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My employer has been looking for a new web developer as well as a DBA for a while now with little success.

I just saw the job description, and now I can understand why we are getting no interest - they have lumped together three jobs into 1 position: web developer, DBA, and marketing SEO/Analytics expert all under the title of "Webmaster".

It's hard enough to find someone who can do any of those individual things well, let alone somebody who can do it all (or wants to be called "Webmaster" these days). Part of their motivation is, no doubt, saving money by hiring 1 person to do three jobs and underpaying that person.

But now I have to deal with interviewing people for this position (that is, if we ever get an applicant), and trying to figure out what this person is really going to be doing once hired.

Have you had experience with this sort of thing? Either as an applicant or as an interviewer. And how did you deal with it? Assuming that rewriting the job description to something more realistic isn't an option, what would be the best way of handling this (finding the right person, interviewing them effectively, etc.)?

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9  
Flee! Run away! –  Brook Apr 14 '11 at 17:08
    
Oh, that's so easy to say. You'll be running away all your life. –  quant_dev Apr 15 '11 at 21:54

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Option 1: Figure out which of the three jobs that person is going to spend most of his time on, or which has the least "coverage" by existing employees' skills, and focus on that aspect first.

I agree that it's unlikely to find a candidate who's an expert in all three, but it should be practical to find someone who's an expert in one and at least knowledgeable about the other two.

Option 2: Look for a good web developer with passable database skills. Maybe someone who worked as an independent consultant and had to develop websites end-to-end. It's not uncommon for a good developer to know his way around databases.

SEO is something you can hire an outside consultant to help with. Expertise is important, but I'd say it's less "core" to than actually building the system.

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nice answer! especially option 2... –  k25 Apr 14 '11 at 18:12

You need to make the case to management as to why this cannot ever work and why the postion cannot be filled as it is written. Point out to him that these are distinct specialites and that the good candidates who have one of these will not be good candidates for the others. This is like trying to hire a professor to teach graduate courses in History, Physics, and MicroBiology. You might find someone who has taken one or two courses in all three but there might only be one or two people in the world (if that) with expertise enough to actually do the job in all three. Point out that if they found someone who had genuine expertise in all three, they would have to pay a much higher salary to that person in order to convince him or her to come on board.

If you can only afford to hire one, pick the most urgent and get that person on board after advertising a job description appropriate to the job. Then get the others as needed. The analytics person would likely be the last one you hire (there's no data to analyze until the web site and databse are set up).

It is also likely that you have some good candidates for one of those jobs in the applications received but HR has filtered them out because they don't have all the qualifications. Since your HR is clearly incompetent enough to try to hire a Webmaster, they are incomptent to filter resumes as well. If you must interview, insist on seeing all submitted resumes yourself before choose who you want to interview.

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Rewriting the ad SHOULD be an option. If the company is looking for quality employees they should be willing rewrite the job posting to get quality applicants.

If nothing else, change the title from Webmaster to Web Applications Developer. Say you are looking for someone who has experience with database design and an understanding of SEO. I'm wiling to bet you'll get some more hits that way.

Honestly, rewriting it will help you find a good candidate. Someone who is a strong web dev will also have db and SEO experience. Not enough to be a DBA or a SEO specialist, but enough to get by.

In interviewing, I would suggest that you focus on web development skills that you are looking for, and then some db and SEO at the end. At the end of the day, if your company has decided to name this job Webmaster (?!) so someone with strong web skills is needed. The ones with average DB and SEO skills on top should be worth your consideration.

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+1 for "Someone who is a strong web dev will also have db and SEO experience. Not enough to be a DBA or a SEO specialist, but enough to get by." My only concern is that he doesn't clarify the meaning of "web developer" and might be talking about a front-end HTML/CSS specialist. They're more likely to have SEO experience, but far less likely to have the necessary DB skills. –  Carson63000 Apr 14 '11 at 21:23

what you are looking for is a web developer with 3-5 years experience. These kinds will have touched database and probably SEO too.If not SEO can be picked up pretty easily.

Reason why your organization combined the 3 roles into 1 might be They don't really have that much work in the 3 roles.The fact even you aren't able to distinguish clearly the requirements for 3 individual roles proves that there really isn't much need for 3 separate roles.

