Recently, I found a Craigslist job advert that made me chuckle. It seems to manage to do almost everything wrong, from the point of view of recruiting the kind of person it appears to be targeting.
So, in the spirit of improving the web, here’s my blow-by-blow description of all (or most of) what’s wrong with this job ad.
Here’s the advert, first, in case it’s taken down:
Senior Rails Developer (Toronto) Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org [?] Date: 2008-08-26, 9:12PM EDT Working Role Title: Senior Rails Developer Why People Want To Work for Us: RedWire Employees Are Rockstars Enabling Entrepreneurs To Connect on a Global Scale As far as missions go, ours is pretty cool. How many people get to say their job is to help others be successful? Innovating at Warp 9 We are a small company, but we are driven to change the world. Our reason for being is to help entrepreneurs realize their ambitions. We are innovative, relevant and user-friendly, and we use these qualities to equip business owners with the tools they need for success. Fun-zilla Working for RedWire means being passionate and creative. We want awesome people to work with who will be contributing members of our team of rockstars. The top three reasons why working at RedWire rocks: 1) You get to do good. People helping people—it’s a beautiful thing. 2) Brainastics, whiteboards, candy and lots of coffee. Sometimes we have to remind our employees to go home. 3) Flexible work hours. We don’t do “9 to 5”. Nuff said. We realize that a start-up environment doesn’t appeal to everybody, but if it works for you, then, please, read on. Current Needs: ¼ Network Engineer + ¼ Electrical Engineer + 3⁄8 Senior Open Source Software Developer + 1⁄8Mathematician = 1 RedWire Senior Developer We are looking for an in-house doer-thinker-fixer-betterer whose superpower is to fulfill all the functions of an IT Department. We need an autonomous and resourceful guru to join us in our quest and manage all things IT. You must be ridiculously passionate about the web, love the idea of working in a start-up, enjoy variety in your day-to-day and be able to handle the stress of being the go-to resource. Role Overview: This is a pivotal role for an ambitious, highly enthusiastic developer who’s excited at the thought of working in a fast-paced, high-growth web start-up. In this position, you will demonstrate your mental prowess as you coordinate a diverse flow of projects and initiatives. You will be responsible for: - Web application development - Network administration - Information storage - Network functionality In addition, you will also be responsible for helping set up email distribution, as well as any other relevant technically related projects as they arise. We are looking for a goal-oriented, naturally eager person who can work effectively and efficiently under tight deadlines and who is able to manage multiple projects at once. Qualifications: • Provable guru status and devoteeism of Ruby on Rails with experience actually deploying applications • Strong experience with MySQL, version 5+ and beyond • Background in developing and optimizing GNU/Linux, *nix, and *BSD platforms for mission critical production environments • Familiar with network infrastructure and design concepts for small networks (<25 machines). • Proven experience in designing security-hardened web applications, using open cryptographic standards • Familiarity with hardware prognostics and normal accident theory • Expertise in open-source programs and development • Familiarity with content versioning systems (e.g., Hg, SVN, CVS) • Experience breaking stuff • Experience fixing what you’ve broken If you are the personification of our long-winded wish list, then we’d celebrate your email’s alerting us to your existence. Interested potential rockstars should send their résumé to email@example.com.
Right. *cracks knuckles* Let’s get started, shall we?
Rockstars helping people for brainastical whiteboard candies
The first problem: Why people want to work for us: Redwire employees are rockstars.
Really? Ok, I’ll sign up, but I want to get some free tickets to their concerts. Many employers still feel like calling future employees rock stars or ninjas is going to attract better developers. Here’s some news for you: most of the great developers you’re interested in can’t stand the term “rockstar programmer” (or ninja, or whatever alternative you may care to come up with).
Next: How many people get to say their job is to help others be successful?
Well, let’s see… off the top of my head, every single employee in the world? By definition, employees help others be successful. That’s what “having a job” means. Most people who join start-ups do it because they’d also like to help themselves be successful somewhere along the way, or because the work is more interesting. In any case, if you want to excite start-up developers, you’re gonna need a better “mission statement” than that (ideally, just scrap the mission statement altogether).
Well, nothing says fun like Fun-zilla, right? Who are you trying to hire? 10 year olds?
“We want awesome people to work with who will be contributing members of our team of rockstars.”
