What to put in a job description

So I’ve been asked to help an ex-colleague (who is now hiring his own team) write a decent job description or similar for a tester.

Mindful of attracting a variety of diverse candidates I’m keen to see some good examples of enticing job ads/descriptions you may have seen, or what you do/don’t look for?

Many thanks,
Beth

Though I’m assuming that you are in Leeds (based only on your name), I’m going to go more generic here and say, a lot depends on where you are.

Here in the Netherlands, it isn’t customary to write a salary range on a job description, but in UK or USA, it’s almost required. I prefer to see the proposed salary range before I apply, as I’m rather expensive and I don’t want to waste your time (as employer) or mine. Tangent time… I once applied to a company, and the interview process went very well. When we got to salary negotiations, they threw out a number that was so low that I would have made more by going on unemployment.

Another thing I look for is the lines which are included only in order to shut out potential talent. Things such as “ABCD Qualified” or “5 years of SQL experience” (worse, for a junior tester. And yes, I’ve seen that.) It would be better to show what your team does, and let the potentials judge for themselves if they can possibly help. For example, “We use ABACAB programming language with RANDOM framework to develop our applications.” or “We are looking for an experienced test automator, our current automation is written in Selenium and Postman with Javascript.” Once you put a number on that, you leave out a lot of good people.

The word “Diverse” in reference to your team is good, assuming you have that diversity now, such as “Our team is diverse.”

Leave out the things which can be assumed, “Ability to work quickly and efficiently in a fast paced environment.” (Pulled from a real job advert) Or worse… “Highly developed communication skills, both written and verbal, to explain complex issues”. Tangent again… The “communication” quote came from an advert with 26(!) different required qualifications. I don’t think they’ll fill that one. Ever.

Put minor perks in the “leave it out” category as well. No software tester will apply because you have a ping-pong table or free lunch.

Those are all of the things I don’t like. So what do I look for in a job?

  1. A good description of what I will be doing. If it’s a new position, say so. If it’s a long-standing team, say so.
  2. A reasonable description of who I will be doing it with. It doesn’t need to be long, but terms like “start up”, “experienced team”, “new project” are REALLY helpful.
  3. As mentioned before, if possible, the expected salary range.
  4. The standard description of what the company does should lead. Most companies have a standard version of this.
  5. An abbreviated list of requirements, such as “You are experienced in working with Selenium and C#.” Some things are required. They should be listed.

Finally, these are the things I look for. A lot of the things I mention here are contrary to the “standard” template. I might follow up shortly with good snippets which I have found.

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Some things to avoid putting in:

  • Describing the team as “dynamic”, “vibrant” or “fast-moving” - these are words which are usually shorthand for “people over 40 need not apply”.
  • As would be the direct use of the word “young”, or saying that you are looking for “a recent graduate” or “a good cultural fit with the team”.

Age discrimination is actually illegal in the UK (though difficult to prove), but the “good cultural fit” line might also suggest a tendency towards groupthink (which as testers we should always try to avoid, of course).

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From a recruiter:

A market leading electronics company in _____who design and manufacture low power wireless embedded devices that talk to the Cloud for the IoT (Internet of Things) sector require an Automated Software Test Engineer/ Team Lead to join it’s R&D team.

You can take a lot out of this statement. First, as a “market leader,” they are an established team. Wireless and embedded means that you might not be dealing with a lot of UI elements. “Team Lead” means you are experienced. “Cloud” and “IoT” are just fun buzz words.

Same advert:

looking to move away from manual software testing to a fully automated testing solution

Here is an opportunity AND a challenge. As an automater, I will read between the lines, “You will be met with some resistance as the established team has little experience in automation. You will have to convince the management that ‘fully automated’ might not be the way to go.”

…develop the automated test framework from scratch, developing the test framework in the programming language of your choice …

A new role. You have flexibility, but they MIGHT NOT know what to do with you. Expectations will be set high. If you fit the “experienced” mold, it would be at least worth talking about.

A different company:

Excellent training and progression opportunities

If your company does not offer training, there is little else you could put there to entice anyone ambitious.

