Menu Search
Jump to the content X X
Smashing Conf Barcelona

You know, we use ad-blockers as well. We gotta keep those servers running though. Did you know that we publish useful books and run friendly conferences — crafted for pros like yourself? E.g. our upcoming SmashingConf Barcelona, dedicated to smart front-end techniques and design patterns.

The Difference Between Good And Bad Job Requirements

In Web design, as one of the seemingly few markets that is actually growing, job opening postings are common. They’re not all equally convincing, though. In fact, most of them are unpleasant, uninviting and sometimes bordering on hostile. Some, however, are great, and give you an honest and pleasant sense of what it’s like to work at the studio in question, and, in the best cases, what makes a good designer.

By looking at some good and some bad lists of job requirements, I’ll explore some of their strengths and weaknesses and try to pinpoint what makes the best lists inviting and honest introductions.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Before looking at some lesser examples of requirements lists, let’s start of with the list that made me think of exploring this subject. It’s from San Francisco-based design studio Mule. They’re looking for a Web designer and created a job posting that featured the following requirements list.

The Web Designer we’re looking for has

  • 3+ years experience designing web sites and web applications in a client-services environment
  • an overwhelming desire to create the best web sites on the Internet
  • a burning need to push design into its next evolutionary stage
  • no fear of clients, or of telling clients things they might need to know but are afraid to hear
  • the ability to work collaboratively across disciplines (IA, strategy, interaction design, code) and ideas about how to grow the intersections between them
  • the verbal skills to help clients understand what we’re building for them
  • a powerful intellectual curiosity
  • a strong sense of craftsmanship
  • a year or three working a crap job in the restaurant industry”

This is a great list. It’s clear, challenging, funny and devoid of dozens of acronyms that add nothing to the job opening ad (we all understand that basic HTML and CSS are necessary skills for a Web designer). It gives you an unambiguous understanding of the kind of studio you’ll be working for. Mule senses that this list is the place to show you their identity, and not to tell you things you already know. Before further exploring the qualities of a good requirements list, however, let’s look at some bad ones.

Some Bad Lists Link

This next list forgets all that hoo-hah about being a good designer, and might as well add “must be able to turn on computer” to it (the employer in question shall remain nameless, because I’m not trying to make them look bad, but to make a point).

What you need for this position

  • CSS/CSS3
  • Javascript and JQuery
  • Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash
  • PHP and AJAX is a plus
  • Ability to work in a fast paced environment, move between short and long term projects and remain focused on the user experience”

Every item on this list is more or less redundant. It gives you no impression of the kind of work or projects you’ll be doing. It’s also very, very boring, and to be boring is bad. To be actively unpleasant, however, like this next one, is worse.

Required Skills:

  • Proficient in Mac-based Photoshop, ImageReady/Fireworks, Illustrator and Dreamweaver.
  • Thorough understanding of the elements of good design, HTML production and web process.
  • Will be held accountable for the technical accuracy of their own work.
  • Able to complete tasks independently and as part of a team.
  • Possess effective communication of ideas/development of presentation skills.
  • Ability to manage deadlines and production scheduling on numerous, concurrent projects.
  • Perform effectively in a demanding work environment and show resiliency to stress.”

Would you like to work here? This list is almost threatening in its rhetoric. “You will be held accountable for the technical accuracy of your work.” Well, yeah. Of course you will. Are you trying to prepare me for the constant breathing down my neck I will be experiencing on your team?

Tell me more
Image by opensourceway4.

I’m also not looking forward to the “demanding work environment” and having to “show resiliency to stress.” I’m all for honesty, but this is just silly.

Mule’s “An overwhelming desire to create the best websites on the Internet” covers all that without terrifying you. It says “you will have to work hard here, but it’s for a great cause,” as opposed to “you will have to work hard here, and we still won’t thank you.”

Required Experience:

  • BFA in Digital/Graphic Design or equivalent experience
  • 5+ years work experience in digital/Web
  • Requires knowledge of commercial internet/web tools and protocols, particularly Adobe Creative Suite.
  • Knowledge of Content Management Systems, Email Marketing, Search Marketing and Mobile/Social is a huge plus.
  • Proven ability to manage relationships
  • Self-motivated and team oriented
  • Must be able to troubleshoot and be solution oriented
  • Must be able to thrive in a fast-paced, high volume environment
  • Solid portfolio of great design work
  • Strong copywriting / editing skills
  • Solid knowledge of such user experience practices as user flows, site mapping, interaction design, etc.
  • Solid understanding of design needs that support SEM and SEO
  • Ability to write HTML/CSS
  • Agency background (media and/or SEM agency) very strongly desired
  • Technical skills required: Adobe Creative Suite with Advanced Photoshop, Advanced InDesign, Advanced Illustrator”

This is less unpleasant and less a summation of acronyms (although “ability to write HTML/CSS” adds nothing to this list), but it still lacks any enthusiasm, and does nothing to challenge your view of your career. Can you imagine really, really wanting to work here? Is that not what these lists should do, kind of? As they are, they give me the feeling I should be thankful for them even considering hiring someone like me, if, and only if, I am able to “manage relationships” or am “self-motivated.”