Top three reasons:
1) You get to do good. People helping people—it’s a beautiful thing.
Oh puh-lease, I’m getting all teary-eyed already. Of course. How could I not see it? Tell you what, it’s such a beautiful thing, I’ll work for free too. Every start-up believes their goal is the best, the most worthwhile of them all, but your job in a recruitment ad is to convince other people who haven’t drunk the kool-aid that that’s so. This kind of vague nonsense isn’t going to help.
2) Brainastics, whiteboards, candy and lots of coffee. Sometimes we have to remind our employees to go home.
Translation: long hours, no concept of work/life balance. That’s acceptable for a start-up (though perhaps it shouldn’t be), it’s understood that you may work long hours on a start-up. But you shouldn’t brandish that about as a key selling point for your company, much in the same way that someone who’s changing jobs might be doing so because their current job sucks, but they probably shouldn’t say it outright in the interview. And since when are whiteboards a perk?? What’s next? “Our state-of-the-art office premises include a quality toilet seat”?
3) Flexible work hours. We don’t do “9 to 5
Normally, that would be fine, but in conjunction with the previous statement, it’s highly suspicious. “We don’t do 9 to 5” could just as easily mean “We do 10 to 10”, in this context. Nope, not “enough said” - more detail would have been preferable.
One cup of flour, two cups of milk, two eggs
1/4 Network Engineer
+ 1/4 Electrical Engineer
+ 3/8 Senior Open Source Software Developer
+ 1/8 Mathematician
= 1 RedWire Senior Developer
Oh boy. Maybe add another 1/32 janitor while they’re at it? What the heck is up with the /8 fractions anyway?
We are looking for an in-house doer-thinker-fixer-betterer whose superpower is to fulfill all the functions of an IT Department. We need an autonomous and resourceful guru to join us in our quest and manage all things IT.
Ok… so, what emerges here, is they’re looking for a CTO. That’s what a CTO is - a one-man IT department. But either they can’t afford one, or they haven’t figured out that’s what they’re looking for, or they don’t know that hiring a CTO in a company like that is the most important hiring decision in the whole history of their company (and should be achieved through intense networking, not through free job ads). Or perhaps, more likely, they just don’t really have a clue what they want, beyond the fact that it’s someone who knows stuff about IT.
In this position, you will demonstrate your mental prowess as you coordinate a diverse flow of projects and initiatives.
You will be everyone’s IT bitch.
…ambitious, highly enthusiastic…
And you will enjoy it!
Responsibilabilities and Qualifimications
You will be responsible for:
- Web application development
- Network administration
- Information storage
- Network functionality
Wow is that it. Oh wait, you’re not finished. Please continue.
In addition, you will also be responsible for helping set up email distribution, as well as any other relevant technically related projects as they arise.
Didn’t we cover this already? If you want someone with that breadth of skills, you’re hiring your CTO cofounder. And you better give them equity - lots of it. And you will never find them via a craigslist job ad. Also, what the heck is “Information storage”? Does this “Senior Rails Developer” also have to manage the shared drive, perhaps?
Provable guru status and devoteeism of Ruby on Rails with experience actually deploying applications
Devoteeism? Guru status? Come on, I need some lines that I can make fun of. This is so self-contained, I can’t possibly make it any more ridiculous than it already is.
Proven experience in designing security-hardened web applications, using open cryptographic standards
What does that even mean? My guess is, it translates to “is capable of setting up an SSL certificate on apache”.
Familiarity with content versioning systems (e.g., Hg, SVN, CVS)
Is it even possible to be a “Ruby guru” and not be “familiar” with source control? Another hint that the person who wrote this job ad doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Experience breaking stuff
Experience fixing what you’ve broken
It’s always a good thing to let your company’s personality show through your ad. Well, not always, I guess. Not in this case, for example. After this litany of unintentionally awful propositions, this “joke” doesn’t really go down well.
Now, it’s possible that actually, Red Wire is a perfectly fine company, and they just happened to get someone’s friends sister to write and post up the job ad because they were too busy and, heck, craigslist is free anyway. But this is a terrible impression to make to prospective start-up employees and, if they indeed lack a CTO, it’s no way to hire one.
If you’re in a position to hire technical people for a start-up, try not to make quite so many mistakes.
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