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Writing Job Ads that Attract Top Talent

Finding the right talent is one of the biggest challenges for emerging tech companies. 

In a candidate’s market, highly skilled employees are in demand, and there are more job openings than there are qualified applicants. Which means that if you’re searching for a key position on your team, you’ll want to do everything in your power to fill your recruitment pipeline with highly skilled applicants. 

There should be a big difference between the “laundry list” job description that is typically generated by HR for internal processes, and the job description you post online/share with potential candidates. In a crowded market where candidates have many options, your job ad is your first opportunity to sell your mission and vision to the candidate, and initiate the application process. 

As you start to craft your message, it’s important to recognize that no matter how your post is written, you will end up with unqualified applicants—and probably a lot of them. In a perfect world you’d only hear from folks who meet the requirements—but under-qualified candidates often apply for anything and everything that sounds even remotely interesting. Someone will have to sift through those applications to find the qualified folks in the pile.

We recommend that you write your job description to directly address the top 1% of talent. Think about a candidate who would solve all your problems and be a dream fit—what do they need to know about your opportunity that will inspire them to apply? Write to them, and them alone. 

Think about a Director of Sales role: what sounds more compelling to you? 

“In this role, you will manage day to day coaching of junior reps, oversee input into our CRM, track KPIs, lead individual and group training, step in to help close deals, and oversee performance management.” 

OR: 

“Your mission will be to lead and inspire a team of 6, as they work to double revenues in the next year.” 

A highly qualified candidate will know what needs to happen in the day to day of leading a sales team—they don’t need the laundry list. They are more likely to be excited by the opportunity to lead a team and impact the bottom line of the organization. They will intuitively understand the tactics that will get them there, because they’ve done it before. On the other hand, an unqualified candidate might look at the list of tactics, and think “I can do that,” even though they don’t have the underlying strategic chops to pull it off. 

We recommend that you keep your job description to three sections: a bit about your organization, a summary of the mission of the role, and your must-have requirements for a candidate. 

Overview of your company: 

Tell your prospective candidates a bit about who you are and what you do. What makes your company an exciting place to work? Brag a little here—have you won any awards, secured a round of funding, or seen strong growth year over year? Your reader should have a sense of the scope of the problem you’re solving, the size of the company, and the flavour of your culture. 

The Mission of the Role:

What is the problem you’re hiring to solve? What will your incoming candidate “own” as part of their role? In this section, you want to paint a compelling picture of what success will look like. 

Resist the temptation to list all the tactics that the role will employ—for the most part, qualified prospective employees don’t want to hear about what the day-to-day will look like. They already know that they’re going to have to make sales calls, update the CRM, attend meetings, etc. 

One way to approach this: imagine that you’ve had this person in the role for a year, they’ve been incredibly successful, and you’re prepping for a one-year review. What will that person have achieved? How will they have added value to your team? That success story is perfect for this section. 

Your Requirements:

In this section, focus on the career milestones and accomplishments your ideal candidate will have under their belt. Think about the professional story your ideal candidate will be able to tell—increasing revenue, hitting key targets, leading teams who get results, etc. 

Don’t frame your requirements in terms of “years of experience.” Would you rather have a rock star who’s achieved incredible results in 3 years, or a mediocre employee who’s been in their role for 8 years? Think instead about accomplishments and specific experience, and write this section for candidates who have those stories to tell. 

Clearly indicate requirements that are “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” (And before you sit down to write the ad, it’s smart to have an in-depth conversation about this internally so that you’re crystal clear on what you really need). 

We also recommend that you don’t get too caught up on experience working with a particular tech stack unless it’s absolutely essential (i.e. it’s a developer position, in which case that will be essential). Top talent will be able to learn to use new tools fairly quickly.

* * * * * 

Crafting compelling messaging about your job opportunity is often the first step on the road to finding your next hire. We like to think of recruiting as a marketing activity—figuring out the messaging that portrays the value of your opportunity, and finding ways to distribute that message to your target audience. As you prepare for your next hire, keep these tips in mind to increase your chances of attracting the top talent your business needs.

Are you ready to build a team that drives revenue? Book a consult with our friendly and knowledgeable team of recruiting consultants. We help early-stage, high-growth companies move from startup to enterprise by building effective teams.