Writing job ads is a common part of a manager’s job. Many times, I’ve had to sit down and write the copy that would be posted across the web to attract new talent to my team. Yes, sometimes it was as easy as posting “I need a developer” on Craigslist.com, and I was immediately flooded with resumes.
More often than not, I was a combatant in a talent war. Not only did I have to do work to keep my existing team members, but when it was time to broaden the team, I had to convince people to join us. I learned the lesson that a lot of managers either don’t learn or simply ignore:
A job ad is a sales pitch for your company.
Especially when dealing with developers, you not only have to show that you have a need, you have to guide the reader down the path explaining why they should bother to apply for the position.
Since I’ve written my share of job ads, I’m going to share a few of the things I’ve learned about writing them. I’ll also share some insights I learned while on the other side of the ad as a developer considering a job change.
Parts of a job ad
Once you write enough job ads, you will find that there’s a template you usually follow. While the content will change in each ad, the template is almost always the same.
Interesting Job Title
The very first thing a potential applicant will see is the job title, and this may be a make or break moment. You need to be creative enough with the title to make the job sound interesting while not going over the top.
Resist the urge to use buzzwords or trendy titles. If the job is a software developer, don’t say “coding ninja”. Say “software developer”.
If posted in a job ad, these words are all red flags that will cause most applicants to move on to the next ad.
Location or remote
Very early on in your ad, you’ll want to let the reader know if this is a remote position or in-office. Giving people this information will help them self-filter. If an applicant can’t move to a new area, they won’t be able to take the job, no matter how great the position or company is.
Introduction to the company
As I’ve said, the ad is a sales piece. If they make it this far, your job title obviously piqued their interest. Now it’s time to help them understand why your company is the right place for them to call home.
- Talk about the culture.
- Talk about the teams.
- Talk about the impact your work is having on the world.
In two paragraphs, convince them that you are worth a shot.
An employee value proposition
Then in two sentences, explain why your company is worthy of an applicant's time and talent. Other than the paycheck and benefits, what's in it for them? How is working for your company going to make them feel better about themselves and the time that they are investing in your company?
Describe your ideal candidate
What do you expect from a candidate? Instead of listing every skill that the last three developers on your team have had, look at it as a marketing issue. Create a persona of your ideal candidate.
- Describe the education you want your ideal candidate to have.
- Describe the important technologies that your team works with.
- Describe any other important traits that you would like to see in your ideal candidate.
Don’t go overboard here. Give applicants an idea of what you are looking for in a person.
This is the part we are all used to. However, instead of creating the standard “kitchen sink” list of technologies that you may or may not use, pick two or three important ones. Most software developers who have mastered a language can pick up any framework built around the language. More important than knowledge of your specific framework is the ability to learn and adapt. That will serve your team much better.
Additionally, junior developers are rarely going to have significant experience with a given framework. If you insist on listing things as detailed as a given framework, make sure it’s marked as “optional” or as a “bonus”.
The job description is still an important part of any job ad, but what it should contain has changed. If you list everything you may or may not need but think you might want, developers will self-disqualify. Some will do so because you ask for things they don’t have. The majority, however, will see that as a sign that you (the manager) don’t have a good grip on what you need. That’s a red flag.
Salary & benefits
Most companies these days are happy to give a laundry list of the benefits that they offer to employees. Most are also hesitant to discuss salary in a job ad. Giving the salary range will help developers to self-disqualify and avoid wasting either party’s time.
I read an ad for a software development position at a major amusement park here in Florida. I love this park, met the qualifications and fit the ideal candidate description, and was about to apply until I saw the salary range. It was a decent salary, and I have nothing bad to say about it, but it was significantly below what I was making. I had to pass up the opportunity. Had they not listed the salary, we might have gotten as far as an in-person interview before we discussed salary, and that would have cost both of us time, and the company money.
Help developers self-disqualify by listing your salary range in your job ads.
Things to integrate…carefully
Now that we know the parts of the job ad, let’s talk about some things we can add into some of those parts to help pique the interest of a potential candidate.
I’ve seen many job ads nicely decorated with relevant photos of smiling developers, team photos, and other things of that nature. One of my favorite uses of a photo in a job ad was an ad for a housekeeper at a major hotel chain. The job was at a tropical resort, so they sprinkled the ad with pictures of the sea, palm trees, etc. It nicely complimented the ad without overpowering it.
If you have a good video production department at your company that can help you produce a professional looking ad, round up your best on-screen talent and let them explain things like the culture of the company and the intangible benefits of the job. This should complement the ad though–not be the ad. If your entire job ad is a video, you will miss out on all the candidates that would rather skim written material instead of watching a video.
This one is tricky. One person’s humor could be another person’s insult. Step carefully when injecting humor into a job ad. If done right, it shows that your company doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that will attract a lot of candidates. However, if done wrong, it can go downhill in a hurry and attract a lot of unwanted attention on social media.
First and foremost, treat every job ad as a sales piece for your company. It has to do more than just be a laundry list of skills and requirements.
- Show people why they should work with you.
- Help them self-disqualify by giving them all the information they need.
- Get them excited about the prospect of joining your team!
If your job ads do their jobs, the candidates that reply to them will be spot-on, and you’ll have a very difficult decision on your hands.
Want to get some expert help when it comes to your next job post? Let the team at Gun.io help bring on your next developer.