Some Good Lists Link

Mule is not the only studio capable of writing up a nice and inviting requirements list. Some forego the list entirely, like Mobify5, in their search for a mobile designer. Like most job opening ads, there is an introduction and a description of the studio itself. What differs from most other job ads, though, is that the requirements list is no more than two lines at the end.

“Mobify is looking for a talented Mobile Designer to join our Launch Team. As Mobile Designer, you’ll be responsible for the creative execution of mobile and tablet sites for our incredible clients. You’ll have the opportunity to work with some of the biggest brands in the world all in the fun and relaxed environment of Mobify’s beautiful Gastown, Vancouver headquarters.

From prototyping to launch, you’ll have ownership over each step in the creative process. You’ll create the experience and then work with our engineering team for the execution.

The ideal candidate for this role must have an excellent online portfolio (with URLs of course) and good experience with HTML and CSS.”

Very simple, just like this next one, from Houzz6.

Desired Skills & Experience:

  • Impeccable modern visual design aesthetic
  • Strong web/visual design portfolio
  • Understanding of digital media and its technical aspects.”

No pointless acronyms and no threats. It’s not exciting or funny, but it’s honest and well-written. Wouldn’t you rather read “You must have a strong portfolio” than “At least 5 years of experience”? What if you have four years of experience but are convinced you are the perfect candidate? A good list of requirements solves that problem by communicating in clear language. Sure, you could ask “But what is a ‘strong’ portfolio? Who decides?” but this kind of phrasing asks for a designer who believes in his or her own qualities, rather than leaning on a certain number of years of being able to hold down a job.

Hudl7 is looking for a UI designer, and their requirements list is the best one I found (next to Mule’s).


  • Love seeing the world through someone else’s eyes and building an interface that fits their mental model of the world.
  • Are anxious to work on a variety of platforms and products (iPad, iPhone, Android, web app, thick-client desktop, etc.)
  • Can tell the story of a product or service with sharp copy and crisp imagery.
  • Sketch out your ideas on paper before you dive into your prototyping tool of choice (Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML & CSS)
  • Know which details matter and how to push back and say “no.”
  • Communicate your designs with developers and managers using the appropriate media and fidelity.
  • Think that copywriting is crucial to building a great UI.
  • Can’t wait to see real people use your designs in usability studies — even if it makes you grit your teeth.”

What they do is so much more than just telling you what you should have already done by now. They’re telling you what you could become working for them. I especially like the fifth point, “[You] know which details matter and how to push back and say ‘no.’” It tells you not to be submissive, in a career of following orders and meeting deadlines, but to be independent and to create independent and healthy relationships with clients. It’s similar to Mule’s “No fear of clients, or of telling clients things they might need to know but are afraid to hear.” I think this requirement says so much about the studio in question. It tells you that you will not have to give up any independence, or any other part of your personality, in working there.

How To Be Nice While Remaining Effective Link

The first thing the good lists have in common is a sense of good, human communication. They’re not afraid to delve into your personality more than just “must be easy going and fun.” The designer they’re looking for is an actual human being, and not just an “asset” with good Photoshop skills.

The second thing they have in common, and this is something inherently connected with the kind of studio, and therefore not something easily imitated by a company that doesn’t actually feel this way, is that they have an idea of how your relationship with the client should work. The fear of deadlines and tremendous workloads the other lists try to instill in you is connected to the way they view the client — as king. But the client is, of course, not king at all. The client is someone you have to build a relationship with, not as two companies, but as two people. And that implies equal footing. You must be able to deny the client things that are unreasonable or unwise. And where to tell that to aspiring employees better that on the requirements list?

Concluding Link

A requirements list should be ambitious, inspiring and funny. Just like the studio you’ll be working for should be. It also has to be honest, but not threatening. What most of these companies forget is that it’s no use trying to prepare designers for the worst. We all understand it’ll be hard work and that we’re supposed to be good at it. So try not to tell us what your ideal employee is. Try to tell us what a great designer we could become should we want to join your team.

Of course designers will respond to all these lists. A job is a job. And good for them, they all might be delightful places to work. But if you could choose? Compare the list from Mule or Hudl with some of the other ones (and most of them out there), and try to image the studios they represent. If I’m ever in the position to hire someone, I’ll do it like Mule does it. Without any threats, and without giving them a sneak peak into a bleak future filled with people yelling about accountability, deadlines and my “resiliency to stress.”

You know, the nice way.

