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My question is - does having the word "IT" in a job description raise red-flags for a non-trivial number of potential recruits?

We are currently recruiting for software engineering roles spanning front-end type work (angular) through full stack & infrastructure (django, docker, database driven apps). In previous instances it has been roles that involved vision and machine learning applications.

Background:

I work for a semiconductor manufacturer. As such, we don't primarily ship software. Software is however (rather obviously) critical to ~every part of our process. The organization is structured with most software under the CIO / IT organization (there are reasons beyond the fact that we're not technically 'shipping' the deliverables; a semi mfg with N fabs is a lot like N companies in one; if software wasn't centralized somehow, each fab would be ~required to duplicate the work. Bad for efficiency, means work can't be load-balanced across fabs, etc)

The organization universally adds "IT" prominently to job reqs. Eg "Engineering Apps Developer" becomes IT Engineering Apps Developer". The work itself, and the phrasing of rest of the req, are "normal" and "compelling" for an engineer interested in the relevant areas.

This strikes me as needlessly limiting who the reqs may appeal to.

I have raised this internally, but get a lot of "Meh...". I haven't been in the org long, coming from a little different background than many (other companies that have more customer-facing software; roles under "R&D" orgs). My education background is CS ugrad at a well regarded school. The work I'm responsible for is similar in scope and details to my previous orgs; given the business structure it makes some sense how we're structured. So I'm asking about our external recruiting efforts, not whether i should like my org's title.

Clearly it's a small issue among many, but after poling my network, the reactions are somewhat strong that "IT" has distinct connotations from "software engineering" - in a similar sense as "tester" is often distinct from "developer".

Is this valid? Should I continue to try to get the org to stop advertising 'software engineer' roles as "IT" (or with much less emphasis)

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    Unsure how I feel about this question - I think it's a really great question but also is completely opinion based. – Ethan The Brave Jun 2 '17 at 16:52
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    Meta-response, so not an answer: there's a scientific/engineering approach to addressing this issue: ask whoever's responsible to make postings with and without the offending prefix, and see whether one gets a better response than the other. – Phil Miller Jun 2 '17 at 17:27
  • @EthanTheBrave - it is not Completely opinion based. It is something our experts should be able to give at least expert opinions on. It is not asking what people think, it is asking what has worked well for others. That is the difference between an answerable question and being closed as opinion based – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 2 '17 at 18:10
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    "IT" in a job title might tell me that the rest of the organisation has no idea what developers do, and presumably they don't have enough independence to, among other more important things, be creating their own job specs (but I'd consider the job spec as a whole instead of focusing on just a keyword). Some people might not mind this, while it would be a red flag for others. Whether the message sent is accurate is probably more important than the message being sent in the first place, on the assumption that you're looking for a good fit instead of to trick people into ending up there. – Dukeling Jun 2 '17 at 20:14
  • This isn't opinion based - it's not "what do you think" and it's "is this a problematic thing to say in a posting." It can be answered with facts - for example, go search glassdoor for salaries, "software developer" averages $85k/year in the US but "IT software developer" averages $74k, strong evidence that they are considered different and one is considered as a lesser posting. Please harsh on Bad Subjective answers, not on questions. – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Jun 2 '17 at 21:25
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... does having the word "IT" in a job description raise red-flags for potential recruits?

YES

While there is nothing wrong with IT or the jobs in that category, putting it in front of a title can really misdirect many potential candidates. IT is its own field and while it does cross common ground with developing software, they're very distinct from one another to someone in those fields.

Someone viewing the post may misinterpret the title to mean that the job is a combine role of sorts. Just imagine a Microbiology Engineering Apps developer: think of what one may think that job entails.

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    Exactly, IT and Software development are two distinct fields. Just because the Software Development occurs within the Information Technology department of the company doesn't make it an "IT" job. Just as doing Software Development on in an Accounting department doesn't make it an "Accounting" job. – Chris G Jun 2 '17 at 15:56
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    As a software developer, i would ignore a job with IT in the description as it just doesn't apply to me – Mart10 Jun 2 '17 at 17:22
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    And even if they don't assume it's a crossover job and find out it's not when they read the longer description, the fact you mislabeled the thing you're hiring for makes you look dumb. Plus I don't want 'IT technician' on my resume if the job duties are so radically different I'll have to explain that job specially in interviews for the rest of my life. "Oh, you have IT experience!" "Er, no, that's just the title, actually the job was web design" or whatever. – Please stop being evil Jun 2 '17 at 18:27
  • speak for your self in the UK for example IT is a generic term for the entire industry – Neuromancer Jun 3 '17 at 10:57
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Yes.

