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So, you need to hire 5 developers…yesterday. Chances are, you’re feeling the heat to get those roles filled as fast as possible. Your next move is critical, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of bringing in anyone who’s even remotely qualified. Using “recruitment math,” you may ultimately determine that you'll need to screen nearly 200 applicants in order to filter down to the 5 that eventually get the job.

But it’s time to stop the numbers game. At the end of the day, you don’t really want more applicants—you want better ones. So instead of spinning your wheels with dozens of excess, take a critical look at how you can optimize this process by focusing on quality instead of quantity. Of course, defining quality is not a “one size, fits all” model. It’s not just about whether the candidate is skilled enough for the job; it’s also whether they would be a good fit for your team. Think about your recruiting strategy as both a filter and a magnet: You ideally want to screen out unqualified candidates while attracting the ones who are most likely to succeed. Here, our 5 tips on how to fine-tune your quality control in your job listings:

1. Clearly define the role.

Take a look at applicants that you rejected in the past and dig deeper into why they didn’t make it through the process. If you notice trends in their lack of experience or missing requirements, you might need to change the way you describe the position in your job listing. If your description is too vague, it’s easier to misinterpret the role, so you may end up with a large pool of unqualified candidates rather than a smaller pool of highly focused talent.

2. Explicitly describe the type of person who would succeed.

This one is key for both filtering quality talent and attracting the real go-getters. Use some real estate in your job listing to talk about characteristics or traits of someone who would be successful at that job. Even things like, “someone who’s comfortable with active criticism” can start to paint a clear picture of what it would be like to work on your team. Those extra details will help candidates on the fence make a more informed application decision.

3. Show your company’s personality.

Write about your job opportunities the way that you would actually talk to candidates. If you’re a funky team with a creative product to sell, be clever and creative in the way you write about it. Link to photos of your office, your fun recruitment video, or even profiles of some of your current team. Every little piece adds to the impression you’re giving off, so you’ll end up attracting the type of candidates who are more likely to fit the culture you’ve cultivated.

4. Ask for something customized.

Whether it’s a code test or a cover letter, requiring anything customized instantly trims down your applicant pool to candidates who actually want to work for you. This extra step forces candidates to self-filter before they apply. It will limit the number of applications that you receive, but it also means that you won’t talk to people who are blindly applying to every company.

5. Explain your applicant screening process upfront.

If you vet quality with a very structured interview process, share all of the details with candidates so they know what to expect. At Stack Overflow, all of our developers need to take a test and interview with several members of the team, including our VP of Engineering. We created this process because we’re so focused on hiring people who will mesh well together. If a candidate is turned off by our process, then we know they wouldn’t be a good fit.  

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