(cp) (ea)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7

↑ Back to top Tweet itShare on Facebook

After working as a freelance web designer for some years, Jim is now working on web development at The Brighthouse in Amsterdam. This means a lot of front-end stuff, but also database management (H2 mostly, fun!) and project management.

  1. 1

    Great article. I think the bad lists are a product of having so many unfit candidates applying for jobs they can’t do, and in an attempt to filter these people out, say specifically what the job requires at a bare minimum. That’s my experience anyway :)

    • 2

      You make an excellent point. It may be true that this kind of copy scares away less experienced applicants, but I think it may come at a cost. Don’t you think a lot of good and experienced designers are scared off by it as well?

      • 3


        November 13, 2012 4:48 am

        Ya. I’m job hunting at the mo’ and things like that do scare me (augh I don’t have 3+ years experience in C++ so I’m not going to try despite having all the other requisites)..

        • 4

          theperfectnose, you have hit on what scares me most often. The list that shows the potential employer has no idea of what they want. I’ve seen lists that want you as a web designer to have experience in C++, ASP, graphic design, UX etc.

      • 5

        If I’m not mistaken the most relevant part is the salary part :)

        • 6

          In all seriousness, if all you care about is the salary you are not living as happy of a life as you could be.

  2. 7

    Being a freelancer and in a cycle of “no-job because of no-commercial-experience and vice versa”, such job postings are just annoying to read through. By the time, you reach the end of post, you most probably have forgotten the title/type of job because of such random requirements..

  3. 8

    I love the “Unnecessary/undesirable skills” on

  4. 9

    I had to help a client with setting up the specs for a job application. Mine looked almost exactly like the first one. The second one is awesome, I would fight for that job!

  5. 10

    As you note, a lot of agencies & start-ups already get it. Now if we could just get this article in front of recruiters and corporate HR folks…

    Nice write up Jim, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  6. 12

    When do I start?

  7. 13

    Great article! Maybe Google needs to take this advice and rethink their hiring, as the fools involved in recently removing image search functions has to be one of the worst moves I’ve ever seen…and hated by 99.99% of people on their product forums as a testament.

  8. 14

    This article seems like advertising for three companies. How much did they pay to get their name here like this?

    • 15

      Thanks for you reply Ali. I actually did not get paid by any of these companies. I’ll tell you what I did. About a month ago I saw the job posting for Mule through twitter, and wrote a little thing about it. A little after that I got the opportunity to expand the article and publish it through Smashing. In order to do so however, I wanted to include more examples of both bad and good requirements lists. I then went and actively looked through dozens of lists I found via Monsterboard and the Dribbble job board. I used the ones I thought best illustrated my points. I didn’t have contact with any of these companies, although today, after publication, one of the guys from Hudl sent me a tweet thanking me for including their list. I hope this answers you concerns.

  9. 16

    Great article!

    Being a freelancer I see a lot jobs with these kinds of these lists… unfortunately majority of the jobs are reminiscent of the ones on your bad lists. I agree that when they say ‘you must 5+ years experience’ it puts me off the job I’ve had over 3 years experience now, I always wonder if I should I apply for the job but then think forget it and just move on.

    Thinking about it (also playing devils advocate) maybe they make the job descriptions cold and threatening because they don’t want to have a load of under qualified people applying, almost acting as a scarecrow to weedle out all the people who would normally apply and try to blag their way into an interview… or it could just be lazy writing, what do you think?

    • 17

      It may be true that companies try to filter out any underqualified undesirables, but I don’t think that’s what they achieve with this kind of writing. I think they might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, scaring people off who could have been fantastic assets to the company. That is to say I don’t think threats scare away only the underexperienced, but all good people.

  10. 18

    The nameless company that you cited early on, to be honest is not boring to me. The first example you give from Mule seems like I can do all of that with Flash. Do you want me to be curious, push boundaries and craft beautiful websites? I can do that, in Flash. Listing mindsets, personality traits, and thinking habits isn’t enough. Someone could have all of those and have no clue how to use the tools you require.

    I have to disagree with a few listings like that because it should be a given that I want to make the web better, and I don’t want to just be another developer. I want to be known, I want my portfolio work to speak for itself. When I walk into an interview and they ask me to do some small coding exercise to see how I work through problems, I want to leave them floored with my skill. Wanting to be great should be default with any developer or designer, just tell me how you want to accomplish a task. Mule could have listed all those, then somewhere near the end add on: “By the way, we only work with flash”. Their job listing would not have been so great after that.

    If you don’t list how you want to get work done, you could attract a lot of people who are idealists, but not great on the execution. Listing what you work with/in, you may not get someone who dresses or talks like the perfect employee, but can crank out code or use Photoshop like a hero.

    • 19

      Perhaps they’re not after someone with purely technical skills, and are after an employee with a similar vision/personality to them and their company? After all, for the most part, you can learn how to code and use digital media, but you can’t really change your personality/humor/design visions.