Reading such a job req would send a few red flags if I read it. It would give me the impression that either the title was strictly for development for projects within the IT department, or that they included the "IT" because they didn't know any better, or that it was some sort of a hybrid role.

It's practically a cliché in IT that the Job req is going to be written by someone who has no idea of what the job actually entails. This would reinforce that stereotype.

Anything that does not provide clarity, obfuscates. Do not put "IT" in front of a title to make it sound better. It has the opposite effect.

10

Definitely yes.

To me, if a position says IT in the title and the company isn't a software shop - they are confusing IT with development. Amongst the devs I know, the worst nightmare they've experienced professionally has been with positions where the employer confuses the 2. These are positions where as a developer they end up in a general "everything related to computers" job where one minute they are programming, another minute they are filling in for the helpdesk person, and then somewhere along the way they end up administering SharePoint or heading up training.

I look for a Software/Developer position whose responsibilities are strictly in a department dedicated to things related to creating/maintaining software - not fixing a secretary's Word document.

That isn't to belittle those that do IT infrastructure or helpdesk, but that companies who lump a programmer into a general IT role will not give them the kind of work they expect or find fulfilling, will not appreciate their expertise, and will often not pay as well.

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    This was my thought as well. IT- and full-stack anything are both prefixes I'm wary of when looking for development work. If there's that little segregation of duties, the company has a serious lack of direction. – Ivan Jun 2 '17 at 19:39
  • Just call it devops ;) – rackandboneman Jun 2 '17 at 21:58
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I expect this may vary with local culture but certainly in the UK it's rare to see "IT" listed explicitly on a software engineer or developer job.

While I don't think adding it would put relevant people off applying (I know if I saw it I'd just assume it was as a result of development being part of the IT function as a whole) but I think you are more likely to see a problem in the other direction of clueless recruiters putting forward candidates from other areas of IT without them having the software engineering aspects.

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    I would definitely pause and potentially skip over a job posting if the job title was "IT <blank> developer" vs. "<blank> developer". Even if the description was spot on, I'd be somewhat wary that the job would actually include traditional "helpdesk" style IT work, or that the company/HR just doesn't understand "computer stuff". Neither of which I'm interested in. Possibly its a US vs UK thing, or possibly I'm just an outlier. – shenles Jun 2 '17 at 15:38
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    @shenles, me too. Having been contacted occasionally by such companies, I would be especially wary of IT in a developer advertisement. – HLGEM Jun 2 '17 at 17:13
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Summary: I disagree with many of the other answers. I do not think "IT" in a job posting matters. It is not a red flag for me or any of my peers.

Caveats: I suppose the real answer varies based on the country and culture you're working with. Your question does not specify that. I'm an American from the midwest. I am, however, a computer programmer who has done his share of looking at job postings over the years.

Analysis:

Neither I nor any programmer I know pays much attention at all to job titles. There is, certainly across different employers, absolutely no meaningful distinction between an "Engineer" or "Developer", prefixes like "Application Engineer" vs. "Software Developer", prefixes like "Junior", "Senior" or "Principal". Certainly the number suffixes as in "SharePoint Developer II" don't mean a thing.

We always ignore the job title and look for that bulleted list of responsibilities: "X years of Oracle database development", "Y years of AngularJS". That's how I tell whether a posting is worth pursuing.

You're right that "IT" often refers to tech support or folks who maintain infrastructure. There are differences, in implication if not in definition, between "engineering", "development", etc. So it's fair for you to ask about this.

There are many IT recruiters out there who haven't the first clue how software development works. We programmers have all talked to them, so we generally take job titles and buzz words with a grain of salt, focusing more on the list of responsibilities.

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    That is probably true if you read the whole job description, but if I see a job title with a specialization I don't have, I stop there, so the description is irrelevant. – asgallant Jun 2 '17 at 19:46
  • Maybe! Different folks have individual preferences for sorting through job postings. I tend to shift-right-click through a batch of them, glance at the bullet points, and close the irrelevant postings. You could very well browse job postings differently than me. By extension, so could lots of other job seekers. OP's question is a bit subjective. – Eleomosynator Jun 5 '17 at 20:23
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I'd think the opposite, for someone interested in a development track. Someone with the former title "Accounting Developer II" would get sidelined against someone with former title "IT Developer II", because it'd be expected that the latter would have broader experience than someone only doing work for an accounting department.

This actually happened to me, where the company wanted to take IT out of my title because I happened to support a non-IT department. For me, I felt such a change would be something I wouldn't want to have to ever explain (and justify) to someone reading from my resume.

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    I have never, ever seen someone being called "IT developer". – gnasher729 Jun 3 '17 at 12:14

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