Attracting Startup Talent: The Technical Job Description

Attracting Startup Talent

Attracting Startup Talent

A world of its own, the technical job description is a difficult beast to tackle. This is the transitional gateway that allows tech talent to go from understanding your company as a whole, to considering employment with you. There is a lot of literature out there on crafting great job descriptions, a lot of contradicting ideas, and a bunch of talk about how they’re ineffective and a thing of the past. While there may be newer ways to go about attracting startup talent, in most cases, we still presume that job descriptions are a critical component of the hiring process.

The written job description can be truly challenging. In a recruiting role, you want to share enough information to target the people you’re looking for, but not to the extent potential candidates on the fringes are excluded. It can be frustrating from a recruiter’s perspective when great candidates decline the exploration of an opportunity because they don’t match the written job description. Many times, a recruiter knows that the hiring party would still want to speak with such candidates. Great care must be taken when crafting position descriptions; though it may not be the case, descriptions appear to be written in stone, even when they are really written in sand.

Taking the above into consideration, job descriptions are crucial to the success of most hiring situations. Effective job descriptions are made up of three main components: the company’s information, the position’s description, and the requirements for that position.

1) The Company Information: For company information, clarity, brevity, and realism are essential. For instance, to boast your company as the “best something-or-other” ends up being little more than a soundbite among a vast ocean of other company descriptions. If you have a solid, well known brand behind you, then that changes things. For the rest of us, a more effective solution would be to craft a deeper description with more factual points. What is your product? Your industry? Your market? Where are you in your development? Have you launched? What are your company’s greatest strengths? What are your top priorities over the next year? How about the next three years? The list can go on.The point is that, so long as you don’t let it go out of control, details are more valuable than sound bites.

2) The Position’s Description: This can be a tough one, as many companies are making a technical hire to address important solutions that they themselves don’t fully understand how to accomplish. How do you capture essential high caliber tech candidates when you aren’t quite sure what the job will look like or what your company needs in its entirety? Rather than fumbling through an inaccurate description, you can just as easily describe what they will be working on, the challenges you’re currently encountering and ones that they will in the future. A level of brevity, honesty and bluntness can go much further than an elaborate montage of detail. You won’t scare anyone off. On the contrary, high-quality tech talent will have gone through this situation before, and will probably expect it again.

3) The Job Requirements: Getting your requirements down on paper can present the same challenges as well. An easy place to start is with the programming languages. Even if you have no clue what Java looks like, chances are you do know whether or not it’s necessary for the role in question. You will probably know the bones of your technology, what framework is being used, what technologies are incorporated and what your data needs look like. In most cases, there will be some incorporation of HTML, CSS and Javascript along the way, although unless the position is specific to front end development, their inclusion is generally unnecessary. As an exercise, list out the programming languages that you think will be utilized at some point along the way. Then pick the 3 or 4 that are absolutely essential, and treat the remainder as nice to haves. THEN, do this with all of the job requirements. Most of the thigns that you think are essential end up being nice-to-have’s that ultimately have little impact on the work at hand.

Remember, the point of a job description is to accurately inform the reader about the job at hand. A successful job description will attract a broad group of qualified (being the key word) candidates, while at the same time provide enough ambiguity to prevent the alienation of those qualified individuals. In the end, you will be better off attracting a diverse group of candidates and vetting them yourself, instead of getting too specific with a narrow and ultra specific write-up of the position. After all, some of the more important aspects of hiring cannot be tackled in a job description, such as chemistry, cultural fit, personality, mindset and work philosophy. There are hundreds of thousands of developers and programmers out there who will match your needs on paper, but only a handful that will meet your skill requirements and also match the soft aspects of your company.

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