    • 20

      I don’t think a studio has to worry that much about attracting the wrong (underexperienced) people by not asking for their specific capabilities. There are steps between you replying to their posting and them inviting you for a first talk. I suppose I assume the HR department is capable of weeding out the idealists before inviting them over (by looking at their portfolio for instance).

      Your example (I can do that, in Flash) is technically true but I don’t think relevant in practice. Writing an ad like Mule did attracts people with the right mindset and experience, and therefore people who will not be working in Flash in 2012. And if they do, they will be weeded out long before they step through the door.

      • 21

        There’s a fascinating book out there called Hiring for Attitude which I think you’ll like, Jim. The author basically says that U.S. companies do a fantastic job of hiring for specific technical skills, but are terrible when it comes to looking for people who fit into their workplace culture.

        What Mule has done is, in essence, described their corporate culture instead of technical skills. In the long run, that makes for a much better company environment because you’re getting in the right people with the right attitudes who will keep the company environment at the level they want while still getting the work done.

    • 22

      The job posting shouldn’t do all the work. You still have to interview a bunch of people if you want to find the best one for the job. Would you rather be forced to fill a position with the best choice of one or two people that your listing has narrowed it down to? I guess it’s a balancing act between sifting through a million unqualified people and zero super-focused people. And it all depends on how much work you want to do when hiring.

  11. 23

    You should have included some examples of companies trying to hire “ninjas”, “rockstars”, and “Jedis”. Thanks, but I’m not 12. They expect you to be a professional, but they marginalize you with these adjectives. I wouldn’t ever consider taking a job like that.

    • 24

      Those are the worst. However, I’d rather be considered a pretend-ninja than be described as someone ‘easy-going’ (which I also saw a lot). Can you imagine a more lifeless and unexciting description than that?

      • 25

        I have been a web design freelancer and contractor now for 12 years – and 2 years perm before that (yes, that old…). I have worked with all sorts of people in all sorts of businesses , large and small. I would MUCH rather work with someone described as ‘easy-going’ rather than ‘ninja’ (=dickhead?) :) In my experience that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have passion for what they do, or are ‘lifeless’ or ‘unexciting’ as you describe – it does usually mean that you can work productively WITH them though…

    • 26
    • 28

      As a recruiter who speaks to developers all day every day, I agree that they do not want to be spoken to as if they are 12 and words like Ninja, Rockstar and guru tend to annoy them. A job advert shouldn’t have to be sexed up, and you may think that listing HTML and CSS for a front end role is a bit silly but judging from the number of applicants I get who don’t even meet these requirements sometimes they need to be on there. The best adverts list what is required and give enough information to get people to call, people get suspicious of anything that sounds hyped. Also in the UK we are not allowed to list years of experience in the advert as apparently this is discrimination…

  12. 29

    I get turned off by lists that include “Must have an incredible passion for design, and an undying burning desire for crisp copy” or something like that. No one in their right mind would be so “passionate” about that. “Passionate” should be reserved for first dates or chocolate lava cake. Companies should be more realistic and use terms like “extremely dedicated”, even though that term sounds less exciting. They prescribe medication for people with “undying desires” for things.

    • 30

      Chris has a point, “passion” for coding is an overstatement; I don’t feel passion, just a deeply interest in what I’m doing.

    • 32

      Andrew Richardson

      November 13, 2012 2:35 am

      I’d say I have a passion for design… I guess I’m not in my right mind!

    • 33

      The people seem to disagree Christian ;)

      I would be careful to assume *any* subject is undeserving of passion. I’ll bet you even a cardboard box can instill a burning desire in some people. And as for design and coding; they are some of the most creative things someone can do, both esthetically and as an exercise in problem-solving, and to me it seems silly to practice them if you do not feel this passion. There’s easier ways to make money after all.

  13. 34

    As much as having lists of technical requirements isn’t great (even worse is listing every tech in the book …. must know PHP and ASP and Java, or getting them wrong … must know HTML6 and CSS8) I think they really do need to be included within a job requirement somewhere, if only for helping find suitable jobs. I can easily go onto a job board and search PHP without having to search for ‘web developer’ ‘front-end’, ‘front end’, ‘programmer’ (and all the rest) and then need to work out whether my choice of programming language fits the role.
    – A. Developer

    • 35

      “Listing every tech in the book”…. This is a major issue I see when browsing job listings. Agencies looking for someone with every single design, front end, back end etc. ability there is.

      • 36

        Yes, the every marginal skill in the book is required for this job posting is the biggest (and most common- imo) red flag of all. Nothing says “managerial disconnect” louder.

    • 37

      That’s a very good point. The inclusion of all these acronyms make the job findable, if not for the fact that the lists are mostly the same in every ad. If they *all* say ‘PHP and ASP and Java’ and a whole bunch of other things, that kind of negates the ‘searchability’ of the ad. But this is still a problem, as you point out. How do you look for an job if you don’t know what they are asking for?

