What Even Is a 'Code Sheriff'? How to Read Between the Lines of Developer Job Listings

Posted by  Paweł Rogoza

Reading job listings for developers can be exhausting: companies try to sound fun to work for, recruiters ask for skills they don't really understand, and sometimes you can't figure out what a given job title even means.

Speed up the process of sorting through job listings to find opportunities that really match your development skills by learning to parse job titles, figuring out what part of your experience really matters, and ignoring some parts of the job listing.

Dealing with Oddball Job Titles

Figuring out whether you're a developer, a programmer, a coder or even a software engineer can be tough - and deciding if you're a 'Computer Programmer I' or 'Computer Programmer II' can be impossible. Some companies have started throwing more variations into the mix, ranging from rockstar programmer to code sheriff. Usually, there are some context clues in the job listing you can rely on, ignoring the job title entirely. Focus on the level of experience the company is looking for, as well as the type of product or service they offer. Even though hacking on WordPress themes is going to be a very different type of job than building a REST API for other programmers to use, companies hiring for either might list openings for 'developers' without much more information.

Still having trouble figuring out just what titles mean at a given company? LinkedIn is your best friend: While it may not be a fun social network to waste time on, LinkedIn has a wealth of information about different companies. Check out the profiles of people who are already working a job you're considering applying for. Just from their other experiences and technical background, you can often guess what the focus or level of their current job is.

Determining What Counts as Experience

While many job listings for developers look for a college degree and a certain number of years of experience, the reality is that most companies are desperate for talented programmers. They'll at least consider programmers with less traditional backgrounds, provided they've got the code to back it up.

What a hiring manager looks at is the code you've published online (whether that's through your GitHub profile, an open-source project or even just the source for your website). You may not be able to get a college degree between now and the next time you apply for a job, but you can almost definitely submit a few pull requests that will beef up your visible experience.

Deciding Whether to Apply

There are some commonly cited numbers about gender and the application process: men typically will apply for a job if they meet at least 60 percent of the criteria in a job listing, while women will apply only if they meet 100 percent of the criteria. While these numbers are often cited in attempts to get more women to apply for jobs, what they really show is an underlying misunderstanding about job applications in general.

Most recruiters will list everything that they hope to get in one job listing -- even though they probably won't find a candidate who matches those expectations precisely. That can even include asking for six years of experience programming in a language that's only been around for five years. If you've been in the tech industry long enough, you may know that job descriptions are really just wish lists, and you'll apply to anything you somewhat match. If you're newer to the industry (or you don't have the sort of backchannels that will tell you a given recruiter is dreaming big), you're less likely to apply.

As long as you're confident you can both do the necessary work and convince a recruiter of that fact, go ahead and apply for the job - even if you don't quite match the requirements on paper.

Paweł Rogoza

Pawel Rogoza works for Unit4's Technical Domain, supporting teams responsible for platform development of the Unit4 Business World product.