Job specs that make your team shine – building a spec with your development team

Secret Escapes is a great place to work for. Our team is multi-cultural and fun, we use the latest tools in the Grails ecosystem, and we work very well together.

However, I always found it difficult to present this to job applicants. Our initial job postings where hastily copied from other job postings and failed to present our culture of sharing and collaboration.

We recently had an opening for a Junior Grails Developer, and I thought it would be interesting to have the team help me come up with a new job spec that would reflect the company they would be working with.

After a couple of hours, we came up with a new job description that we think presented our development team much better.

In the old spec, we focused a lot on the technology side of things. For developers working in the Java world, having the ability to play with Grails and Groovy is certainly very appealing. But this alone would not convince me to send my CV over to a new company. We tried to make it very clear about the type of people we wanted and the type of team we are.

What makes us different?

The new spec now has a section that asks, ‘what is it like working with us?’.

What is interesting about this section is that it really reflected our development vision and culture.

The other developers and I are big fans of not just writing code, but crafting it and making sure that it not only works, but that it is easy to maintain and fully tested.

When reading other job specs, it was very hard to figure out what these other companies were like. By sitting down with my development team and asking them: ‘so, what makes working with us that is different than some big stuffy bank?’, we were able to come up with a better description of how we work.

This is what we came up with:

Why work with us? Our developers say:

  • We’re open to exploring and improving the ways in which we build software. We’re a team that embraces change and want to work with the best tools, processes and people.
  • We continuously rotate our tasks while supporting and learning from each other.
  • We are a young multi-cultural team.
  • We socialize as a team. From team lunches on Thursdays to GGUG meetings, we have fun.
  • We work closely with the business. We sit in the same space with the key stake holders. You get to see the impact of your work right away and get immediate feedback.
  • We believe in working with open source, blog furiously and have released many plugins into the Grails ecosystem.

Who are we looking for?

One of the things that we discussed at a recent retrospective was getting the team more involved in the hiring process. This lead to a quick discussion about the characteristics of new people we want to bring into our team. Writing the job spec allowed to define the characteristics about this person that was not about technical skills, but also about how they approached writing and building applications.

This is how it looks like:

Who are we looking for?

  • You are willing to explore new ideas and try out new tools.
  • You treat programming like a craft, code cleanly, and want to get better at it each day.
  • You appreciate that your code supports a business and care about how it will be used.
  • You like the idea of dynamic languages, and want to work with world-class Groovy and Grails developers with lots of experience. This is a role where you can get great mentorship.
  • You embrace agile principles like Test and Behaviour-driven-development,
  • Pair-programming and Continous Deployment.
  • You believe that great software is built through communication and collaboration.
  • You want to be proud describing the types of web applications you are working on.
  • You think staying in hotels is fun.


For reference, this is how our old job spec looked like – Click here.

And this is how the new position looks like – Click here.

After this exercise, it became very clear to me that job specs should always be written together by the team that is hiring.

Before, writing a job spec felt like a task that I wanted to get over with as soon as possible. By making it a collaborative task, it becomes enjoyable again because it forces us to really evaluate the must-haves about potential candidates and gets the whole team to agree on the qualities of the new candidate.

Shameless plug: we are hiring a new Junior Grails Developer in London. So please apply. We will also be at the Silicon Milkroundabout on October 30, so stop by and have a chat.

tl;dr – write job specs with your development team, because it’ll help you sync your brains

2 thoughts on “Job specs that make your team shine – building a spec with your development team

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive

  2. Pingback: An Army of Solipsists » Blog Archive » This Week in Grails (2011-42)

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