Now Hiring: Senior Software Unicorn

[DISCLAIMER: First, for you avid job-seekers, sorry, this isn’t an advert for a role at BlueFocus.]

Whilst we like to pride ourselves on our flexibility and talent, even we recognise that at times, a specialty set of skills is called for. Lately though it sometimes seems that calling for expert-level skills in everything seems to be the strategy du jour. We’ve all seen our fair share of, shall we say, optimistic, shopping lists when it comes to hiring in IT. But this one today really caught my attention.

Now hiring: senior software developer unicorn. Ignoring the grammatical errors in what is clearly a rush-job to hire a master-jack-of-all-trades (which is an oxymoron if ever I’ve made one up), the shopping list for this one doesn’t just strike me as optimistic, it strikes me as chaotic and unclear.

I almost wonder if the client discussion that came before this ad went to market didn’t go something like this:

Customer: We need a super talented engineer to help us roll-out a major software project in the next 6 months. They need to be awesome.

Barista: <thinking> You know, I could be an IT recruiter. I’ve heard of the interweb.

Customer: Oh and 1 sugar in that latte, please.

Barista: <googles>”software awesome project” </googles>

IT recruitment needs to get serious. Dragnet fishing has been outlawed in many countries.
Now hiring: Super-awesome Senior Software Engineer. High 5!


The full text of the job ad follows. I think it’s anonymous enough that I don’t need to redact it.

Senior Software Developer

READ: Unicorn. Will pay more for a shiny horn.

Our client is currently in the need of a Senior Software Developer to support them with product development and go-live on a 6 month fixed term contract assignment with. You will be supporting a well renowned and charitable cause while working on cutting edge technology.
READ: Charity. Technology. You know you want to.
You must be able to hit the ground running with a high level of attention to detail with the technology confidence to work autonomously in getting the job done!
READ: I’m not sure what the project is, and nor is my client. I’m sure you’ll work it out.
You will be involved in all stages of the software development process. It involves the development of new products using emerging technologies as well ongoing enhancements. You will be working closely in a small team of 8-10 Web Developers in an open plan office alongside Web Designers, Graphic Designers, Project Managers and Systems Administrators.
READ: Although we have a reasonable team in place, no one is quite working out, so we’ll need you to basically do the job of 10 people.
We are looking for someone with proven software development experience in developing and successfully launching desktop and web solutions.
READ: You must have, at some point, written some code that got used. Anywhere.
  • PHP5, MySQL, Javascript, HTML5, CSS3, Ajax, MVC.
  • JS Libraries: jQuery, Angular, Bootstrap
  • PHP-CMS: WordPress, Drupal and Magento

READ: We want that guy who wrote the internet. We like that.

  • Payment Gateways: PayPal and CCAvenue

READ: CCAvenue shows up next to PayPal in a google search for ‘credit card payment gateways’. (Actually, it doesn’t, so maybe they are already using this technology… a clue!)

  • Web Stacks: LAMP and WAMP
  • Web Server: Apache, IIS
  • OS Platforms: Windows and Linux ;

READ: Some of our team like Linux. Some like Windows. They all have iPhones. Choose your side.

  • C++/ WIN32/MFC
  • C#/WPF

READ: You will be required to be super-awesome with both 20-year-old and emerging technologies. (And we are still using WinXP, but hey it’s a not-for-profit!) P.S: Gen Y need not apply.

  • Development Platforms/ IDE: Visual Studio, Netbeans and Notepad++

READ: (Don’t tell anyone, but we also have some Java code…)

  • Strong understanding of OOPS, Data Structures, Multi-threading and design patterns.

READ: This whole ad sounds like an OOPS to me…

  • Configuration Tools: VSS, Tortoise SVN, IBM Clear Case & Clear Quest.

READ: I’m struggling to understand these search results now…

  • Unit Testing: Visual Studio 2012, NUnit and Drupal unit testing framework
READ: Will not consider experience in Visual Studio 2010 ‘unit test framework’. 
If you feel you have experience or proven knowledge of the above skills then we’d love to hear from you.
READ: If you even feel qualified to apply for this job, you’re hired!

Charlie the Senior Software Engineer
Charlie the Senior Software Engineer

Now, it’s great to aim high. But this is directionless. It’s akin to drag-netting. By posting ads like this, you’re wasting both your time, and that of any potential job applicants.

The shopping list infers a requirement for senior level skills in multiple very-different software programming languages; PHP, Javascript, C#, C++ (we’ll assume that my Java joke was just a joke…).

They want you to have built websites on Windows, and Linux and presumably have experience in building and maintaining the whole web stack on each platform,

“Configuration Tools” somehow managed to envelop enterprise-level configuration management and ancient (OK, pretty old) source control systems. VSS and SVN? Sounds (not) awesome.

If I read between the lines, it really sounds like the project is about modernising or porting some legacy systems. From C++ to Web. For some reason, the client has not standardised on a tech stack. I may likely be off track here, but if the intent is really to find an awesome software engineer, perhaps dumping the shopping list would be a good start.

Why not just come out and describe the project in detail?

What’s wrong with something like this;

“We are planning on launching a new web application in time for Christmas. Our customers currently engage via legacy systems which are partially implemented in C++ and partly in WinForms. We want to port and modernise this functionality onto a C#-based ASP.NET platform. We also have some bespoke PHP applications connected to a Magento e-Commerce platform which require ongoing maintenance, and integration with this new system.

We need a technical lead to help drive this project through to completion, working with a team of 4 PHP experts, 4 junior C# developers and a UI/UX design team.

Ideally, you will have strong skills in C#, and AngularJS, as we will retire these legacy systems at project completion. But if you are able to at least understand some C++/MFC code, or even work through our (incomplete) Rational ClearCase modelling and documentation that would be a plus, as it would really help ensure that functionality is ported correctly.”

I have no idea if this is the context of this particular project, but this is something we could work with. Here, I can infer which skills I would need daily, which skills I will need to have at least a ‘conversation level’ capability in, and which are the bits that are really not important, as long as I am versed in the concepts (e.g; I haven’t used VSS in over 10 years, but I am a strong advocate for quality software, especially good source control practices. So what if I prefer git?)

With just a bit of context, I think you’re far more likely to attract the right talent. And the right talent will be more likely to find you.

Though, charity+technology almost sold me.

Now, it’s time to wrap this up and head to candy mountain.