Do Your Job Descriptions Reflect the New IT?

Susan Hall
Slide Show

How to Write a Tech Job Description

A well-written job post helps you attract not only good candidates, but the right candidates.

IT pros often complain that employers write job ads seeking every skill out there, sometimes asking for more years of experience with a technology than that technology has been available.


I recently wrote about "experience-needed syndrome," a phrase coined by Tammy Johns, senior vice president at ManpowerGroup, in an article at Harvard Business Review. She wrote:

This ailment manifests itself in two ways. In one, job descriptions for entry-level positions ask for experience, which shuts out many young workers. In the other, seasoned workers find the "experience-needed syndrome" becomes the "exact experience needed syndrome."

In an article at Forbes, Mike Rollings, research vice president at Gartner, writes that its research of job postings in London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris and Sao Paulo has found that while ads ask for the latest technology skills, they ignore the non-technical skills that IT work increasingly requires. He writes:

Instead of seeking influencers, collaborators, brokers, integrators, persuaders, innovators, and problem solvers, organizations continue to seek out technical drones. So while IT has evolved, the way we are hiring clearly has not....


IT organizations need staff who can deal with nonroutine problems, collaborate effectively, be improvisational and embrace ambiguity. Yet these findings indicate that most IT organizations are hiring for the past, and job postings ask for the wrong requirements. Job descriptions and postings must change to entice and reward those who have the skills required for the future of IT work.

We know that people skills are highly valued as employees move up the management ladder, but companies increasingly look for IT workers who can deal with customers directly. Michel Janssen, Hackett Group chief research officer, told me recently that the closer IT workers can get to customers, the less likely their jobs are to be outsourced. For many IT workers, though, those "soft skills" are much more difficult than the technical skills.


Rollings advises companies to step back and try to really understand the skills they need, then write meaningful job descriptions to reflect both the necessary technical and non-technical skills. And he makes an important point in his third point: Don't just look for a clone of yourself or your other staff. Hiring more of the same won't make your team more agile in responding to improvisational situations.


And he adds that if you're using old job descriptions, it's likely much more within your organization needs to be updated as well:

Recognizing that the need to change is always part of beginning to change and organizations should take advantage of this opportunity to re-evaluate organization expectations, formal and informal employee evaluation practices, employee development, and reward systems. You get what you are committed to and what you reward.

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