Technical job post tips for the desperate

For software engineering jobs, most companies, especially startups, just can't find qualified candidates, even after tapping their networks. If you're one of these companies who has more trouble sourcing (finding candidates) than screening (filtering out candidates that aren't a good match), here are a few tips to get your job post more attention. Some of these tips may require fundamental cultural shifts for your company.

List a salary - if good developers are on a job board at all, you need to let them know quickly whether or not your company is worth their time. Posting any salary information other than "comensurate with experience" or similar is a step in the right direction. For example, you could say, "Compensation is completely open, but here's what we have in mind: $90k + meaningful equity stake."

Say that you're comfortable with remote work - there is a huge pool of developers who don't live (or don't want to live) in your city. For companies in cities with a high cost of living, you can pay someone 10-20% less and fly them in once a month/quarter for an in-person meeting.

Drop the degree requirement - plenty of good developers didn't go to college, didn't finish college, or went to a community college. You're going to have to look more at experience and focus more on evaluating technical skills during interviews.

Guarantee the job only requires 40 hours per week - developers with families, startup aspirations, or other priorities have a tough time finding work in an industry where long hours are the norm. In your job post, underscore that your company works at a sustainable pace, rarely requires fire-fighting, and respects other priorities.

Guarantee a response - even great developers suffer from resume black holes. In your job post, state your timetable for making a hire and say that you'll respond to each response you get (even if it's a "no").

look like a recruitment agency - big job boards, especially Craigslist, Dice, and Monster, are overrun with headhunters who make job seekers jump through hoops to find out which company is hiring (so they can protect their massive fees). In your job title, call attention to your company by stating its name and optionally who posted the job description. A post from a tech lead or a CTO will help give developers confidence that their application will be understood. Example: instead of a job title, "Software Engineer", consider, "Software Engineer at (responses go to CTO)".

Offer to train people in a new language - there are times Java or .Net are the right tools for the job, but there are also a lot of developers who would prefer to be coding in Ruby, Python, Scala, etc. In your job post, say that you are willing to consider all good programmers and help them get up to speed on your tech stack.

Avoid Rock Star, Ninja, Guru, etc - Using these terms 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. For more detail, see What developers think when you say "Rock Star". (Thanks for reminding us of this one drivingmenuts)

Keep in mind, these tips are only for companies that have severe sourcing problems. These tips may produce orders of magnitude more resumes for you to look at (not all of which will be good), but there will definitely be a few good ones in the batch if you're willing to look for them.

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22 responses
I totally agree. I look for companies with these ingredients.
Spot on, every company should follow these guidelines!
1) How many "remote workers" do you have and 2) Are you putting in 40-hour weeks for HireLite?
@buddywilliams & @aforty - Thanks! It will be interesting to see if the demand for tech people drives these types of changes.

@hc5duke - 1) 0 remote workers and 2) No. Much more than 40 hours. These tips aren't for every company and some may actually clash with typical startup culture. They're to be used if you're getting desperate for candidates. For example: Facebook and Google certainly don't have a tough time attracting resumes. They have more of a screening problem. For startups or other companies that have a tough time getting any attention from developers, these tips, when combined with their own corporate culture, will help.

I was singling out those two, because they seem to fit very few startups. As you already know, startup employees need to work "flexible" hours, and having people thousands of miles away isn't good for creating a tight-knit group that is needed to succeed. I would argue that these two in particular are better suited for medium-to-large, established companies, and would actually hurt most startups. The rest of the bullet points seem reasonable though.
Some great points. The area that I currently live in, the IT shops here are clamoring for experienced coders, but treat people that offer to work off-site as if they have suggested they should sacrifice their first born, even if the remote work would only be an hour or two away. Yet they spend much then that trying to advertise people to move here that have IT experience (which they won't. Like Florida and Arizona, this area is God's waiting room). Makes no sense.
40 hours a week? That's outrageous. It would have to be very well compensated to work hours that long.
I wish hirelite was available in Atlanta, GA.
When Mohammed can't go to the mountain .......... maybe the mountain should get Skype/etc and focus on output opposed to physical presence !
When you need a H1B, the situation seems to be the opposite ... or am I looking at the wrong sites ?
It seems to me that people would accept anything for a H1B or Green Card ... what is wrong ?
I wish I had these tips in mind when I applied for the current job.
I need a developer for project X, starting on date Y with the title Z. These are the exact responsibilities and expectations I have of the candidate {list of responsibilities and expectations} and this is the compensation package on offer. References are required and will be checked, a technical examination will also be required prior to an interview.
Stupid comment cut off... ignore that last comment. <sigh />
Mention some of things you do right at the office. By which I do NOT mean free sodas/jelly beans/meaningless stuff. What I care about is the important stuff:

- every employee gets a $5K/year budget to spend on their work hardware
- aeron chairs
- 20% time
- charitable contribution match
- 401K match
- other money-related tangible, benefits
- no parking problems
- monthly mass transit provided by company
- most employees work at home 1 day a week / 2 days if in a commuter city e.g. SF
- you children will have free day care
- our insurance is good. with numbers, e.g. 2K annual dental limit.
- we do stuff that helps make the world a better place

And do not brag about how fucking young you all are. It just makes you sound ageist and naive.

Do not tell me that you have "casual Fridays" or "Hawaiian Shirt Fridays." BIG red flag that somebody is too anal. Every day should be casual, if people are doing work they love.

That should say "monthly mass transit pass."

These are just examples. YMMV.

Second the thing about rock star, ninja, guru, etc. I make amazing amounts of money for companies I work for, yet I am neither a rock star, nor a ninja, nor a guru.

Also watch out for job posts where 1/2 to 3/4 of the post talks about being a "team player" or something to that effect. It's fine if that is mentioned briefly, but it it's all they talk about in the job post, it gives me the impression that the workers at their company ARE NOT team players or that they've had problems with this issue in the past. I skip over these job postings.
Great post! I particularly like when you said drop the degree requirement. So of the best developers I've met don't have one and some of the worst ones I met do...
@Chris Reed - Interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing how remote tech jobs develop as the demand increases.

@Moschops - How did you get into your current job? I'm sure other developers would be very interested.

@buddywilliams - We'll get there soon (I'm actually from near Atlanta). How is the startup scene there?

@Jeremy - Words of wisdom :-) Thanks Jeremy.

@david - From what I see (mostly in the startup world), the cost and hassle of sponsoring someone is still considerable in the US. Some larger corporations are feeling the talent crunch and are starting to be more willing to sponsor.

@qna - Hopefully they'll help next time!

@Anon - Not stupid at all. How do you feel about references vs conducting your own technical skill assessment?

@Mark - Thanks for the additional tips. Those are some great benefit ideas. Found anywhere that has all/most of them?

@Chris - great point. Lately, I've seen a lot of job posts that imply the company has had a lot of turn over/disagreements with their developers. Seems like companies are having anyone look over their ads before sending them out.

@Rob - Thanks! It definitely varies from person to person whether the degree helps.

can we use "Righteous dude", instead of Rockstar? It's my new word.
oh and "Offer to train..." is a really good one.
@bradoyler hah. I'm on a ruby list that has started using frogmen as a joke.
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