  14. 38

    Jim, really great topic. It’s nice to see something different like this on SM. And you did a good job of pointing out what you think makes a job posting work.

    The only thing I’ll comment on, and which Brian’s comment above touches on, is that I think it’s absolutely necessary that technical skills be made clear. You mentioned a couple of times in the article that it’s pointless to say something like “HTML/CSS skills”. But what if the job is a “design in Photoshop” type of “web design” job? You can’t assume your definition of “web designer” is the same as that of the company posting the job listing. The fact that there have been many debates within our industry about whether or not a web designer should know how to code shows that the definition of “web designer” is not as clear-cut as you suggest.

    Don’t misunderstand me, though. I totally agree with your overall message, and I think it’s an important one. But I also think job listings should list all technical requirements, preferably after all the “ambitious, inspiring, and funny” stuff.

    Again, great job, thanks for the good read.

    • 39

      Thank you Louis, you make a great point. I guess my solution would be to make the type of design job clear in the posting without resorting to lists of acronyms. However, I don’t think acronyms are *forbidden*, or something like that. In most of the cases I feel they are unnecessary, but if they are in fact very necessary to get the message across, use them. To the distinction between ‘design in photoshop’ and ‘design in code’ type jobs you talk about, that’s indeed a tricky problem, but can be solved by good copy writing. Also I think (but I’m not sure) that there is a trend towards the merging of the two. Some of these postings make little distinction between the visual design and the coding part because they want you to be an allrounder. Do you agree?

      • 40

        I’m not sure. What I do know is that your method described above has benefits, but so does the “boring” style of job posting. That’s why I think there needs to be a balance of both, with your suggestions figuring more prominently.

        I’ve seen postings that were very interesting, positive, and exciting sounding, and then they listed the technical requirements near or at the end, which I think is the best way. But the technical requirements absolutely should be listed, otherwise you’ll have tons of applications from under-qualified people.

  15. 41

    I live in Canada and when I left my last agency and was looking for a new design position I was alarmed at how many companies/agencies had a list of requirements that went something like “Strong design skills with expertise in Adobe suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc), HTML/CSS, Javascript (jQuery & MooTools), PHP/MySQL, Video & Audio editing…”.

    Maybe I’m crazy but it doesn’t seem realistic to require design, front-end, back-end, and video/audio skills in one position. Is this the norm in other countries? Even a small agency can’t expect 1 person to accomplish all these tasks professionally. I think the saying goes: Jack of all trades, master of none.

    • 42

      Well put. That is the type of bs written by an HR department with no idea of how web design works. The idea behind it (I think) is to filter out the less experienced, but I’ll bet you no truly good web designer will be attracted by that type of ad.

  16. 43

    Great post. Since we’re currently in head hunting mode, this came in very handy! Thanks

  17. 44

    This is a most intriguing article because it goes against conventional wisdom. Admittedly, I always assumed that if you stuck a bunch of tech lingo in the job requirements that it would help keep out the resumes and applications from people who didn’t have a clue what they were applying for. After reading this article, I’m wondering if that is an incorrect assumption.

    With that thought in mind, I do believe that’s often why college degrees are listed as a job requirement when often they’re probably really not; it’s to keep the clueless from submitting applications, and it gives the person hiring a quick getaway (“Sorry, you don’t fit the requirements”) in case the clueless want to follow up on their application statuses…

    Another example would be listing “HTML, XHTML, HTML5, CSS1, CSS2, CSS3” in the job requirements for a web design position. From my point of view, I would list those requirements to keep the clueless away, as I would already be aware that any legitimate candidate would have that type of skillset upon applying.

    Your thoughts, Jim?

    • 45

      You are not the first to suggest this reasoning, and you (as the others) are making an excellent point. Funny thing; almost no job postings I found asked for a certain type of college degree. I guess experience and attitude is all that matters in this industry.

      The type of skills they usually ask for (HTML, CSS) are skills a bad designer also possesses, so they do nothing for weeding out anyone. There is no ‘bad designer’ that reads ‘You must know HTML and CSS’ and thinks ‘O shit, I don’t know those, better not reply’. Everybody knows HTML and CSS, not to the same degree of course, but as a general capability, they tell you absolutely nothing about the actual capabilities of a designer.

    • 46

      I think you are the clueless here :D

      In fact, you are right; and if anyone have ever made a job posting, he’ll get a ton of crap. But you’ll get that ton of crap even if you state as the requirements a Ph.D in Astronomy. Point is, clueless people will always send you their resumes. Live with it.

      The other point is that it’s your job to go through this pile. Stating too many requirements will essentially wipe out the good people, because they are more sensitive and serious about applying. If the technologies you are asking for, can be mastered in a matter of months (like WordPress or Drupal), then stating PHP will expose you to a wider range of candidates; increasing your chances of finding the right one.

