If you look at pretty much any job posting, you'll see some variation on this (in this case, for a hypothetical web programming position):


  • BSc in Computer Science or equivalent
  • 2-5 years web development experience
  • Expert in Java, SQL, HTML, CSS, Javascript
  • Strong communicator
  • Able to multi-task

The numbers, degrees, and technologies will vary from one job to another, but the basic form is almost always there.

But what's the point of this section? I've never gotten a job for which I met all the "requirements," and I've never cared if the candidate I'm hiring doesn't meet them either. Is it just out of habit?

As an occasional job seeker, I've learned to ignore this, like web ads. It's filler with no relevance to my job search. I care about what a company can offer me: is the work exciting? Does the product have social value? Will I get paid well? Work with exceptional people who are excited about what they do? And do those people have lives outside of work, and interesting stories and experiences to share?

If you're looking for a job and reading this, I recommend you do the same. If a job looks interesting and you think you deserve a company's consideration, don't be scared off by a list of "requirements." If you're a good fit, you'll get an interview and fair treatment. To turn away because of a bullet point or two is a shame and a waste.

On the flip side, when screening and interviewing, I don't want to miss a strong candidate because they can't check a box in the HR application. Even if I did care about them, these "requirements" are weak signals, at best. I'm much more impressed by your history and your work: do you spend time contributing to open source projects? Have you done anything impressive at previous jobs, or on school projects? Does your resume, cover letter, and online presence show potential for an upwards trajectory in your career? Ultimately, do I think you can make a positive impact on the product, culture, and success of the company?

A corollary, to all those writing job requisitions: you have only a few hundred words to make an impression on candidates. If you want the best, most excited, most motivated candidates, you'll have to work hard to impress them. Tell them why they should care about your company, and what you do. Tell them what will make them excited to get up and go to work every morning. Tell them, honestly, what you expect of them -- not a list of credentials, but a sampling of what they'll do and how you expect them to do it.

With this advice in mind, I present a revised "requirements" section:

Why we'll love you:

  • You live and breathe web development. You've hit all the bumps in the road, and learned from each encounter what to do and what not to do. You've used enough frameworks, libraries, and platforms to have opinions, and you'll stand up for them.
  • You scoff at static sites, and haven't built one in years. You know that content belongs in a database. Bonus points if you've used MongoDB.
  • You read blogs, watch videos, attend meetups, and go to conferences, because you're a geek who never stops learning and improving your skillset.

Better, no?