The small company I work for is currently looking for a few good programmers. We have posted job listings in a few places and hit up the local user group boards, but haven't really gotten anything back on any of that.

As a developer what elements of a job posting would make you respond:

  • Company Name (i.e. Microsoft, Oracle, or in our line of work BAE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin).
  • Type of work (This seems kind of obvious, but would be like ROR or Java, etc.)
  • Work Environment
  • Computers used (MacBook PRO for everyone)
  • Salary range
  • Other

It's a little hard to believe that given the overall job market that we don't even get resumes. We are in a hot market (DC area), but it still seems a bit hard.

  • I would think that company name is not an issue for you. Those who want to work for BAE or MSFT will apply there directly (unless they are lazy). Your job post needs to stand out somehow and sound honest. Have you read Peopleware? Do you post your score on Joel Test? Have you looked into So careers? – Job Jul 25 '11 at 15:14
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    What are you doing besides posting jobs on job boards? Unless I was explicitly interested in working for the company, most of the jobs I've applied to weren't through a posting, but by the company reaching out to me (coming to my university, emailing me). Very rarely have I ever browsed job postings. Perhaps your HRM practices as a whole should be examined, but that's a little off-topic for Programmers. – Thomas Owens Jul 25 '11 at 15:15
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    Check out this ad before it expires: boston.craigslist.org/gbs/sof/2501546954.html It looked quite good to me - small company, smart people, cool technology, decent salary, good location. The name of the company does not matter to me. What they do does. Whether they have GOOD heat and air conditioning does. – Job Jul 25 '11 at 15:16
  • Have you tried LinkedIn ? That's the only way it worked for us, in addition to local job help companies. – user2567 Jul 25 '11 at 16:17
  • We are working with recruiters, but they haven't produced much either. We can look at LinkedIn when we are ready for our next push. We tried 37Signals and all we got was a bunch of consulting companies offering us their services. – Bill Leeper Jul 25 '11 at 16:44

10 Answers 10


My filter is "does this look like it was written by someone in HR or a recruiter with zero idea of how to actually do any of this work?" If it was written by HR, I'll pass thank you very much.

  • 3
    Then you would probably go unemployed for a long time in the UK, where the vast majority of job adverts are written by either HR or agencies. – wolfgangsz Jul 25 '11 at 15:52
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    It isn't entirely different here in the states. But the most valuable commodity I have is my time, and I'll be damned if I waste it on a bunch of PHBs. You can always do some short-term contact work to keep body and soul together if need be. – Wyatt Barnett Jul 25 '11 at 16:24
  • +1. Sadly my area is dominated by these people; 90% at least of all jobs I see are the typical vague "one of our major clients" recruiter posts. – Wayne Molina Jul 25 '11 at 18:35

The biggest factor that causes me to pass up a job posting is requirements that are so specific that the only person who really qualifies is the guy who just left. I did a phone interview with Garmin once where the interviewer seemed astounded that I would deign to apply without any consumer handheld or automobile GPS experience, even though I had worked on fairly similar systems for military aircraft.

Yes, you might luck out with a perfect candidate, but if you want to fill a position in a reasonable amount of time, you need to hire for skills and aptitude, and train for domain knowledge. The benefits of a fresh outlook on your code by a talented outsider outweighs the drawbacks of taking a month or two to get someone up to speed.

  • 1
    "you need to hire for skills and aptitude, and train for domain knowledge" +1, couldn't say it better myself. This is the NUMBER 1 rule every HR department of an IT company should learn. They should make huge posters of it and fill the walls with them. And at home. And in their cars. – Radu Murzea Jun 16 '13 at 9:38

For me the quick Scan includes

  1. Job title
  2. Pay Rate
  3. Location
  4. Employments Type (perm or Contract, Contact length)
  5. Requirements List \ Tech Used.

Then I start reading...

  • 1
    +1: My order is a bit different, but I don't concern myself with the meat of the posting unless the other stuff matches up. – Joel Etherton Jul 25 '11 at 15:29
  • I've seen enough mismatches between title and what the job really entailed that I'm paying less and less attention to the title these days. Ditto for item 5 - most postings look like TLA vomit and the real requirements are much different. – E.Z. Hart Jul 25 '11 at 19:55

Apart from the obvious (fitting my qualification and experience), any sign which

  1. deviates from the oh-so-regular "young, dynamic team; competitive salary; career opportunities" triangle (it may be different in your area, but where I live, 99 job ads out of 100 are from this mold :-/ );

  2. shows that the company (or at least the person writing the ad) has at least a faint understanding of what SW development really is, how developers think, what they value etc. Examples:

    • claiming they follow Agile methods/practices / practice refactoring / unit testing,
    • referring to ideas/quotes from sources such as Peopleware, the Pragmatic Programmer, Clean Code, the Agile Manifesto etc.,
    • any hints in general towards a genuinely quality oriented company culture (as opposed to using it just as a buzzword)...