      The bottom line: Talent is as rare as jobs. Don’t expect talented people to start applying once you put your application. They are probably hired or looking for better opportunities. In fact, you need to be competitive to get them.

  18. 47

    The worst are the job posts that say:

    “Rockstar web designer”
    “Genius developer”
    “Kick ass Ruby developer”

    Just run the other way.

    • 48

      So true. As Brent suggested earlier, ‘Ninja’ is also a good one. ‘Yes, I am a coding ninja, by which I mean you will not notice when I leave at three thirty’

  19. 49

    I find the scariest ones tend to expect such a massively broad range of skills, you all but give up on them the moment you start reading.

    You can also fairly easily spot the ‘traditional’ media company trying to ‘grow’ their digital base. Usually print marketing based, they have gems such as “Free parking” or “Free Coffee” as employee perks. They also tend to list verbatim every skill set they can lift from other job offer sites.

    Then you get the IT company, with dry technical descriptions and the hostile tone adopted in some of the examples above. “Team Player” “Work under stress” “Hit deadlines” – if you see any of those, steer well clear.

    The assumption with these hostile job placement requirements is that your potentially a slacker, have no business acumen, fold under stress and should be treated like a child.
    It’s almost as if your past experience & CV are rendered meaningless when pitted against terms such as “Hit multiple deadlines”

    Finally, you get to an interview stage and the one line which makes me run a mile, goes something like:
    “We work hard here, but have fun. When we work late into the night, we get pizza in!”
    Well whoop-de-doo – what that tells me is you work your employees into the ground because your organisational structure isn’t fit for purpose.

    I *always* ask what overtime is expected – if you don’t get a straight answer, run. I have no problem putting in an extra hour a day, or doing a few hours on the weekend when there’s a tight deadline. What I do object to is companies where employees frequently work late into the night – and don’t get paid for it. There’s *plenty* of them out there!

  20. 50

    The nonsense list of requirements really freaks me out sometimes. XHTML/HTML5, CSS2-3 coder, Javascript (jQuery & MooTools), PHP, MySQL programmer, Action Script ninja, hands on Photoshop/Illustrator artist who can also produce high quality print material using InDesign, edit video with Premiere if needed, and of course an UX + SEO expert. Besides, the ideal candidate has 10 years of corporate experience and is maximum 25 years old. Sure.

    Let me translate this to plain English: “we want to get 3 people’s job done for one paycheck”.

    Although it’s not entirely impossible that someone is equally good at all of those, chances are that this person is really good at one or two of the above and mediocre at the rest.

    Or–as it’s been mentioned–the HR person had no idea what skills the job required and she put there everything she copied from other job posts just to cover her ass. All it takes is looking around the web/HTML/info design jobs posts on Craigslist. Bunch of lunatics copying each other’s crap.

    • 51

      Alberto Pasian

      November 13, 2012 2:46 pm

      Exactly, PGabor.

      You’ve just pointed out a common problem of many job listings here in Italy; usually it’s due to the ignorance of IT fields (a web designer / developer able to code with 2 or 3 languages, with SEO skills and photography / movie direction experiences?) and to the willingness to save as much money as possible. Often at the expenses of professionalism!

  21. 52

    I’m glad someone has touched on this. I was talking about this not too long ago to a friend. we both look on itjobboard and when looking for Frontend development positions, every single post is “required skils: HTML, CSS, XHTML, HTML5, Javascript, jQuery, .NET, PHP, LAMP, WAMP, ASP, Microsoft, ZEND, IIS, node.js, Photoshop, Fireworks, flash, JSON, JSONP….


    Never seen any adverts like the Mule one in the UK… EVER!

    • 53

      I know what you mean Phil :) the problem is the HR dept has little/no knowledge of what web design consists of, oh you’re the gyuys that use dreamweaver…right??

    • 54

      Yes the endless list of tech skills always make me smile – as a freelancer/ contractor, when agents phone me with a list like this I try to clarify what it is the company actually want to do and achieve in plain English. If the agent understands what all these skills mean (a rare agent in my experience), the tech skills list then usually becomes a lot more focused…

      • 55

        Yeah as a contractor it is typical for the hiring manager to have a list as long as my arm and then the job calls for just a small proportion. My last contract described the role of a £60Kpa javascript engineer and in reality all I did was change a few slideshow images.

  22. 56

    I’ve recently been looking at a lot of job requirements and the worst what I have seen is a copy-paste job requirements from another studio! Unfortunately this scenario was not uncommon, quite sad actually.

