What developers think when you say "Rock Star"

When you say "rock star" in your job post, you're discouraging the best software developers from contacting you.

When you write, "We're looking for a rock star developer."
A developer sees, "We want to treat a developer like the RIAA treats rock stars."

Using "rock star" in your job post may have communicated a trendy vibe at one point, but those times have passed. Now it communicates a desperate attempt to seem cooler than you really are, a sign that you're too full of yourself, or that you're just naive. 

Naivety worries developers the most. To developers, "rock star" communicates that you're not sure what you want. Or rather, you do know what you want, and what you want is a miracle worker. "Rock star" signals that you haven't thought enough about the role this developer will fill, leaving developers with a feeling that they'll be receiving ill-defined requirements, not enough time, or not enough resources to do their job (in addition to being overworked and underpaid).

Speaking of overworked and underpaid... there's really only one time "rock star" is appropriate: "We want a rock star developer. We know you're rare, and we'll pay you like a rock star." Sadly, this isn't usually the case. Here's how software engineers are paid in relation to rock star software engineers [1, 2].

Now here's how musicians are paid in relation to real rock stars [3, 4].


So next time you're thinking about saying rock star, ninja, guru, etc in your job post, consider it a sign that you have more thinking to do about your hiring requirements. Here are a few questions and trade-offs you should consider answering with your job post:

  • Do you want a specialist or a generalist?
  • If you want extraordinary people, can you compensate them extraordinarily or provide an extraordinary environment? 
  • Do you want a technical person who cares more about the business/market challenges or do you want someone who cares more about the technical challenges? 
  • Do you want someone who prefers quick, practical, "good enough" solutions or do you want someone who prefers to take their time and do things more maintainably or scalably?
  • Do you want a feature developer or a maintainer? 
  • Do you want a risk taker?

Let us know in the comments If you have any more high-level questions you like to have answered before you post a job description.


    About Hirelite

    Hirelite runs "speed interviewing" events over video chat to connect software engineers and companies hiring. If you're looking to evaluate the software job market or looking to hire, check out Hirelite.com.



    [1] Simply Hired salary estimates for software engineer
    [2] Simply Hired salary estimates for rock star software engineer
    [3] Simply Hired salary estimates for musician
    [4] Average salary for the top 10 best paid music stars. But wait, those are only the top 10 musicians! Yes, exactly. Rockstars are stars because they're scarce, and because they're the best.

    Also, an associated queston on Hacker News a few months back was very helpful. Thanks for all the comments there today also.

    Results of a Speed Dating Event for Hiring Software Engineers

    On Tuesday, Hirelite hosted its first event, Speed Dating for the Hiring Process, to connect software engineers with companies looking for technical talent. In short, we learned that companies and job seekers like the speed interviewing format because they can quickly evaluate many possible matches on what's most important to them - cultural fit. Also, speed dating for hiring is way less awkward than speed dating for romance.

    How did the event work? Each job seeker interviewed with each company for 5 minutes then rotated to the next company. At the end of each interview, both the job seeker and the company indicated if they would like to contact each other on a form they received at the event. After the event, Hirelite sent job seekers and companies their matches' contact information.

    Screening and Attendees

    Hirelite requires job seekers to pass a brief programming test in the language of their choice to register for the event. Most applicants had no trouble with the programming test, but we did get some responses from job seekers who clearly could not code. One response completely ignored the question, "I don't program but I have a lot of technical experience and would really like to come." Simple, to the point, and not suited to this event.

    Job seekers in attendance were primarily Hacker News readers or their friends. They showed substantial technical ability, especially with web and mobile development. The developers that came generally had a broad base of skills spanning multiple programming languages for both back-end and front-end development.

    Companies including single founders looking for technical cofounders; angel-funded startups; VC-funded startups; and larger, established companies attended. Most companies were very comfortable with just finding great developers and letting those developers learn (or create) their company's tech stack.

    From feedback on the event, both job seekers and companies primarily made decisions based on cultural fit because the overall quality of the attendees was so high. The event's language-agnostic approach provided optimum value to both job seekers and companies: many developers didn't want to work for a company that would pigeonhole them, and many companies believed that the best developers would be able to pick up whatever technology they used. However, some larger companies sought separate events for different languages (ex: one Java event, one Ruby event, etc). We'd love to hear what you think about both scenarios: specific language-focused events vs. language-agnostic events.


    When both a company and a job seeker wanted to contact each other, Hirelite alerted both parties of the match after the event. Companies and job seekers were free to share business cards and resumes at the event. This matching step ensured that companies and job seekers didn't waste time with parties that were not interested (in addition to ensuring that job seekers and companies had each other's contact information).

    Though the quality of both the job seekers and the companies was very high, not everyone got matched with everyone else due to the importance of cultural fit we mentioned above. Now for the data:
    • Companies wanted to connect with 46% of the job seekers they interviewed.
    • Job seekers wanted to connect with 57% of the companies they interviewed with.

    However, this difference in selectivity was not statistically significant. Additionally, it's important to note that the job seekers approached the companies (companies stayed and job seekers rotated), and speed dating research has shown the party being approached to be more selective.

    These wishes to connect translated into the following matching profile:
    • Companies received a match for 73% of the job seekers they wanted to connect with.
    • Job seekers received a match for 59% of the companies they wanted to connect with.
    • Of all the interviews, 34% resulted in a match.

    After attendees receive their matches, it's their responsibility to follow up with each other as Hirelite is not meant to replace the entire hiring process. Hirelite is a quick way to get people with technical talent directly in contact with companies that have a strong interest in hiring them.

    Next Up

    In our next post, we'll feature tips for both "speed interviewing" and traditional interviewing based on what we've seen. Follow us or sign up for email updates to be alerted when we post.

    Our next event is on Tuesday, April 27. As with our previous event, we're capping attendance to 20 companies and 20 job seekers, so register to reserve your spot.