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Writing Job Descriptions to Attract Technical Talent

Writing Job Descriptions to Attract Technical Talent
Dave Fecak
Recruiter and Writer of Job Tips for Geeks, Fecak Inc.

In a competitive market for hiring technical talent, attracting and eventually hiring the best candidates requires great attention to detail through every step in the process.  Your company/organization needs to make a positive impression at each interaction.  In many cases, the first opportunity to score some points with a potential new employee is a job description.

The responsibility of crafting the job description is often tasked to someone in recruiting or human resources.  If you view multiple job specifications that cross into both technical and non-technical departments from any one company, you should notice that much of the language is boilerplate.  This is a mechanism to save time, but it may not be the most effective way to attract candidates.  Technical professionals often have different job search criteria than their non-technical counterparts. 

Think of hiring companies as fishermen, and the job description is the bait.  Worms will work to attract certain types of fish, but you cannot expect to catch every type of fish by simply using worms, and you won't catch a freshwater fish by dropping your line in the ocean.  Customizing your job description based on the diet of the intended catch is the only way to maximize your bites.

So what are some key elements of a technical job description?  What do technical candidates look for when reviewing specs?

·  Roles and Responsibilities - Like most professionals, technologists obviously care about what they will be working on and how their contribution will impact the company.  Some may want leadership authority while others will steer clear of those roles.  Clearly define what tasks are involved with the job, and highlight those that involve product creation or new projects.

·  Technologies - The ability to work with newer tools and technologies is almost always preferred.  As technical job descriptions can sometimes be laden with buzzwords, try to emphasize any technologies that will be used that are hot in the marketplace and in demand as a skill.  Skilled technologists consider their career marketability when choosing jobs, and will favor positions where they can learn a new and valuable trick.

·  Teammates - The ability to work with and learn from others is a huge attraction to many technologists.  You will always run into some egos that want to be the most senior person in a group, but the best technologists usually achieve that status by working closely with other talented individuals.  If your team is high quality, find a way to qualify their credentials.  Does the team include professionals that worked on a well-known product or project?  Is the team involved in research that is receiving industry attention?

·  Culture and Environment - The overall culture of the company is not always indicative of the culture within technology departments.  Technologists tend to receive more favorable treatment in firms where technology is the major source of revenue, whereas firms that see technology as a necessary cost of business typically invest less in their employees.  Working with great teammates is a highly desirable feature, but it's only valuable when you actually get to see them.   Highlight how your teams collaborate to solve problems.  If your technology groups have some core values such as learning or sharing ideas, be sure to mention those as a way to attract like-minded individuals.

·  Compensation, Perks, and Differentiators - Almost all job requirements at some point will reference "competitive salary and benefits".  This tells candidates nothing.  You might as well just say that your firm will pay them the same as anyone else.  Use the job description as a way to highlight perks that have monetary value and aspects of your overall package that may differ from competitors.  Does your firm send employees to conferences, training, and special events?  Are there bonuses, flexible schedules, work-from-home time, or a unique PTO policy?

If you are an HR or recruiting professional who writes job descriptions, don't assume that your interests and job search criteria are the same as those of the candidates you want to hire.  Ask an employee in a similar role to your vacancy for a few minutes describing what they like most about their job and what attracted them to the company.

The competition in hiring technical talent can be cut-throat, and even small mistakes that produce a negative opinion of your company can be very costly.  Make your technical job descriptions stand out from your competitors by focusing on what those job seekers truly value, and you will find a more talented and qualified candidate pool.


Dave Fecak is a recruiter, blogger, writer, and technology user group leader that has spent the last 15 years helping companies attract, evaluate, and hire talent.  His Job Tips For Geeks (link http://jobtipsforgeeks.com) blog and book (link http://jobtipsforgeeks.com/book) feature content about resumes, interview tips, technology industry trends, and anything related to helping tech pros maximize their careers.

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