  23. 57

    To be quite honest its an employers market and you cannot afford to be too picky these days, if you sit around waiting for the perfect job vacancy you’ll be waiting a long time

  24. 59

    Regarding companies which demand excellent skills and knowledge in: html+css, PS/AI/ID, Java+PHP+JQuery+AS3, SEO, video+audio editing, 3D modeling, power presentation skills etc… they are not so rare, though.
    It’s just funny to imagine guy who REALLY IS equally good in all this. That one will not, for sure, look for a job in that “sort” of a company. That kind of expert has much more skills than the CEO of the company behind AD :)

    Great article!

  25. 60

    I think poor job ads are a product of both the employer and the hiring agent. The conversation basically goes like this;

    recruiting agent: to find the best candidate I will need a job description and person spec from you.
    employer; I’m far too busy to do that besides isn’t that what I’m paying you for.
    agent thinks: I’ll reuse a generic job spec I’ve got.

    Bottom line: hiring managers think if they keep it vague they’ll get an over qualified candidate. Recruitment agents know fk all about the roles they recruit for.

  26. 61

    Excellent article. I think what employers are doing by listing a huge bunch of requirements actually acts as a bit of a double edged sword. Yes, they’re potentially filtering out a lot of the under qualified applicants but at the same time they’re putting off a lot of competent/worthy applicants.

    Make your workplace enticing, friendly, open and express your company’s personality in the advertisement. This way you get more like-minded applicants. You may have to filter through some more crap, but the end result will be far more satisfactory for both parties.

  27. 62

    Ali Heristchian

    November 14, 2012 7:31 am

    Really nice article, Thanks.

  28. 63

    This is a great post. Having come out of searching for a job earlier this year, I was hugely dismayed by the onslaught of lists and recruiters who kept saying, “x” years required.

    Unfortunately, “x” years required does not even begin to demonstrate how efficient and knowledgeable you are at a job. I can’t tell you how many times I get glossed over because I don’t have “5+ years” of experience working with HTML/CSS, yet the guy who has 10+ years got hired and are still convinced that Table Layouts are the way to go and insists on using Inline CSS exclusively.

    The years mean absolutely nothing if they don’t keep up with the trends and advances.

    “Strong Portfolio”, yes, may be ambiguous at best, but at least someone who doesn’t have the years of experience will feel like they have a fighting chance against seniority.

  29. 64

    You know what’s so funny about those big-guys who typically seek for “Inspector Gadget”?

    They still want “The Inspector Gadget” to behave as a normal person. Some even want him/her to have an extremely excellent team spirit & easygoing.

    I mean, look at the context, lads… A person, who is:

    Mastering HTML5/CSS3/jQuerry/PHP/AJAX/C++/3D/AutoCAD/AfterEffect/Photoshop/Etc.
    Fluent in VB/Microsoft Windows/iOS/Linux/Unix/Android SDK/Numerous APIs..etc-etc.
    Communicative, Social Person, Pressure proof, Innovative, and yet, Instructions Eater.
    Jobless… because, usually “that kind” of job ads very shy about salary.
    Just get fired from a good position (because they usually ask a certain years of experience)
    Creative, Artistic, Methodological, Organized and Scientific.

    And yet, here’s the ridicoulous part:

    Still able to hold on to his/her marriage. (Hey, they’re looking for a commitment person too)

    Now. I’m not belittling human potentials. I’m worried about capitalistic greed & snobbery here. Pay-penny-for-many mindset.

    Of course.. We all know they’re just looking for a “Outsourcing Manager”, right? That. If you know what I mean.

    But for the sake of the good article above:

    A good job ads will boldly stating their salary, facilities & contract security first.

  30. 65

    website design

    November 15, 2012 7:29 am

    Its really very adorable article,i think a well written and inspiring job requirements list should be good enough to hire a candidate with no threatening.thanks

  31. 66

    Sheik Mohaideen A

    November 15, 2012 12:26 pm

    Really wonderful article ! … Useful one ….
    thanks a lot smashing magazine !

  32. 67

    I don’t know where to start, so I’ll start with the “bad lists.”

    The first is full of “more or less redundant” requirements? Really? In the real world, they’re essential. In the real world, it doesn’t matter if a job listing is “very, very boring.” Your average graduate is going to apply for dozens (if not hundreds) of jobs before they even get an interview. Only those most elitist designers will get to pick and choose where they get to work, and even then they’ll have to contend with 100 other applicants.

    I can’t believe that being held accountable is considered “threatening” either. Not like having “no fear of clients, or of telling clients things they might need to know but are afraid to hear.” Seriously? The first is essential to any job worth doing, and the second is the kind of thing that gives designers a bad name.

    Mule’s is full of unabashed, holier-than-thou claptrap, and Mobify’s tells you nothing. If the earlier example is redundant, what is “good experience with HTML and CSS.” Of course a web designer will have a portfolio and HTML/CSS experience. Houzz, again, tells you nothing. It’s no better than those middle-management buzzwords like ‘blue sky thinking’. It’s just words thrown together which dance around an issue and tell you nothing at all.

