Meeting Employer Requirements on Specific Web-Development Tools

By Kathleen Taylor, Bud E. Smith

One of the most frustrating things about searching for web development jobs is employers’ insistence on experience with very specific tools. Web development people know that tools come and go; understanding, experience, and talent triumph over changes in the toolset. So why do employers insist on specific tool experience?

Basically, because they can. Employers get lots of resumes for each opening. They need to whittle the pile down before they start going through it. Insisting on specific tools experience, like insisting on a bachelor’s degree, is an easy way to knock people out.

There is some sense behind this particular sieve, after all. When you’re good with a specific tool, you can concentrate on what you’re trying to do, not having to stop and think about how to do it.

It’s like driving your usual car versus driving a tractor. In your usual car, you can think about all sorts of other things; you often seem to just magically arrive at your destination. Imagine trying to drive a tractor the same distance. You wouldn’t be able to think of anything else as you used all your skill to make the beastly thing get somewhere.

Yes, a skilled developer can quickly come up to speed on a new tool. But “quickly” still might mean you’re not working at full speed, where someone familiar with the same tool would have been fully productive much earlier.

So be tolerant of employers’ demands for specific tools, and try to meet them halfway. Use free, month-long trials, for instance, to get some hands-on time with popular tools that you haven’t used before, or that you haven’t used since a few versions ago. Put a few examples on your portfolio site. You — and your future employer — might be glad you did.