It would probably be a huge shock to most CTOs and People Teams that the business concept they believe in so passionately and the trusts that they know about their employer are not willingly understood by talented tech staff seeking employment. For such progressive businesses it’s odd that an outdated attitude to hiring is still pervasive, namely “if someone is interested in working for us they should make the effort to know why we are a great business”.
Generic job descriptions don’t attract top talent
If we flick through a pile of recent job specifications from Series A or B funded businesses that ambitious techies should really want to work for, we notice something quite odd. None of these companies stand out.
The CTO and the incredibly lean, debt-free environment he’s created thanks to years spent honing the IT operations of six major brands every developer in London respects, has vanished.
The role has no future, only a requirement to possess a list of skills the importance of which it’s quite hard to quantify because, like the CTO, method of working and tech stack, they’ve been reduced to bullet-pointed buzzwords that quite honestly could mean anything.
Is this tech truly adopted? Is it in adoption? Is it what an applicant must bring with them or something to learn? Most current job specifications generate far more questions than they actually answer.
Go beyond #Buzzwords
Let’s imagine for just one minute that the perfect applicant isn’t buried under a day’s-worth of voicemails from 30 different recruiters and twenty similar job specifications they haven’t asked for and decides to research you as an employer.
What will he find out? Perhaps the odd Github account; maybe a presentation given by a CTO; some background on the CEO; details of a recent investment; bitter hearsay on Glassdoor?
Quite possibly all of the above, but none of this is the controlled, personalised message a progressive employer wants future high-demand tech staff to absorb.
So here is your first opportunity to take greater ownership of hiring communication. Use a Vacancy Brief to illustrate how everything that’s unique about your business proposition, your CEO and your CTO, has led to the team, the technology and the future on which target applicants should base their next career move.
Unlike words from one of twenty recruiter’s mouths, this brief is perceived by applicants as coming direct from a CTO and therefore as completely accurate and reliable. It is unique information that cannot be gathered from research and unlike the typical job specification, is tailored to engage applicants from the very first.
Sell your company and why you matter
As someone with responsibility for hiring staff, you understand the business you work in. The person you wish to employ, however, does not.
They need to know the value you deliver to the customers you choose to serve. Who is the customer? Why do they have a problem? What does your firm do that solves it? Why does no one else do this? Why are you uniquely positioned to serve them better than anyone else?
Describe the interaction this customer has with your business. Where is the business now in terms of size and place, and where does it intend to be? Keep in mind that, rather than a key reason applicants are going to want to work for you, what your business does is more a “truth frame” for the real reasons they should want to work for you: technology, colleagues and career prospects.
There are two parts to this: business and tech. Leading from the description of your business, frame the software that underpins it.
For example, you probably have a back end system that gathers or processes data in some way.
- Who are your data suppliers?
- How does the system capture information from them?
- What does it do with it once it has?
This system, in turn, probably communicates with a front end via a messaging tool, or perhaps your front end just interfaces with third-party APIs? Outline what the Front End delivers to customers and what the challenges of doing this are.
Now get into the technology itself. Don’t be tempted to list randomly.
Describe how Agile the department actually is; if Jenkins is used, explain the extent and whether it follows into Continuous Deployment; if a back end is hugely complex that probably means full-stack developers will spend more time on it so be clear about what’s being used and how much; Selenium may have been implemented but are developers doing QA, if so how much of it?
Applicants must be able to picture themselves working with this stack or there is no real point describing it.
Highlight opportunities to learn and grow
Applicants also want to see examples of what your firm has achieved for individuals whose knowledge or position they can aspire to. Most businesses are completely silent on this, which is their biggest asset in securing new staff. Be specific here. Pick the team’s three top-performing members and tell us a bit about the level they joined at, what they’ve achieved since and how it was your particular business – with its debt-free stack, brilliant proposition, confidence-boosting investment and inspiring CTO – that allowed them to do this.
Clumping a role description in with things job seekers must already have done in order to apply is confusing.
Instead there should be clear separation, with required skills outlined based on applicants adding value over a two-year – rather than three-week – period. NB. If three-week value is needed, hire a contractor!
If not, differentiate between the actions someone will perform in the role (perhaps creating user stories with a Product Owner and going on to code them in Ruby) against what they must have already done (ability to develop Ruby code, basic Agile knowledge).
By allowing a learning curve in Agile, a good Ruby Developer can be retained for the time it will take them to perfect that knowledge, at which point the introduction of functional languages (or some other, similar, advance) will give them something new to get stuck into. Be under no illusion – no matter how exciting a business or how ambitious a growth plan tech, staff need new challenges and learning opportunities to feel motivated. If they don’t have them, they will go looking for them.
CEOs don’t fear to create business plans on the basis they might not deliver on them. CTOs should follow this example by framing roles within the growth plan of the department to show where the position may go over time and how this will benefit the incumbent.
In the above example, gaining knowledge of Agile is a simple selling point, but let’s add exposure to functional languages (because they’re definitely coming) and acknowledge that at least two people in this team need to become leads within the next 18 months.
With clarity around what this particular hire could learn or gain in this role should they choose to, questions are being answered as opposed to created.
The results? Immediate applicant engagement
By implementing all of the above into role briefs, the result will be immediate engagement with applicants who prioritise your business over others. It may be that your firm is no more attractive than those other businesses, but by grasping the opportunity that exists to speak directly to applicants bogged down with low-information opportunities at the earliest phase of their job search you will be perceived as a stand out employer. Your future staff now know where they can go and who they will work with, and this has been framed as a simple story linked to CTO, founder and firm that they can readily believe in.
Talent Point introduce the concept of vacancy briefs linked to defined campaigns to all our customers as a fundamental part of best practise hiring. Here are the typical reactions we receive from applicants.
In my next blog I’ll explore building on this initial engagement to ensure the experience an applicant has across their contact with a recruiter and then at interview can be used to keep them engaged over the countless other opportunities they will continue to be presented with.
Post produced in partnership with Talent Point.