First, the job title needs to apply to me. What are you looking for in the broadest of senses? JAVA Application Developer? ASP.Net Web Developer?

If the job title applies to me I'll read the quick summary under the title. Make sure your first paragraph counts. If the first few sentences sound interesting I'll click through to the full description.

First thing I look at there is the job requirements. If I don't meet at least three I don't read any more.

If I do meet the requirements, I'll look at the nice to have to see if I could highlight any skills on my cover letter.

Next I actually read the description. Things I ask myself:

  • Is this a generic HR boilerplate description? If yes, it's probably a bigger company and I will have to go through one HR interview before I talk to anyone technical. If not, it might be a smaller company.
  • Are there any spelling mistakes or typos in there? Yes, this makes a difference for me. It shows me the level of detail of the people I'll be working for.
  • Is this more than a standard code monkey position? What else would I be expected to do?
  • Are there any benefits or perks listed?
  • What type of person are they looking for?

I'm more likely to apply to a job that doesn't have a HR job posting. I don't want to go through one or more BS interviews before I finally get to talk to someone who is in the group I'd be working with.

I am more likely to apply for a job that has some excitement about the position. Nerdy and geeky references to show the type of team I'd be working with are a plus. The last position I worked at was a start up and listed 'lightsaber' under assets. :)

Put some work into your job posting to get the type of people you want to join your team. If you post a boilerplate posting you will get generic code monkeys that probably won't be a good fit.

  • Programming language seems very important to me. I want to know with what I would have to work and if you expect me to have experience with the specific language and tools.
  • Kind of projects you work on and who are your customers (if there is a good chance I have heard the name like Boeing) and what additional requirements come with this work (for example certain knowledge of math)

This is the basic information I need to see, if it makes sense to apply for this job at all. Doesn't make sense if you search for somebody with three years Java, which I don't have. Doesn't make sense if you use some strange language or tools I don't want to work with, even if you don't care about experience.

Everything else can be negotiated. My main point here is, that nothing counts more than the people I will work with. Since I won't get to know any of them before the interview, all the following information is nice to have, but to me not that important.

Work environment is interesting too, if you work in cubicles, that's not my job. Though I would see this during an interview and while I wouldn't like cubicles, working with a great team could make up even for that. Same goes for office equipment. I think it's in the companies own interest, to provide quality equipment. I don't care about a MacBook Pro, though a few details are nice to have.

Add a link to your website (first thing I google for anyway). If possible, show me who are the people in my team if they have any kind of profile online.


I mainly look for a combination of:

  1. Description - does it sound like something I'd be interested in doing? Also, is there going to be advancement opportunities?
  2. Technology stack - Is it using technology I want to use? e.g. Ruby on Rails is good, Classic ASP or VB6 is bad.
  3. If the job requirements are reasonable - big indicator here. Is the job requirements typical recruiter/HR boilerplate about x years in y, with anything labeled "must have" without a good reason?
  4. Job perks - e.g. is the company offering a competitive salary and not lowballing, if they call out any job perks (private office, dual monitors, Xbox in break room, etc), if they're smart enough to allow telecommuting and/or flex hours.

Things that set off red flags are what sound like "marketing bollocks" in the posting (saying how amazing the company is but not actually giving any reasons), stringent/ridiculous job requirements (e.g. "Must have 8 years experience in .NET 3.5 NO EXCEPTIONS" or "Must know C#, Java, and C++. Ruby experience a plus"), and jobs that are very inflexible.


I look for things in the following order:

  1. Work place diversity, talents, fun details
  2. Employments Type (Permanent or Contract with Contact length)
  3. Answers to Joel On Software questions (this can give good feedback on Agile practices)
  4. Job Title
  5. Pay Scale
  6. What Laptop is given to developer?
  7. Other benefits

Computers used: Free high-performance business laptops that we get to keep even if we're fired. Oh, and they have to support booting from multiple partitions/disks. For *NIXs, of course.

Why? Because in my dream job I want to be able to game at high frame-rates on my flights to Vegas where I can do some programming to help casino owners cheat gullible players out of their hard-earned money and then return to the comfort of my nerd cave with a truckload of questionably dressed young women.

No, but seriously, they have to encourage creativity and they've got to let me keep my bro-hair. Oh, and no suits.

Free Mountain Dew for everyoneeeeeeeeeeeee.


From my perspective, work environment and type of work are the key elements in generating developer interest. Challenging work and investment in skill/knowledge are also important to software engineers.

The job market has surprised me over the last few years as well. In previous years (pre-2009), any ad for a dev position would solicit hundreds of resume submissions. In the last 3 years, however, responses to ads have dropped precipitously. At one point during the last hiring process, we shifted from FTE (full-time employment) to temp-to-perm through a preferred agency. The result was, unexpectedly, hundreds of qualified applicant submissions.

What I learned from this is that many full-time job seekers have simply given up and turned their job search over to a placement firm. Nearly all of the qualified applicants wanted full-time employment at the end of the contract.

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