Stop Seeking Out the Ninjas, Hackers, and Rockstars: How to Write Better Developer Job Descriptions

This post is for all the recruiters, hiring managers, and human resource professionals hiring developers today. At some point, someone decided that it would be cool or differentiating to post job listings asking for Rails Ninjas, Front End Hackers and Rockstar Web Developers. It's an unfortunate practice to get your job advertisement noticed, and I urge you to stop.

For developers, words and names are important. From my personal perspective, here's what these titles say:

  • Rails Ninja - You want me to creep around the codebase late at night and inject transient bugs to foil my developer nemesis? Should I do everything on my own, or do I have an exclusive ninja clan that I hang out with? You want me to do everything my way, or the way that's been handed down to me from centuries ago? So, basically, you want a lone wolf that goes about their business without any collaboration or direct engagement?
  • Front End Hacker - Hacker? To hack a frontend project immediately resonates as short term fixes and solutions that aren't elegant or user friendly. If you want to recruit hackers to do any type of coding beyond security and vulnerability detection, you're in the wrong business.
  • Rockstar Web Developer - This is probably the most prevalent and astonishing of titles - do you really want what this stereotype personifies working in your organization? I immediately associate this with someone that's arrogant, self-serving, and apathetic. Besides, how effective can you be at solving problems at 9AM when you've been up until 4 the night before partying like a 'Rock Star'? Please.

Some of these questions or perceptions may seem silly, but like I said, words matter. Stop using these titles! What value does this add to your job posting? What does it convey about how you perceive developers? Developers want to be respected and appreciated, not trivialized. Developers want to be understood and stimulated. Here's three better titles that I guarantee will yield a better candidate pool:

  • Pragmatic Programmers - (Note: this book is required reading for developers and anyone hiring developers) - Don't you want to hire problem solvers? The best developers solve business problems with the simplest solution possible. They have a demonstrated history of making things work, and shipping. That's what pragmatic programmers do.
  • Motivated, Lifelong Learners - Technology changes. New platforms arise, and new languages and frameworks emerge. For the best developers, the technology doesn't matter. As mentioned above, developers are problem solvers first and programmers second. Finding the best talent is all about finding people that can identify the best tools to solve problems, and they're unintimidated when it comes to learning and evaluating them. These individuals are typically well informed and love to read. In almost all cases, they thrive on learning new things, inside and out of their industry.
  • Social, Connected, Passionate Professionals - Books aren't the only source of learning and discovery. For top notch developers, they realize the importance of community and engaging with peers. Exceptional talent will quickly get discouraged if they don't have the challenge and stimulation of discourse with other stellar developers. Not to mention, connected individuals bring in more talent and great people. To solve problems, you have to communicate and collaborate. Sure, developers can tend to be introspective, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't like or connect with the people you work with.

Think about it from your own perspective for a moment. Can you picture yourself applying for a "CEO Rockstar", "Recruitment Chef", or "CTO Samurai" position? So, stop using silly titles. It only distinguishes you as someone who doesn't regard software development as the art and science that it is.