Writing Job Descriptions In Tech That Help Land The Best Candidate

Posted on April 23, 2019 by BWBacon. Tagged: Resources for Entrepreneurs, For Clients

As the market for software developers continues to favor the candidate side, companies are looking for every edge possible in their recruiting game. One element that does not get the attention it deserves as a potential “closer” for a great candidate is the approach to writing job descriptions. A great "JD" can help attract the right candidate to your company yet is rarely looked at with that lens, typically it is used to deter unqualified candidates. Many times this approach leads to deterring great candidates along with the bad; not ideal.

Here are BWBacon group we believe in feedback loops and we have been interviewing some of the top-tech-talent in our network to find out what matters most to them in their career journeys. We asked them all the same 25 open-ended questions and then reviewed their answers to see what themes repeated in their wants, needs, etc… The data was incredibly revealing and we hope that these pointers will help you craft successful technical job descriptions.

Here are five things to keep top of mind while you are writing job descriptions. These will help you land the best talent for your software team:

1) Overall philosophy, seek alignment and share the weaknesses

  • The first part of this point is that the following must be presented front and center - Mission / Impact / Passion / Skillset / Business Problems. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand your side and how they can fit in and find success.
  • Present your half of the following Venn diagram of elements and hope the candidate knows that their side. Then test for the intersection.

Why Technology Staffing Philosophically Falls Short Of Technology Recruitment


Why Technolgy staffing falls short of technology recruiting Diagram V2

  • At the end of the day, it's all about letting the great candidate know that they will feel "meaning" at your company; a personal connection to the work. (Thanks Google for releasing your results of "What Makes A Successful Team" study).
  • The second part of this point, we talked about in this post in more detail, but there is definitely value to exposing some vulnerabilities, weaknesses, broken things... well how about, "Opportunites for growth of the company" (that sounds better, right?). Find a way to share some of this right in the JD. A great candidate will be looking for a challenge not afriad of it. The will be actively looking for intersections of their skillset and the problems they know they can address. They will also know they will be a part of the fabric of the company.
  • Also, a final thought in this section -- As a candidate, there is nothing worse than just seeing a multi-scroll length list of bullet points of skill set requirements, we suggest you keep it to a top-ten. The neverending list that paints the picture of a person that does not exist is one of those deterrents for submission that we talked about above. Also, try to not to have an overzealous description of why the company is so perfect that the candidate does not see any challenges they can work on. "Where is the opportunity for applying my skill set," thinks the candidate.

2) Highlight skillset growth opportunities and/or mentorship opportunities

  • Skillset is typically the driving consideration in the viability of a tech candidate for a top position, not a college degree. Great candidates are well aware that their skillset pool is their ticket to long-term success. Make sure you share how they can continue to grow and polish their skills at your company.
  • To boot, being able to mentor and/or work on managerial prowess is one of the top goals that was mentioned when we interviewed a dozen of the top performing candidates in our network. Almost all companies do this in one way or another, but rarely state it in the JD. Show how your company encourages the growth of the candidate and you will check a large culture-fit box in their heads.
  • IF you have seniors in your team that are not currently mentoring, consider turning your expectations for only senior level resources in the pipeline on its head. Mentorship opportunities can be a value add to your existing team as well. Ask if anyone on your team is looking to mentor, you may be surprised how many want to do so. This will widen the top of your candidate funnel vastly.

3) Try to prove/ensure workplace happiness as a core value of the team

  • You need to show that you empower lifestyle happiness and workplace happiness. One of the core elements of workplace happiness is “psychological safety” in the working environment.
    • Beer in the break room and unlimited PTO are definitely cool but knowing that vulnerability, communication, and freedom to take risks in their role/team are what really matters. Find ways to show that your teams value collaboration, are Agile, have team members in sprint planning (and they are allowed to challenge a product owner if need be), etc.

4) Modern tech stack as a core tenant

  • Staying relevant in terms of tech stack was listed as one of the largest concerns a lot of our top clients had. If your tech stack is trending down on adoption instead of up, this will be a major deterrent for top talent, especially considering #3 above (who wants to invest time in a dying language or framework). Stress how important continuing evolution of the tech stack is to the company and team. The candidates need to know there will be growth opportunities. You will be surprised how much more candidate traction you get with this small consideration. Here is a cool site that shares the top and/or trending companies and the stack they are running.

5) Tech community engagement and recognition is encouraged/supported

  • Do you see the theme here? Two out of the four points above in this post refer to growth opportunities, this one is no different. Another common thread in our conversations with our top-performing client companies was how the majority of their internally driven recruits came from interactions with the tech community; they had met the candidate prior at a local Meetup, DSW, or talked on a Slack channel. Great tech talent knows that the community is key to career mobility, show that you understand this. Give opportunities to connect with peers, do talks, lunch and learns, etc. so they can make or grow their name in the local tech community.

Sometimes we are too focused on skill requirements in JD’s, essentially using the job description as a top of funnel qualifier which you do have to do to a degree. In the modern tech market, it needs to be equally balanced as a funnel-filling tool that is selling the candidate on your company as well. There are some really important sub-texts that really drive home the value of a job at your company. Let’s not allow those to be sub-texts, instead find ways to lead with them in every job description you write.

Here at BWBacon Group, we know and live what you are experiencing as an employer or job seeker in Denver, Boulder, Dallas, San Francisco, New York City or any of the other cities we work in. We believe great recruiting starts and ends with understanding people.

If you have any questions about living, working or playing any of the areas we serve, please contact us. We are happy to help. Seize the day, every day, that’s what we say!