Before you make assumptions about the management decision it would be wise to examine the requirements , your present domain, future requirements, how much your organization can actually afford on this.

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I agree with this, but that goddamn "webmaster" title has got to go. You'll never get a decent candidate with that title. –  Satanicpuppy Apr 14 '11 at 19:11
    
As I'm the only database person in the company (and only 1 of 2 tech people), I know exactly how much work there is to be done, and it really could fill three jobs. But the company can't afford to hire three people in IT right now, and they don't seem to want to prioritize the IT tasks we need to have this new person do. They want a "webmaster" to do everything. The reason it's hard for me to figure out what this person is really going to be doing is because each department and VP is going to want him/her to do something different - it's a question of which one will win out in the end. –  Kyle Lowry Apr 14 '11 at 23:03

A company should never hire to fill titles or roles: a company should hire to fill business needs. Ask whoever owns the "need to hire" decisions what goals and responsibilities that person would have and what cultural competencies they need to integrate well into the team and the corporate culture.

Ask for specific, concrete, accomplishable goals, based on what you actually expect the hire to do. These need to be objectively "completable". Make sure you can describe your company's cultural values (communication, integrity, lack-of-ego, etc) as well. Use these to:

  1. Decide if it is reasonable to expect a single hire to perform in all these areas.
  2. Improve the job description.
  3. Allow potential applicants to self-select by comparing their skillset and cultural fit to that required.
  4. Provide signposts and objective metrics you can use to evaluate the interviewee's competency during the interview process.
  5. Review the hire's performance consistently and in congruence with their expectations.
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I know you said rewriting the description is out of the question, but I'm just wondering whether you can approach management with the idea of posting "targeted" ads on a site like careers.stackoverflow.com (or another developer-centric site).

Because that's more of a peers-looking-for-peers site, you should be able to sell the idea of writing the description in your own terms, rather than using whatever HR have "blessed".

The problem with using the jack-of-all-trades job description is that the people who do apply are probably just going to be the keyword-stuffing type that put every buzzword they can think of on their resume. In reality, their skills may have nothing at all to do with what you actually need.

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Yeah; that's what I'd like to suggest. Marketing rewrote parts of the job description before it got posted - I don't think that HR was even involved. The title of "Webmaster" isn't the only thing in there that would scare away a potential applicant. –  Kyle Lowry Apr 14 '11 at 22:56
    
@Kyle That marketing gets a say in your job ads is TRWTF :p~ –  Dean Harding Apr 14 '11 at 23:00
    
Did I mention that we don't even have an IT department? And that for the past 30 years Marketing has been the IT department, having the only employee in the company who is focused on IT? Yeah. >_> So, what Marketing wants, Marketing gets. –  Kyle Lowry Apr 14 '11 at 23:05
    
@Kyle: heh, well good luck! :-) –  Dean Harding Apr 14 '11 at 23:27

Personal Experience

I went for a 'webmaster' job a while back that defined the day-to-day job as:

  • Designing, building, writing content for and deploying emails, websites and micro-sites
  • Improving marketing results through all digital channels
  • Handling internal IT requests (including phone system)
  • Improving the performance of the servers (load balancing, caching, etc)

When I asked what their key priorities were, they said everything. I would have had 4 managers. Fortunately, I got a different job.

Answer to the question Suggest hiring a good project manager who will use freelancers to do some of the specific jobs on an ad-hoc basis. You can then justify hiring somebody full-time, based on how much you spend on the freelancers.

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Your description of that webmaster position is very much like what we want this person to do. Add in some database design/analysis/reporting in there, and the two jobs would be nearly identical. –  Kyle Lowry Apr 14 '11 at 22:54
    
Sounds like they have time to be responsible for the coffee-machine as well. –  Blowski Apr 14 '11 at 22:58
    
Yeah, our current "Webmaster" has been responsible for IT for the entire company for the past 4 years. Every computer that needs rebooted, every marketing campaign email that needs written, every cable to be plugged in, and so on. It's no wonder he was so happy when I got hired. I'd have gone mad trying to deal with all that myself. –  Kyle Lowry Apr 14 '11 at 23:09
    
Yeah, I find a lot of companies go with the theory that 'Programmers know lots about computers. You need to know lots about computers to be a network administrator. Therefore programmers are also network administrators'. –  Blowski Apr 14 '11 at 23:14

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