So you’ve got a technical role to fill…how exactly do you get started?
With so many talented engineers out there and so many avenues available for reaching them, your talent search can quickly start to feel a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. Assuming you want to recruit the top talent from wherever you can, it’s not always particularly clear which strategies are effective, which ones aren’t worth the time, and which one is going to be your secret weapon for bringing in the next rockstar engineer.
In this chapter, we’ll look at the best ways to bring in active job-seekers using online job boards and advertisements. If an awesome engineer is scanning the boards for a new position, you must make sure they not only see your ad, but they click on it too, and that by the time they’re done reading, they just have to apply for that job.
In other words, you’ve got to create an effective, engaging job advertisement that makes people want to respond, and get it out in front of the right audience as soon as possible.
How do I write an effective job posting?
Your job posting needs to sell the position and sell your organization to an engineer who’s probably read a lot of other postings and maybe even has a few other offers on the table as well.
(No pressure, though.)
Really, your job posting just needs to be clear about the position and what kind of company you are. That’s it. From there, it’s all about tweaking that message to draw in the kind of candidates you want and sparking their interest enough to apply. Think of it like any good advertising copy: grab the reader’s interest, keep it punchy and engaging, and give them the immediate details they need.
Elements of an inspiring, engaging job posting
As you create the advertisement, keep in mind some general rules that will help your post stand out from the rest and make an impact with the candidates who read it.
1. Have A Catchy Title.
Lots of companies are good at the catchy title these days – how many requests for “rockstars” can you count in just one pass through an average technical job board? – but it’s still important to give some punch to your headline if you want anyone to read your post.
You want to grab a candidate’s attention, then follow through with some actual information about the position. For example, “Web Developer” is informative but no fun, whereas “Do you want to work on the bleeding edge of technology?” is certainly interesting, but doesn’t say anything about the position in question.Try to find a balance: “Powerhouse Web Developer Wanted for VC-Funded Social Startup”. It tells them who you are, what you need, and has just a hint of character too.
2. Define The Must-Haves.
You’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy by giving serious consideration to the must-haves of a position. Make a list of everything you think is absolutely required for the position, and write them all down. Then consider how many of these are absolute requirements, and which of them are just desired qualifications?
The reason for asking this is that listing something as a “requirement” may cause some viewers to skip over the ad if they are missing even one of the required items. For example, if extensive experience deploying the cloud is essential for the job, then list it as a requirement; but, if you’d be willing to consider an applicant who instead has 5 years of coding experience and hosts their own website…consider making that cloud experience a desired qualification instead. (And how certain are you that a college degree is a must-have requirement?)
3. Give A Company Overview.
A talented engineer can do their job anywhere, so make sure they know what your company does and what makes it so special. You can use almost anything that will set your company apart.
Highlight things that are important to your team, whether it’s your great company culture or the hard problems you tackle every day. Always link to your website, and feel free to show off a little – if you’re featured in any press or have a recent major accomplishments, throw a link to those in too.
4. Define The Job.
Whether you are hiring for one specific role, or growing a team with a number of available positions, candidates need to see what kinds of tasks will be filling their days. This is easier for some jobs than others, but needs to be a priority when you’re hoping to attract the best and brightest.
While you want to let them know that they’ll have “challenges” and “opportunities” and other vague-but-important responsibilities, people want to know what kind of duties their position actually entails. It may not be the most glamorous section of the post, but it’s important to break down what this position will involve day-to-day; examples of this might be writing code, collaborating on designs, managing releases and deployments, or writing technical specifications.
5. Ask “Why Should They Want This Job?”
This can be explicitly stated, or it can be implied throughout the rest of the job description, but you’ve got to make sure this question gets answered. See if you can answer why someone should want this job based just on what’s in the posting. Is it great company culture, challenges and responsibility, or the chance to be part of the next big thing?
Make sure there are takeaways for the candidate to remember about your company that make them want to work there. If you can’t work this into the rest of the posting, go ahead and make this its own bullet-pointed section! Being subtle is less important than having candidates to be able to name exactly why they want to join your team.
6. Add Some Character!
This tip sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how often the person drafting the job description obviously never thought about it. Every time you write a job description, you must take time to imagine that you are the job-seeker reading it. Put yourself in the shoes of someone scrolling a job board who has clicked on your posting. Are you going to apply to, or even finish reading, a post that’s vague, dense with text, or completely lacking in personality? (No.)
You like working at your company, right? You’re excited about the challenges and opportunities it’s presented you with, and you’re looking forward to where it’s all going? Let that come through in the ad! The best candidates want to work somewhere like that too, and they’ll never know you can offer that if you don’t at least hint at it in the job description.
Personalizing the post is fantastic way to set yourself apart. For example, I always include a team photograph with every job listing; it humanizes you to the reader and serves as a “hello” from your whole staff to them.
[pullquote align=”right”]Remember, this is an advertisement so you want your customer, the job seeker, to perk up and get excited when they read your post.
Be funny and don’t be shy about using words like awesome, amazing, genius, and passion when you’re writing.[/pullquote]
Be open about the possibilities that await developers who join your team. Think more about what makes you really proud to work there and what you love day to day! It’s more important to stress the things that make your workplace exceptional than to list every detail of your healthcare or commuter plans.
It’s fine to mention some specific perks and benefits, but try to keep focus on the position and the opportunities that accompany it – there will be plenty of time to dole out those extra perks when you’re making an offer.
Where should I share the job posting?
This is usually less an issue of where to post a job, and instead a question of where not to post a job. There are so many online resources (from the very general like Craigslist, to the very specific, like 37signals) that it can be overwhelming to decide which ones make the most sense for which positions.
Of course, you can post a job listing on every job site under the sun if you want to, but being a bit strategic about where you post will make your search much more effective (and less expensive).
Overall, you’ll mainly want to focus your listings on sites that specialize in technical careers over more general boards, though general boards can be good for A/B testing different versions of your post (more on that later). If your budget allows, feel free to go nuts and post on every job board on the Internet. If you have to set limits, though – and most of us do – take the time to research where your candidates are looking.
[pullquote align=”left”] Tip: You can advertise a job more than once! [/pullquote]
Don’t be afraid to post your job description multiple times. I used to think you just posted a job and that was it, but it turns out that posting your job several times is more effective and provides you with the opportunity to improve and refine your search.
Why post a job more than once?
See what’s working and what’s not.
Posting multiple jobs multiple times allows you to track the success of each posting and modify anything that isn’t working for future post. If your original post had paragraphs, you can try one with bullet points to see if you get more responses. (Note: you should probably be using bullet points instead of paragraphs anyways.)
Find out when applicants are responding.
Peak response times for the ads I’ve posted in the past have been Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays – I imagine this has to do with the times people have available to work on applications, and maybe a little bit to do with dreading the beginning of another work week at their current position too.
Try out different versions of your job listing.
This can be extremely helpful in your search. Putting together a few posts allows you to monitor response data to make future listings more effective. You can post two ads at the same time that vary slightly – maybe one emphasizes perks and one doesn’t list any – and you can see which brings in candidates you want.
Conduct A/B testing to find the best post.
In the past, I’ve found that changing a job title from Front End Engineer to UX Developer hugely affected the number of applications we received. You can try out longer or shorter job descriptions (though it’s commonly suggested that shorter descriptions are better, I find longer descriptions usually yield higher-quality candidates) and other variables to see how your responses change. They key here is analysis, and using the data you have to make future posts better.