Before starting with Rabbit, I worked with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as an IT manager. In mid-2013, our Web Development Manager position, a peer to mine, had been open for six months with very few qualified applicants. While the job was not a glamorous one — “CMS developer in academia” doesn’t have the sex appeal of a startup — we weren’t getting any bites on the job posting that HR was curating out on the Internet. My director came to me and asked what we should do about the position.
I mulled over the posting for a few days before making a few judicious edits. What I handed back had Web Development Manager crossed off and replaced with Lead Web Developer. Underneath the Requirements section, “at least two years of management experience” was replaced with “at least two years as a manager, team lead, or senior developer.” After some discussion, my changes were approved and HR uploaded the revised job posting.
We had an offer out to a candidate within two weeks.
Attracting great talent anywhere is hard. We tend to obsess over the job descriptions that we post, trying to find new and interesting ways to sell the company with unlimited vacation policies and fully-stocked fridges. Sometimes we appeal to the reader’s ego directly by using words like rockstar or ninja. But we tend to focus very hard on descriptive words, and we frequently ignore the deeper context buried in those words.
What we wanted was somebody to develop frontend and backend code and delegate tasks to two other team members. While there were management responsibilities as part of the job description, the core of the job was to be an individual contributor. When we put Manager in the job title, and over-emphasized management experience in our requirements, we immediately communicated to anyone reading the posting that our open position spent most of the day doing manager-y things like talking to stakeholders and curating Gantt charts. Everything else we put in that job description might as well not have even been there.
If you want to attract the best candidates you can, you might be taking the wrong approach by trying to sell them on the company first. Your goal should be to figure out why the day-to-day work is meaningful, tap into that, and tie the organization back into the pitch. And if the job title in the posting happens to be an impediment to getting that point across, don’t be afraid to change it.