[Baypiggies] Bioinformatics Python Programmer

K. Richard Pixley rich at noir.com
Fri Oct 9 17:34:14 CEST 2009

I've been around a long time.  (Over 30 years in the field now.)  And 
I've spent most of my career contracting, so I've been through a lot of 
job ads, a lot of interviews, worked with a lot of recruiters, had a lot 
of jobs, etc.

The simple fact that a thing is listed in an ad as a "requirement" 
doesn't necessarily mean that it really is absolutely required.  No 
matter who writes it and no matter what they say, they adjust their 
requirements if a star candidate presents themselves.

Job requirements in postings fall into one of four categories.

   1. Buzzwords.  These are usually added by non-technical people who
      are just using them to weed out inappropriate candidates.  They'll
      include trivial things like "shell usage" or the ability to use a
      pc100 US-intl keyboard.  They really are trivial and you can
      easily get by on these if you even recognize what they're talking
      about.  Unfortunately, there are entire automated resume handling
      systems now completely built on these things, so get used to
      them.  "Python" is one such buzzword.  "Scripting" is another.
   2. Crap you can pick up.  I got my first gig out of college by
      claiming that I knew C, (having only read the book at the time). 
      However, I learned it and wrote it faster than any of them did so
      they never knew the difference.  Doing this is always a gamble and
      it depends on your background, your commitment, the sophistication
      of your potential employer, coworkers, etc.  Many of the things in
      category #1 above also fit into this category.
   3. Negotiable requirements, sometimes called "candidate wish list
      items".  Really, the vast majority of "requirements" on ads fall
      into this category.  This is why it's completely reasonable to
      apply to a job when you're "in the ball park" even if you don't
      have some of the "requirements" they list.  If they have plenty of
      candidates, then they'll just weed you out.  If they don't, then
      they well be interested in talkig with you and may agree that the
      things you don't already have could fit into category #2 - crap
      you can pick up.  And sometimes a potential employer will hire
      someone even if they don't have a skill and won't pick it up.  If
      you're a strong enough candidate, and a good enough match in other
      ways, they may well find some other way to deal with that
      particular part of their needs.  Levels and types of work
      experience are often negotiable as is education.
   4. Strict requirements.  Generally, each job ad has about one of
      these.  Seriously.  And you usually have to read between the lines
      to figure it out.  Visas and security clearances sometimes fall
      into this category, as does the ability to interview on site in
      person.  The primary reason they're looking for someone tends to
      be one of these, although it's rarely actually listed in a job ad
      because it's usually extremely difficult to express to strangers. 
      The strict requirements are generally about whether you can do the
      job they need done.  That's a fuzzy, hazy concept and a difficult
      one to judge from a distance.  The best tool a potential employer
      has for judging this is how you respond to the first three types
      of requirements and then how well you purport yourself during any
      phone screens and interviews.

In my opinion, it is not rude to apply for a job when you lack some of 
the "requirements".  Rather, it's prudent.  If you're genuinely 
inappropriate, they'll weed you out and you've lost nothing.  They'll 
weed out most of the appropriate candidates too, so don't worry about 
it.  If they're having trouble finding the precise match they seem to be 
looking for, then they'll start looking at close matches long before 
they change their job ad.

Despite what employers or recruiters might say, strict, nonnegotiable 
requirements are exceedingly rare.  Personally, if I have all of the 
requirements listed in an ad, then I usually don't apply because it will 
almost universally mean that I'm "overqualified" and/or that my 
experience or technical level will intimidate the potential hiring 
manager, (been there, done that).  Such a job ad usually indicates that 
the employer is looking for someone at 60 - 70% of my pay grade and I'm 
not usually willing to take that kind of pay cut.

As to the original post, I read it as a fine description of what they 
were looking for and who they thought would be a good fit.  It's 
entirely possible that someone who didn't match their description might 
be a good fit too, but such a person would likely have a harder time 
selling them on that idea than if he matched their description.  If you 
still want that particular gig that much, even if you don't fit their 
description of their ideal candidate, then go try to sell yourself into 
it.  Sincere enthusiasm and desire are marketable qualities.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mail.python.org/pipermail/baypiggies/attachments/20091009/bd51b2e3/attachment.htm>

More information about the Baypiggies mailing list