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@bethtesterleeds
Have a look at the SFIA framework.

https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/51705424-d531-4d81-b69d-23ed9f964930/resource/a31370f1-8e88-4bf4-814c-f13b961f6662/download/aps_digital_career_pathways.csv

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Speaking as an automation tester who’s just been told he’s going to be made redundant (sorry, but Leeds is a little too far for me to commute to), there are a few things I’d add to the above. Firstly, do not put CompSci degree or equivalent in as a requirement; most good testers I’ve known don’t come in down that route and from what I’ve gathered from talking to recent grads or placement year students, what little gets taught relating to testing is not really that much use in the real world. If the company is fine about flexible working, then say so in the advert - that’s important to anyone with children or other caring responsibilities; I’ve rejected two possible jobs from recruiters in the last few days because their clients couldn’t guarantee the flexibility I need, plus an office with a culture of presenteeism is a crappy place to work.
Make clear what opportunities are available for expanding skillset; we all know that you need to keep up with changes in the available toolset so no-one wants to be stuck in a job using yesterday’s tech with no prospect of change.
Finally, take a good look at what the competition are putting in their adverts, particularly if you’re trying to get staff in a location like Leeds where there’s massively high demand. Given everything that’s been said here, you can probably see a lot of mistakes being made by others which you don’t want to repeat, and bear in mind that you’re trying to tempt people out of their existing jobs - what are you offering that they can’t get where they are now or is an improvement for them?

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Some really brilliant responses, thanks all - I’ve forwarded the thread onto my friend and he’ll definitely feed it back into his JD. :+1:t2:

Although I have never been in a position where I am recruiting, I have read many job descriptions whilst looking for roles myself. I would also classify myself as a diverse candidate. I personally think the worst thing to request is a number of years service in a specific industry or role. This is not a good indication of talent or the ability to do the specified role. In my opinion, the right candidate for any position is one who is wanting to learn and has the ability to do this quickly whether proven in or out of the industry as different people can achieve different things in the same time frame.

I loved the job description of my current role because it was after personality traits. Therefore, if I was recruiting, especially for diverse candidates, I would simply put what the day to day job entails and a list of personality traits (stating that the applicant need only demonstrate one or more of these traits), then it is up to the applicants to demonstrate that they have the skills you desire during the application process and interview.

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Be careful of looking at bad job ads. I get emailed a lot of job ads all the time. When I was looking for work I welcomed them. Now that I’m gainfully employed, I just throw them in a folder and read them if I have time. Collecting them like this allows me to see patterns.

I’d see the same job being advertised over and over again. They’d advertise for the job in say February. The ad would stop in March. Then in May I’d see the same job ad again. Turned out what they put in the job ad was not really what the job was. So people would get deceived, take the job, quit, over and over. Don’t make the job sound better than it is.

My resume is enough to make an employer curious enough to bring me in for an interview. Essentially, a resume doesn’t get you a job; it gets you an interview. Same thing with a job ad. The ad doesn’t sell the job, it makes me curious enough to want to come in for an interview.

Also be reasonable about what you are budgeted for you. I’d see jobs which say Junior Tester (because HR determined that is what they could afford) but the manager was asking for 5 to 7 years experience, experience with numerous automation frameworks, managing a team of overseas testers, etc… In other words, don’t ask for more than you are willing to pay for.

Hire for people who learn. If you tell me I have to have JIRA experience that might be a problem. If you say “We use JIRA but exposure to some defect tracking software is a must” then that sounds better. This also assume you want someone with exposure to some defect tracking software. My company will hire someone who has the right mindset; heck we hired a bartender with no computer experience. I hired a guy who sold parts at a car dealership.

The person you hire is probably going to have to fit in with the rest of the team. Ask the people on the team if they’d apply for the job based on the job ad. If they think it sucks, whoever likes the job ad might not fit in with the rest of the team. Now this is a fine line to walk. You don’t want group think but you don’t want someone who is so different as to be disruptive.

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Lauren (lborodajko) said: “I personally think the worst thing to request is a number of years service in a specific industry or role.”

Too right. I was in my first testing role for 15 years. “Wow!” you might say. But in that role, I spent 15 years testing annual iterations of the same application. Hardly a ringing endorsement of years of in-depth, wide-ranging experience! (And it rather made me jaded with the whole testing experience, so much so that I had to go away and spend a couple of years doing something else entirely.)

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