Startup CTO: How to Write a Job Listing for Software Engineers

By Mark Siebert on September, 10 2019

A great job listing is critical to attracting the sort of talent you’re looking for. Including the right information and setting good expectations about the type of position you’re offering not only turns away unqualified applicants, but can also excite the type of person you’re seeking. In this part of our series on hiring software engineers as the CTO of a startup, we explore Blue Matador’s approach to writing job listings and the insights I’ve gained in this part of the CTO experience.

How to Write a Job Listing for Software Engineers

If you haven’t sat down and thought about the type of person you’d like to hire, checkout the first post in this series before writing the job listing. Being intentional about the person you’re trying to attract will help you write a better job listing.

If you’re interested, here are links to the rest of this series:

  1. Introduction to Hiring Software Engineers
  2. How to Write a Job Posting for Software Engineers (this post)
  3. How to Screen Software Engineers (coming soon)
  4. How to Interview Software Engineers (coming soon)
  5. How to Onboard a New Software Engineer (coming soon)

Job Description

The average job description is filled with details about the company’s product or financials. However, your software engineer’s average work day rarely has much to do with what your startup is selling (and they will google your business if they are interested in the position). Describe the position in one or two sentences, and then move onto the real point of the job description:

A good job description should be focused on convincing potential candidates to apply. An active job searcher will be sifting through hundreds of possible jobs, and you need to convince them that your startup is a good enough fit for them to take action and apply. 

As you write the job description, avoid clichés and buzzwords like “passionate,” “data-driven,” or “detail oriented.” Not only are most of these adjectives almost impossible to quantify in the interview, but they are more likely to be instilled as products of your startup culture and processes. Software engineers do not think, “I’m passionate so I should apply for this job.”

Instead, use your limited space to share about your company culture and philosophy. For example, in our latest job posting, I included the following line:

You'll be part of a tight-knit group that values pragmatism. We believe in teams, not "rockstar developers."

You'll be part of a tight-knit group that values pragmatism. We believe in teams, not "rockstar developers."

A number of people commented on how refreshing they found this part of our job listing. Talking about your values will humanize you and set you apart from the crowd. It will also serve to attract people who resonate with your culture, making it more likely that your eventual hire will mesh well with your team. 

 

Your Stack

Listing your application stack is one of the most critical aspects of a good job posting. Software developers are often passionate about the languages and tools they love; the stack can be a deciding factor in whether or not to take a job. In fact, our latest hire found our listing because he was searching for companies that used the Scala programming language. 

This section should be a bulleted list so it can be quickly scanned or searched in the engine you post the position to. 

 

Minimum Qualifications

Many job postings confuse the “application stack” with “minimum qualifications.” Specific technologies are listed as requirements, overlooking the fact that they are merely tools to get the job done. Good programmers are comfortable learning new languages and frameworks throughout their career. 

If you don’t trust someone to learn the tools your company uses, you shouldn’t hire them. You want to hire people who are capable of growing as the technological needs of your startup change.

Restrict this list to true minimum requirements. It is meant to exclude only people who are absolutely unqualified for the position. For example, in my latest job post for Blue Matador, I included only requirements for experience, a CS degree (or equivalent experience), and working in-office.

 

Benefits

Finally, close out your job posting by listing the benefits of working for your startup. These include typical benefits like retirement plans, healthcare, vacation, and food, but can include other unorthodox perks that your company offers. Maybe you have monthly team activities, flexible work schedules, or an onsite gym. In any case, consider the things that you may take for granted because you’ve been working at your startup for a while and have gotten used to them.

rafting
Blue Matador float trip down the Provo River 2019

 

By talking about your company culture first and then finishing with benefits, your job posting leave an appealing first and last impression on the type of person you’d like to hire. Remember, it is your responsibility to use the job listing to sell software engineers on working for you.

 

Next Steps

Once you’ve written a job listing for the software engineer you’d like to hire, you’ll need to determine which of the applicants are qualified. In the next post, we’ll talk about how to screen applicants and find the ones that warrant an in-office interview, and eventually a job offer.

  1. Introduction to Hiring Software Engineers
  2. How to Write a Job Posting for Software Engineers (this post)
  3. How to Screen Software Engineers (coming soon)
  4. How to Interview Software Engineers (coming soon)
  5. How to Onboard a New Software Engineer (coming soon)
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