    As for Hudl, their requirements can easily be summarised by “You… AGREE WITH US” It’s better than the other “good” lists, but only marginally.

    Perhaps I’m just jaded from being unemployed so long, but those “good lists” fall into the same traps as the bad ones, except they fit into the designer’s top boy’s club elitism.

    We can all agree that ‘x years experience’ is the worst requirement ever, and yet Mule have that twice.

  33. 68

    I really like this article and I think this issue in our industry is worthy of the attention you’re giving it. I too am annoyed by many job requirements. Although most are intended to filter candidates, they often are uninviting and may even exclude promising candidates.

    – The tech requirements. Stick to the basics. It’s really quite simple: your candidate pool will be exponentially smaller the more items you add. There may be 1,000 candidates knowing PHP well. But if you ask for experience with a specific framework in PHP, there may be only 100 left. If you then add Javascipt, there may be 25 left. If you then add a specific javascript framework, there may be 5 left, and so on. Only list the base technologies and trust that candidates can learn specific frameworks quickly. I’d bet candidates hungry for a job would even do it in their own time.

    – In the Netherlands, it is common to list the average age of the work force, for example “25” as a “selling point”. Although I’m young myself, I find it quite insulting and excluding a lot of experienced talent. Appearantly over 30 you’re already damaged goods. What kind of message does that send?

    – I also see a lot of requirements emphasizing the social nature of the team and how important it is to be verbally competent. I agree that this is important, but it also excludes a lot of talent. For example, at work I work with a guy that is technically brilliant. He also happens to be the funniest guy on the planet. But you cannot send him to a client, he’s too introvert. Still he’s worth his weight in gold. He has the economic output of about 5 average developers and the ironic part: he doesn’t give a damn about money. Do you really want to exclude talent like that?

    Summarizing, a lot of well-intended job requirements do the complete opposite. They filter out too much. Focus on people, talent and intentions.

  34. 69

    I __loved__ reading this article! It says pretty much what I feel about agencies in this town. They see designers as nothing more than “people who should know everything about Photoshop, work in the speed of light and never complain about all the unreasonable things clients say”.

    When I started to study UX, I realized the importance of making communication more “human”. Since then, it has been guiding me through my projects. and the lists you’ve showed in this article make it all clear: without the human aspect in communication ( and this includes the fun, honesty, encouragement and ambition), we’re not really doing a good job in designing or communicating to _people_.

    I wish I had seen good lists like Mule’s or Hudl’s when I was searching for a job. Unfortunately, agencies and most clients here don’t see the crucial points you made in this great article. I dream of the day things will no longer be like that.

  35. 70

    I’ve started a little database where you guys can submit good and bad lists you find. Check it out:

  36. 71

    I love it <3
    Some job postings, are really too demanding that makes applicants scared and feel like threatened.
    Companies are too egoistic as if "ONLY ELITE/PERFECT DESIGNERS" are allowed to apply. LOL.

    Job Descriptions should be encouraging.

  37. 72

    Jim, I’ll try to do you one better and skip the bad listing to go straight to the bad interview. What happens when you reply to one of those average listings that aren’t Mule’s and aren’t absolutely threatening like the very first one from one of the unnamed companies, only to be asked if you have an entirely different skillset than what they asked for in the first place?
    I was in this situation and when I sheepishly muttered that I was there for the web designer position, my interviewer sort of pulled a darth vader on me and said something along the lines of “i’m altering the deal”.
    I’m also sorry to say I’ve been in that situation more than once, though not all of them were as scary.

  38. 73

    I absolutely LOVED this article!

    As someone who talks to recruiters about how they can get better qualified candidates, this hits a lot of the same points I try to emphasize. To get top candidates, you have to make your job and your company sound attractive to them. Top candidates are picky about where they will apply and interview, and a badly written job description will cause them to pass right over the posting. Companies think they are weeding out unqualified candidates by posting stringent requirements and making them jump through hoops, but they don’t realize that they’re scaring away the best candidates in the process. Most of the junk resumes they receive are from people that are applying to anything and everything, and may not even be reading the full job description – so they’re not weeding them out at all.

    A well written posting, on the other hand, will attract quality candidates and may actually cut down on unqualified candidates. For example, focusing on metrics rather than years of experience (ie for an Account Exec: You love building relationships with people over the phone and would be comfortable hitting your goal of a 20% client renewal rate) provides a glimpse of what is expected of the position so people without the required experience or interests won’t apply, and people that are interested and qualified will apply. Also including information about benefits, culture, the hiring manager, etc can get people excited about the position. If you want top candidates, you have to make yourself stand out.

    I”m doing a webinar on this topic on 12/6: Writing Job Postings that Attract Qualified Candidates – check it out and let me know what you think!


    Jen Picard


↑ Back to top