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When hiring engineers, it’s important to communicate your expectations of the role in the job listing. In addition, you want to make sure the listing’s content doesn’t scare the candidate or turn them off from applying. Your job posting should reflect a real, attainable person and not a fictional unicorn.

When reading a developer job listing, candidates often become overwhelmed with the extensive list of required qualifications, sometimes also referred to as “must-haves.” For example, if you are looking for a Front-End Web Developer and list required skills such as “extensive experience in Ruby,” you might want to change your wording, as that’s typically a Back-End Developer or Full-Stack Developer requirement.

If your job listings aren’t getting the number of hits you’d like, perhaps try editing your required and preferred skills using some of the tips below.


Required Skills

Required skills should include the competencies that a candidate absolutely must have to get their job done. You could also call these skills a “necessity” or “prerequisite” to the role.  Since most people only spend seconds reading job listings, be sure to include the most crucial skills first and list the rest in descending order of importance.

Although this will vary by industry, required skills should usually be limited to 5 or less in a job listing. Otherwise, the posting will sound like it’s a scorecard for the perfect employee – and we all know there is no such thing as perfect. If you still need to trim the content of your listing, try removing any required skills that are common knowledge or redundant, like “must be a team player” or “great communication skills”.

Preferred Skills

Preferred skills should encompass the additional skill sets that would be beneficial to the role. These are sometimes also referred to as “nice-to-haves” or a “wish list” and are not mandatory. Examples of preferred skills for developers could include additional education or experience, a background in a certain industry, or proficiency in a particular niche language.

These generally can be taught through employee training programs or even online courses, so they are not required. On the other hand, if Candidate A has these preferred skills and Candidate B doesn’t, the odds are that Candidate A will be chosen for the role (or at least get to the interview stage of the hiring process).

If you’re actively sourcing candidates on a job board or any other website with a search function, you can utilize the concept of required and preferred skills to narrow down your search. Try using the “AND” and “OR” Boolean search strings to filter down to a smaller list of candidates. This allows you to find people that have your required skills, but may have one or two of your preferred skills as well. 

boolean search guide


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