Main image of article Learn to Judge Job Opportunities Like a Pro
How do top tech recruiters place candidates in new jobs so efficiently? They’re experts at qualifying job orders. These expert recruiters search for clues in the job description to see if the manager has realistic expectations. They also evaluate the text for a sense of urgency, which can help them assess their chances of filling the order. By zeroing in on the most promising positions, recruiters can focus on jobs that will make them (and the tech pros they serve) a lot of money. But if you’re one of those tech pros who prefers to search for jobs on your own, you can steal a few pages from the recruiting playbook. Before investing hours filling out forms or laboring over a take-home coding test, spend a few minutes on the phone with the hiring manager or in-house recruiter to decide if an opportunity is worth pursuing.

Study the Job Posting

The way a job description is written indicates whether a manager is serious about making a hire, explained Kevin Womack, a veteran tech recruiter and talent acquisition leader for job posting aggregator Indeed: “A legitimate job posting tells a story.” These “serious” postings often describe the responsibilities and impact of the role in great detail. Contrast that with job postings that only offer a list of skills—often indicative of a rudderless search on the part of the company, or an attempt to test the market.

Identify the Must-Have Skills

Avoid fishing expeditions. If the technical requirements in the job posting read like an unrealistic wish-list, ask about the company’s current tech stack to ascertain the absolutely essential skills, Womack advised. Studying the online profiles of current employees in similar roles is another option. “Once you confirm the top two to three requirements, ask why the other skills are listed in the job posting,” Womack added. Insisting on skills that aren’t really necessary usually means that the hiring manager is holding out for the “perfect” candidate.

Determine the Level of Urgency

Top recruiters put their effort toward requisitions that will result in a quick hire, noted Marcus Edwardes, a consultant and trainer for third-party recruiters. To assess urgency, recruiters typically ask how long the position has been open, how many candidates have interviewed, and when the manager needs someone to start. “If the job has been open for several months and the manager has rejected lots of candidates, ask why he’s struggling to fill the position,” Edwardes advised. Express curiosity and a desire to make the best use of everyone's time. By parsing the manager’s answer, you can learn a lot about what he is looking for in a candidate, his expectations, and his management style.

Explore the Compensation

Ask about the salary range or the value of the total compensation package, as well as the ratio of fixed to variable pay. If a company is committed to making a hire, the manager or HR recruiter should have a fairly good idea what an extra FTE will cost, and they will offer a package that appeals to their target audience. Also, ask if the requisition has been fully approved and funded. Sometimes, a hiring manager gets a little too far out over his skis, and starts interviewing candidates before getting the necessary sign-offs and budget approval. Consequently, the offer never comes through.

Verify the Hiring Process

Companies that are committed to hiring have a clearly defined process in place. “The recruiter or manager can tell you exactly what the hiring process entails and how long it will take, so you can decide if pursing a position is worth the time and effort,” Womack said.