Something about describing a developer as a rock star is slightly off putting. Maybe it’s because when I think of rock stars the phrase “temperamental divas” comes to mind or maybe it’s because I never really understand what it means.

Rwk start license plate -- Photo By gammaman / CC By 2.0

Maybe it means this —
Photo By gammaman / CC By 2.0

I think that I understand the intent. Technology firms and start ups really want talented motivated individuals who love what they do to apply for positions. The same phrases (talented, motivated, etc) could also be applied to members of popular bands and pop sensations. It just also happens that a number of other positive (or negative) adjectives may apply to a really popular musician but not to a good team software developer. At my employer very few projects are completed by solo developers.

The majority of our projects are sufficiently complex that they require multiple developers and a project manager. Like many others before this post I’ll echo a common sentiment–A developer’s value is significantly diminished if he or she cannot work (or learn to work) well in a team environment. Excellent team skills are not necessarily always a requirement, there are enough single person ISVs and one-man dev teams behind successful app store games to show that. On the bigger corporate projects that my employer handles, however teams of 3-5 people are needed to handle the complexity of given requirements and delivery deadlines.

My point about teamwork and how rock stars somehow are not good team contributors is a straw man though. The real point is that putting the phrase “rock star” in a job description is imprecise and in some cases could be perceived badly. Because “rock star” is so imprecise I could say it means someone who is naturally talented with little training, or someone how works extremely hard on his or her craft, or some who is a loner with a bunch manufactured hype.

That’s all for now–Just try to avoid the phrase ‘rock star’ in recruiting descriptions.