“Now Hiring: Um, A Good Developer?” | How To Write A Better Job Listing

One of the first pieces of every recruiting puzzle is creating a job listing. In creating the Recruiting Hacks site and content, we naturally came into contact with tons of real-world job postings during our research. And let me tell you – it wasn’t always pretty.

clever girl

via http://www.businessinsider.com/funny-job-ads-2011-4?op=1

When you’re looking at job postings with a critical eye, it’s possible to find problems with almost every single one. Job listings are often written in a rush, with a hiring manager just anxious to get something out there and begin the process. Whether the problems were huge and glaring or not, it seems like most job listings struggle to find a good balance of the necessary elements: required information, engaging personality, and excellent marketing.

Writing a great job posting is actually really hard. You want to be clear without going into too much detail, fun without being unprofessional, and unique without sounding like every other job listing that’s trying to seem unique too.

This post is all about showcasing some of the most common errors that take place in job listings, and sharing solutions to the biggest problems. All of the sample listings shared were taken from some of the web’s most popular places to post engineering jobs, and have been anonymized so no one gets famous in a bad way. 🙂

A good headline is hard to find

The title of your job listing may seem to some like an afterthought – a minor detail that’s required, but not especially important. In fact, though, the headline on your job posting can have a huge impact on the posting’s success. Why? Because it’s the only information a reader has to go on to decide if they’re going to click on your posting or not. If your title is bad, the content of your job listing (where you like expended the most effort) doesn’t really matter.

Let job seekers know why they absolutely have to click on your ad by getting creative and giving them a little preview in the title.

These are some great real-world examples I found:

  • High-fiving technical co-founder & javascripter for paradigm shifting social app
  • Java Developer – Industry Leader, Fun, Collaborative Environment
  • Bring Your DevOps to Help Drive Development @ Our Company
  • Image Processing Software Manager at Exciting Satellite Startup!

They let you know a little about the job, a little about the company, and most importantly convey a sense of excitement to bring their new hire onboard.

Job Description

The test lead will join our test team and will have the responsibility to oversee the system test program for one of our product ranges. This encompasses requirement analysis, writing test specifications, implementing and executing tests, and submitting and following up bugs. You are expected to have thorough experience within testing, and should be comfortable with all phases of the test flow as well as automated test systems. You will work closely together with our highly skilled hardware and software development teams. You should have experience from commercial software or hardware development and understand the constraints and requirements that such projects typically operate within.


You love what you do. You can demonstrate clear mastery of one (or several)  languages.  We are a small collaborative team in a well funded startup.  If you are interested in big ideas about big data, analytics & machine learning then you have come to the right place.

The position will require a strong background in object oriented PHP, software engineering, design patterns and agile methodology. The applicant should demonstrate a track record of innovative problem solving and should possess superior written and oral communication skills.

In both of these postings, the language is serious and the writing style is not super engaging. In the first one especially, the long dense paragraph is hard to read (and any marketers out there know, if something is hard to read, people mostly won’t read it).

Blocks of text are harder on the eyes, so bullet points are almost always better for this kind of writing. Make sure that if you’re using a paragraph it’s because you really need it. When your listing is easier to scan, you’ll get more people reading it all the way through.

A good job description also helps you craft a more personal connection with your readers.

  • Include a team photo in your job listings, since that forms an instant connection and makes you more real to candidates.
  • Talk about interesting projects and cutting edge challenges.
  • You can also include favorite office rituals or sharing nearby lunch or happy hour picks.
  • (And startups, I know it’s fun to advertise your fully stocked beer fridge, but be sure your ad is emphasizing exciting work as well as the fun perks.)
reading for jobs

via money.msn.com

Lastly, in the second post above, the grammar and layout aren’t great. Any problems or errors in your posting – even small editing mistakes like these – make your organization look less professional and serious. It’s always worth your time to have a team member (or two) read over anything you’re going to be posting for public viewing.

Remember, your job description is essentially advertising copy. You are trying to attract customers (candidates) and you need to make them want to read your listing and just have to hit the “Apply” button.

Handle responsibilities responsibly

In this section of the job listing, you can be a little more serious. Since you’re outlining the candidate’s professional duties, you want to let them know what they can reasonably expect to be doing day to day, and you can get more specific about requirements.

There are still opportunities for problems, though, including the biggest one: not listing any responsibilities at all.

It may not seem important to include – an experienced dev knows roughly what a day’s work looks like, right? – but this is a huge missed opportunity for getting candidates even more excited about working with your team. Listing responsibilities like “partnering with management to determine future projects; working with a flat team of exceptional engineers; using Ruby to build the back-end of a top social application” gives candidates little hints as to what their life will be like working on your team. Don’t skip this opportunity to keep marketing the position.

You also want to be careful about breaking your responsibilities and requirements into the right categories. You may turn away some qualified candidates not to apply by listing too many “requirements” in the qualifications section, so make sure everything listed in the “must-have” category really is required.

Job Qualifications:

  • • Minimum 7 years’ Application Development experience.
  • • Minimum 7 years’ professional experience designing and developing applications on one RDBMS (Oracle or SQL).
  • • Familiarity with software project management frameworks.
  • • Served as lead developer on at least one project, providing technical leadership for at least one other developer.
  • • Experience mentoring technical/development staff.
  • • Ability to communicate technical concepts to a non-technical audience.
  • • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or MIS.

Is a bachelor’s degree absolutely required? Or would 7 years’ experience in “designing and developing applications” be enough? Are those 7 years the absolute minimum? Think about awesome candidates your requirements might eliminate (ie. self-taught developers who didn’t finish college; an exceptional developer with 10 years of experience on a similar platform) and consider putting them in more flexible terms.

If you could be convinced to hire someone who doesn’t meet all of your requirements but who bowls you over in some other way, consider moving some of those qualifications to “preferred” or “nice to have”.

End on a high note

high five

via tumblr.com

To end the post, I thought I’d share a great example I found while researching this article. It has energy, tells the reader exactly what they’re looking for, and even shares an awesome personal detail (the office’s favorite lunch spot) at the very end. All around, an excellent example of an informative post that draws the job seeker in and gets them excited to apply.

iOS developer to work on our #1 rated shopping app

Job Description

We’re looking for iOS developer who is excited about creating a fantastic user experience on the iPad and iPhone. Help us keep moving forward as we continue to break new boundaries with our #1 rated shopping application.

We need someone who is detailed and well organized with excellent communication……oh come on……you know all the soft skills needed when working at a startup, just apply now and tell us how you will make a difference and knock our socks off!

Skills & Requirements

  • Expert knowledge of Objective-C and iOS frameworks
  • Experience working with third-party Objective-C libraries
  • Ability to create custom UI components and make major extensions to native components
  • Experience in the full iOS app lifecycle from development to submission, release, and ongoing maintenance/support.
  • Strong background of profiling and debugging, plus analysis and optimization of performance and resource utilization.

About Our Company

We make _____, a #1 rated shopping app. We’re all about delight and discovery, about social and sharing, and our partners and customers love us. We’re well-funded, very well-reviewed and having a blast! Want to get in early on something really, really big?  

Candidates must be local although we will consider telecommuting one day a week for the right candidate. No agencies, 3rd parties or recruiters.

We may be a small company now, but we can offer you a great company culture and work environment which is very important to us, a variety of health plans, a competitive salary, a 401k plan and meaningful equity in the company. We’re located on _______, just a block from ______ — our favorite for lunch.

What’s the best job posting you’ve ever seen? What makes you click “Apply” and what no-no’s are you tired of seeing? Share in the comments so we can all get better at finding the best talent and drawing in their applications?

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