alacrity in action
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I think the recruitment model for professionals working in the field of software development is broken. That’s the overwhelming impression I get observing different job specifications and approach of several recruitment agencies. There are more things broken than can sensibly be put in a single post. For now I want to focus on just one, the common, and in my opinion incorrect (or at least simplistic), use of the word skill.

Dear recruiters I think you are confusing skills and technologies. They are not the same thing.
Marcin Floryan

Yes, so many CVs (actually, mine included, to be rectified shortly) give a list of technologies under the section grandly entitled “skills” and the “skills” employers require are often: “5 years of ASP.NET” or “C# .NET 3.5”. Yet the first English dictionary I could find (and a few others I followed up on) give the definition of skill along the lines of:

skill (noun) – The ability to do something well.

So how do you “do C# well” or how do you “do SQL Server well” – these are not actions that you can execute, at best these are technologies that you can use. Even then, we don’t say “I can use my car well” but rather “I drive well”. We focus on the outcome of our actions and not the particulars of how we execute them. I would  much rather see the expectations and abilities expressed indeed as skills:

  • writing readable code
  • creating usable web applications
  • designing decoupled components
  • selecting appropriate data access layer
  • using data access technology with understanding of performance

I hope it changes and yet I have an impression it won’t be soon, after all it would require people who deal with recruitment to understand what software development is really about.

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Photo by 500CPMI’m sure you have, many times, seen recruitment for software development positions that expected candidates to have x number of years experience with a particular technology. Best if it’s a litany of technologies (ignore when they ask for 5 years with a technology that has only been out for 2). If you need a developer that’s what you do. If you’re a recruitment agent that’s all you can do (OK, with some exceptions).

Ultimately, employers who state such requirements make one fundamental mistake. They think the only factor limiting how quickly they create software is how quickly their developers can type.

Yes, if you have worked with NHibernate for 2 years you will write the mapping file more quickly and you might already know what fetch strategy to use. You will not, however, deliver good, valuable software more quickly. The speed at which you type has never been, is not, and I don’t think will ever be a limiting factor, ever. It’s like thinking Picasso would have created more works of art if only he could have made his brush strokes more quickly, or that Pollock would have made a bigger impact on the art world if he could pour paint more quickly. Wrong.

There are many other things to look for in a good developer (more on that another time perhaps) but for now, start with people who are smart and get things done not the ones who have experienced a specific technology for more years and thus can write the code for that technology more quickly.

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