Except most of us have never really seen those people in real life. Hmmm, what gives? Colleen on Careers over at Poynter says that newspapers need to start having more realistic job ads if they hope to actually get applicants:
The market has changed. We know the kinds of people we need to address these changes — and we want the “walk-on-water” candidate with all the Web and interpersonal skills to help us achieve our goals online.
A dose of reality: Ask for too much and you may find that too few candidates respond.
Some ads for online positions list an unrealistic range of qualifications for a single position. For example, seeking candidates who have expertise in PHP and Web development, as well as multimedia production, is asking for a lot.
Instead, focus on what you really need in the person who will fill this position. Define the goals for your new hire and determine the basic qualifications and the top five necessary skills.
If someone really had all those skills, do you think they’d be applying to a newspaper, making substantially less than what they could be making in other industries? In reality those skills I listed above can be broken down into distinct areas and positions. If newspapers have proper job ads (and positions to go with those ads) they’ll get better applicants who can help make their papers better.
Back end programming requires a high-level knowledge of a database language like MySQL in addition to at least knowing one language like PHP, Ruby or Python very well. The thing is, if someone knows PHP they can easily learn Python and Ruby. These languages share a lot in common, and programmers are constantly learning new languages.
I’d be more impressed with someone who knew one of those languages very well than someone who know all three languages at an intermediate level. Depth is more important than breadth for certain positions. If you need a programmer to learn a new language, he or she easily can.
Many front end programmers know some PHP and MySQL, while many back end programmers know some HTML and CSS, but few really know both well. They are distinctly different tasks. That’s why Web development companies have both front end and back end programmers.
Web companies don’t realistically expect people to know both well. And Flash? Well, many Web development companies have people whose only job is to work with Flash and ActionScript 3.
Multimedia reporting, whether it be with photos, audio or video, is distinctly different than Web development. It generally requires a strong grasp of journalism, whereas Web development just requires a strong grasp of Web development. You’re not going to find many people who can do journalism and Web development well.
And you certainly aren’t going to find many people who can do multimedia reporting, front end development and back end development. I do know both multimedia reporting (and traditional reporting) and front end development, but I don’t know much back end development. I always work with people who specialize in back end development.
I’ve also been doing Web work a lot longer than I have been doing journalism, which is why I have a varied skill set, but I still look at a lot of job ads and think to myself, “I’m not remotely qualified for this position based on the laundry list of things they want a candidate to have.” Yet, I know my skills and knowledge would be a big asset to most journalism companies.
Newspapers need to stop with these ridiculous job ads that ask for the moon, because they’re going to find it hard to find applicants. The ironic part is that I usually see these ads from smaller papers or papers that aren’t doing very well. I rarely see ridiculous job ads from a newspaper that gets new media or from the really big newspapers — the kind of big-time papers you would think would go after these mythical dream candidates.
This leads me to believe that the people hiring new media talent at many newspapers don’t have a clue about what they are looking for. It’s also important to know what a position is supposed to do. Are you hiring a back end programmer? Are you hiring a multimedia reporter? Are you hiring an online journalist? Are you hiring a front end programmer?
Or are you just trying to find someone with some fancy acronyms on his resume so you can feel like you are trying to improve your newspaper with a fancy new hire?
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never find what you need.