What Programmers Want
The developers in our office were more interested in the job postings that focused on culture and opportunities, while caring very little about requirements or even benefits.
A hiring manager thinks about what he needs: a programmer skilled in [x, y, z] languages, n years experience, and [arbitrary criteria].
There are likely thousands of candidates who meet these requirements, and many of them will not meet the manager’s needs. Meanwhile, there are likely thousands of candidates who do not meet these requirements but would be perfect in that position. The biggest problem is that the manager won’t find the people who will fit, whether or not they meet the minimum requirements. That’s because he’s thinking about his needs, rather than the employee’s.
The best marketers think about the customer’s needs and desires and speak to those. A good job listing does the same.
Do it right
A great example of a job listing that does this: Rails Developer at The University of Iowa
It starts off with the usual, somewhat dry requirements. But then it dedicates the rest of the posting to the prospective employee’s real interests: culture and benefits.
Our culture reflects a work-hard play-hard mentality where flip-flops and shorts are considered business casual. Our office is located on The University of Iowa main campus overlooking the beautiful Iowa River and is a five-minute walk from downtown Iowa City.
Flip-flops and shorts, a downtown area nearby, and a good view of the river. Iowa is betting that programmers will be attracted to this – it’s the polar opposite of Dilbert world of tie-wearing programmers trapped in cubicle dungeons. I’d bet they have cool offices and let their people work flexible hours, too. They have to overcome the perception of what it’s like to live and work in Iowa.
A mini study of job postings
In an unscientific study of about 20 job listings from the 37 Signals job board, I rated each posting based on the proportions dedicated to requirements, benefits, culture, and opportunities. I found that the developers in our office were more interested in the job postings that focused on culture and opportunities, while caring very little about requirements or even benefits. A fun place to work trumps a place that pays well. A job that advertises how it can propel your career is far more attractive than ones that talk about specific skills they’re asking for.
Job Postings : Commercials :: Culture : Marketing
A job posting is an advertisement. As I often tell clients, marketing doesn’t get tacked on to the end of a project. Marketing starts with the product itself. If you make your product inherently attractive, then marketing practically becomes invisible. This is how it is with employers, too. The job is the product, and you have to make the job attractive. Culture, opportunities, and benefits are all parts of the job that make employees want to work there.
Just as a hiring manager must sift through many resumes to find the best ones, an amazing employee must sift through many listings in hopes of finding the perfect job. If you’re struggling to find top employees, look to your listing.