On September 24, we published a blog post that we were looking for a new employee. We didn’t advertise on any job listing sites (even though there are some really good ones out there). We tweeted about it a few times, but most of our publicity was that single post. We received more than 70 applications for the job by email. We were truly impressed by the applicant pool– multiple well known international speakers and Microsoft Certified Masters applied for the job.
When I talk to hiring managers, I hear that it’s hard to find good SQL Server pros for a job these days. How did we attract such cool people?
The secret to getting employees that don’t suck: Write a job advertisement that doesn’t suck.
1. Explain what YOU will do for the employee
Most job ads are written as a list of demands of the employee. You MUST have experience with X. You really ought to know about Y and Z. Good luck if you can’t recite eight decimals of PI.
We explained what the job would be like for the employee. We clearly listed a couple of requirements that employees must have. But we also devoted lots of time to describing what we will do for the employee. This means you must describe not only standard benefits, like time off, but also explain:
- Training you’ll offer employees
- Other opportunities they’ll have to learn
- Whether or not flexible time/ working from home is available
- If you pay for certification attempts or job growth
- Times the employee doesn’t have to be on-call, and support processes that keep them from being randomized
Don’t make the common mistake of assuming people will think the job is awesome. Smart, talented, experienced people won’t just assume that at all– they’ll look for all the hidden signs that the job isn’t awesome. Show them what you’ll do for them!
2. Ask what you really want to know– and don’t ask for a resume
Are you hiring someone to write resumes as part of their job? If so ask for a resume. If not, why bother? Resumes tell you very little about an applicant. If you must have one as part of your HR requirements, you can get it later in the process.
In your job ad, ask for what you really want instead of a resume. Brent, Jeremiah and I worked together to figure out what basic things we could ask that would indicate whether the candidate would thrive in this job over time. We whittled down the list as much as possible to keep it simple. We asked for two things:
- Recent speaking experience
- A description of how the applicant has contributed to a technial community.
And that’s it. That’s all we wanted.
Asking for something out of the ordinary helps you understand your applicants. You can see how they think in answer your questions, rather than receiving a resume prepared for general consumption (and possibly crafted by a resume writing pro). You also save time by evaluating applicants against your specific criteria early, rather than having to hash that out later in phone interviews.
3. Have a personality. Ideally, your own personality.
We wrote our ad in the style of a “Missed Connection.” We like to play around with writing, and we like to have fun. We took the time to write our ad in a style that represents us honestly. If you’re not dry, boring, and corporate, don’t fill your ad entirely with bullet points and corporate-speak.
Understand that smart talented applicants see your ad as a description of who you are. If you like to have fun at work and want to attract fun people, show it!
How’d we know this stuff?
We’re naturally creative and charming (and modest). We followed our own experience, and it worked. But we also like data. Specifically, we like the data and conclusions drawn from the folks over at Stack Exchange on How to Write a Great Developer Job Listing.