First of all, good developers don't read job descriptions because when they are in need or feel for a new job, good developers have friends or a network of other developers and tech people to reach out in case they are looking for a new job. That means that these people rarely read a job ad, and if so, your job ad must be on point in a way that someone is actually reading it and ultimately it should evoke the feeling of applying to the offered position.
Make use of this limited chance when someone is looking at a job offer, make it stand out otherwise you won't have a chance to attract anyone. So keep this in mind.
The good (or bad) news is, it is quite easy to stand out, because most job ads are built the same way, providing the same useless and generic information, not being specific and following the same pattern that has been there for a long time. When I read any job offer today, it could also have been written in the 1990ies. It feels like some manager in a company gives the order to Joe Shmoe in the company who never wrote a job offer, and that person just copies a random job offer which is out there, exchanges the company name and a few other parts and there you go.
The structure looks like this:
Intro PR text aka “we are the best company in the world”
Pseudo task overview like “as a programmer you will be programming”
Really broad and generic qualifications
Bland and more generic benefits
The secret salary as closing highlight
In a nutshell, it is mostly entirely generic, stating the obvious, not going into detail and more than often you have no idea what you will do concretely. Applicants won't have a clear picture of what is there to come. What is your problem of not being able to be specific? Being specific is huge because all the job offers are lacking specificity and the easiest way to stand out. What is going on in your minds – “come in and find out”?
It’s time to face reality. We have a candidate market, and not only since yesterday. Currently we face a shortage of 137.000 IT specialists. The other question is: Who do you want to attract with this structure of your job ad? You are looking for the best people, and the best you come up with is this? It is your job to attract people, long gone are the days where it was the other way round. This mindset is outdated like 20 years. A few companies still think people are really in need of the job they offer. Say hello to Gen Z and “bare minimum Mondays” (amongst other Gen Z mindset shifts). You will have a tough time is an underestimated statement.
So let’s do it right.
You are selling not the other way round
Think of the job ad as a product you want to sell to your dream candidates. This is the point where a dedicated copywriter or a creative HR person comes into play. Your job ad is like a sales landing page – you want it to convert highly, so make sure you hook readers and don’t let them go until they read through. And in this process, create vivid mental images and motivate the reader to apply to the offered position instantly.
Welcome to the age of video
Especially Gen Z but also more and more people of other generations prefer to consume content in a motion picture format. It is the single best format to transport your message, spread motivation and create the mental images we spoke before. Inspire, be specific and still leave some room for curiosity that candidates are eager to apply to your position. You can apply the following structure also to your video format. Squeeze it into 60 seconds of a YouTube short, because brevity is appealing to see all of it. From the video you can still link to the (more detailed) job ad page with the application form or functionality.
About the company
So let's start at the top. Talking about PR text. I think it's totally okay, if you advertise what your company is doing and what it achieved, but quickly change into how is the applicant going to contribute to the company's success? Every company's success is the direct result of their employees. So what is their role? And how can they contribute? No one cares if you put a boring and long PR text out, which basically all reads the same – no one's gonna read it and the likelihood that you lose an applicant already here is high. People have read this a thousand times before and therefore no one cares anymore. Write a PR text, where people see how they can contribute to further success of the company, which is exciting, which creates a picture in their mind about how exciting it will be and what they will do.
Pseudo task description
Get to the point of what is to do. Give real world examples of tasks the person will fulfill. Burn your generic phrases – for example, as a software developer, you're going to develop software, work agile and in a team. Really, no way, who would have thought? Write down in what team the applicant will be working. Write down exactly what is doing. And at this point, it makes sense that colleagues share their experience – let them write this part. Because they know best and it is also the ideal place to show what the company culture is? I don't see this often in job ads. And this is also huge, because the culture is like the single most important thing in every company. Picture the culture, what makes you different from other companies?
Broad and generic qualifications
Then it continues with the qualifications which are often again just another generic non-specific list of qualifications. Let the future colleagues speak up again and tie it directly to the specific tasks which you laid out before. Connect the dots and complete the picture. Don’t forget to paint a motivating or exciting picture of the job description, it’s still your job to attract people into this position. If possible, display how the company culture is interwoven at any point of your job description.
Bland and more generic benefits
Something I read in every job ad are sentences like this:
A challenging, interesting and varied job
Good development and training opportunities
Flexible working hours with flexitime
Pleasant working atmosphere in a young, motivated, growing team
So how do you know, this job is challenging, interesting and varied for me? And why is there a pleasant working atmosphere? Again. Be specific. Often you can easily explain things with half a sentence. Make readers understand. Burn your wishy-washy vacuous statements, name the development and training opportunities, make me understand what is in for me?
The secret salary
And finally the secret salary. So you think you don't have to put this down and you can hide this? Sure, I understand that the salary can and will vary from candidate to candidate. Fair enough. Give a range, so everyone and especially the top talents understand what is possible if they apply all of their magic. Again, you want to attract people. Not mentioning anything or vague statements will have the effect that people think you won’t pay a good salary and that you don’t value your employees. And a place that doesn't value people is a place where nobody wants to be.
Effective job advertising has changed dramatically and requires a targeted, engaging and specific approach that focuses on the candidate. Traditional, generic job ads will not attract developers (let alone the best) in this talent-driven market. Companies need to think of their job ads as a product that they sell to potential candidates. At a time when video content is in high demand, moving image formats are often better at promoting the company's message, as well as being more motivating. The job advertisement must explicitly and convincingly present the company, the role, the tasks and, above all, the company culture and a salary range. With this approach, potential employees can imagine how they can contribute to the success of the company, which promotes a sense of belonging and motivation.