sometimes odd humans, with roles in the SDLC unique to them.  It’s the diverse strengths of the team that make for successful projects.

One of the ongoing puzzles in recruiting tech talent is diversity.  Not just women, but minorities as well.  This is where there is opportunity.  When a company advertises for some lofty and superlative title, they may be unintentionally asking for a man because women don’t identify themselves that way.  The language of the job implies a certain candidate.

The other blunder? Job descriptions that contain a bullet list of tech acronyms.  That removes both the humanity and meta information someone might glean about the company’s culture.  If the “default” programmer archetype is a robotic white male, then a bullet list of acronyms is all the information that’s needed. Which is to say, it’s never enough when you’re looking for a good match.

Job descriptions should reflect that there is a team of humans who negotiate their strengths and responsibilities to get things done. I work with folks who are startlingly good at their jobs, and still ask a lot of questions to make sure they get it right.  I like to think the reason for their effectiveness is because they ask a lot of questions, take the time to understand, and admit to not knowing everything.  It makes for pleasurable work, and when the team enjoys what they are doing, they’ll do more of it.

The job description and job title are the beginning of a conversation.  Yes, the acronyms will fly.  No, you don’t have to be a ninja.  Just be aware that job titles carry some baggage and your words matter.


Dan Clouse

Senior Developer
  • Recruiting

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