This post is about something that has been nagging at me for a while now. Apparently it is head hunting season again and time to dust off the handbook for inaccurate job titles … accompanied by enough buzz words to choke on … you know: “guru”, “rock star”, “ninja” etc. Really? We still do that? Aren’t we well past web 2.0 now? It’s time to get with the times.
More specifically: no-one seems to really get where the responsibilities of a front-end developer ends. I have been approached (and see the position is still up for grabs) about a position as senior Java front-end developer … you wot mate?
A new startup in Thailand – looking for senior and lead developers … did you actually READ my LinkedIn profile? Where does it say that I am a senior PHP developer?
Sure – headlines/job titles should attract some attention, else you will never grab the attention of the right applicants, but some titles are either downright misleading or so generic that, invariably, you waste your time starting a conversation, because the job almost never seems to be what it is advertised as.
You don’t know what you’re looking for …
Some companies may think that they want to hire a front-end developer, but what they’re actually after is a generalist with front-end skills. This is all good and well, but can potentially split two ways:
- You hire a good enough back-end developer/generalist that gets the job done but doesn’t get the important front-end bits right.
- You hire a good front-end developer and task him/her with back-end work that is beyond them.
I’m not saying that there aren’t really good generalists and/or back-end developers that have a strong enough footing in both worlds, but you won’t find them on every corner and they are bound to be in a position to demand really high salaries – which brings me to my next point:
Your pockets aren’t deep enough …
More often than not I see job specs for junior to mid-level front-end developers where the requirements are well beyond mid-level, moving into mid-senior to senior territory. It’s cool that you want a specialist and all, and not everyone has the need/budget for a senior front-end specialist; but for crying out loud … stop undervaluing front-end developers and treating them as second class citizens. A really good front-end developer (of any level … or any good developer for that matter) is worth more than just money and, if you are not taking this seriously, it follows that you don’t really take your website seriously … unless you’re an agency, of course – agencies always pay shit and generally skews the income stats which perpetuates the culture of undervaluing front-end developers … maybe more so because they need an army of them to keep up the churn.
Your interview process is flawed
I have interviewed many (front-end) developers in my time and have been for my fair share of interviews – nobody but front-end developers seem to understand what front-end developers do … this is apparent from the fact that I have not ever been interviewed by someone that knows how to conduct a front-end interview … the process is severely broken.
This leaves cracks for the shit ones to slip through (read: bullshit their way through an interview) and may lead to good front-end developers not being hired, because they are being interviewed all wrong.
Stop placing misleading ads and fix your interview process
You can’t ask programming questions! They don’t apply to us – we deal with user interfaces and user experiences … there is no algorithm for this so stop treating us like programmers. Would you ask the same of a designer?
Fix the shitty job titles and figure out what you want and need from a front-end developer (if you do indeed need one) and then fix your interview process. If you don’t have the in-house expertise to fix the process or ask the right questions, contract in someone who can/does and/or do a bit of research yourself.
There are a lot of online resources/opinions on the matter:
- Interview Questions and Exercises About CSS – CSS-Tricks … also the post that most of my interview process is based on
- Front-end Job Interview Questions – a very good resource brought to you by the creators of HTML5 Boilerplate (most notably, Paul Irish)
- Pick one
If there is anything I want from this post, it is that I would like to see a bit of a front-end culture developing locally, fueled/instigated by good/solid front-end positions surfacing on the local scene and the same level of respect for front-end developers as their programmer counterparts.
Are you a front-end developer? Have you tried hiring a front-end developer recently? Why not weigh in … comments are open.