Tech job offerings are plagued with over reaching and unrealistic job/experience requirements. They want college grads to have 5 years of experience, list multiple extremely specific technologies they use which no one would have as a normal skill set, or require deep experience with emerging technologies.

These requirements sound like someone rattled off the software/skills of a previous employee with no concept of what was important about those skills. For example, when asking for 10 years of Oracle SQL experience what they probably really need is someone with deep SQL knowledge and experience using databases in an enterprise setting.

I always see these specific requirements on the job offer but once I get down to it I find most companies want skills, not technical knowledge in a specific brand of technology, language, etc.

How can I figure out what they really need when I'm interviewing/being screened? How can I probe without making it look like I'm unqualified, communicating that I have what they really need, just not the exact flavor of expertise on the offer?

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    How do you know if they know what they really need?
    – JB King
    Apr 17, 2012 at 22:15

4 Answers 4


I like to ask open questions like:

What can you tell me about the project you see starting me out on?

From the answer to this question I usually ask about the frameworks and tools they are using for it. I can get engaged with the manager about the position and show how my skills can help there. Not to mention if the manager is on the fence this question can help to push them over and get them thinking how I can fit in their team.

It also helps take the temperature of the interview. A short answer with no thought probably means it is not going well. It gives you an opportunity to either cut losses or redouble your efforts to make a better impression.


In my experiences, the job posting will list the things that someone hired to the position is likely to come into contact with. Having more experience in those particular areas or with those specific things is, of course, beneficial, but doesn't mean that the candidate who gets the job has all of those skills.

When I come across a job posting, I break it down in two ways. First, I identify which of my skills directly lined up with the skills in the job posting. Then, I identify which skills were easily transferrable or relatable to the skills requested in the job posting. When I'm communicating with the company, I make sure to touch on both of these - highlighting past experiences that are directly relevant, but also related technology and emphasized times when I've had to apply knowledge to learn something new.


Job listings such as these would test people psychologically, whether it's their intended purpose or not. At best it would attract people who may not know everything they ask for but have the drive and confidence to do so, and at worst it will bring people that would lie in their resume. If you make it in for an interview, congrats, you're already a step ahead and have given them the benefit of the doubt.

Try to explain your work experience in more language-agnostic terms and actively attempt to draw in similarities with what you've used and what the job description is looking for. One of the best things you can do is teach them something interesting that they didn't know about, such as how your skills have solved a similar problem to what they might be facing.


Every job posting is different, so it's impossible to answer this question in the abstract.

But in general, the framework and the language listed closest to the top of the page tend to be most important. However, OTOH, I've interviewed for jobs where the hiring manager did not care which framework or which language candidates emphasized/favored in previous jobs. General skills and general programming aptitude mattered most. [Anything else could be learned on the job.]

My best advice: Evaluate job postings based on whether or not the job description interests you and whether or not you think you'd be a good fit. Let the hiring manager, at the face-to-face interview be the arbiter of whether or not you possess all of the "must haves" for the job opening.


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