At Stack Overflow it’s our mission to match great employers and developers looking for new opportunities. However, our mission doesn’t end with providing smart targeting to show job listings only to the developers with the relevant skill set. We also help companies to better understand their audience and draft job listings that resonate. To be able to do this, we commit to continuous research into which job listings perform best. We go beyond click-through and apply-rates and take the time for qualitative research with candidates you’ll be looking to hire. Here are some of the things developers told us during our last 1:1 interviews in June 2019.
From prior research, we know that developers care a lot about salary, tech stack, remote work, and the culture within a development team. These findings were echoed in what they look for in a job listing: The number one priority was salary. A near-unanimous second was tech stack and skills required. We summarized some of the things developers told us about job listings into a 3 item cheat sheet to help you optimize your listing and capture the attention of the best talent.
You’d be surprised how many job listings lack crucial information. “Compensation is the largest for almost anyone,” one US-based C++-developer with over 10 years experience told us. “That's the number that catches your eye.” Along with catching the eye, it also gets you the desired clicks. Our own tests have shown that including a salary range in your listing results in a 75% higher clickrate. Now, you’re probably thinking, well, of course, offering more money attracts more attention, but it’s not about offering a huge salary. We saw a boost in CTR regardless of whether or not your company is on the high or low end of the salary range.
Job listings which include a salary range got 75% more clicks than job listings that don’t.
If you are still not sure what salary range is right for a particular listing or a first-time role you are trying to fill, check out our Salary Calculator to see what salaries look like for developers all over the world.
Once the compensation question is out of the way, most developers focus on the tech stack and the requirements for the role. Note that these are not necessarily the same thing. While you should describe in as much detail as possible which tools your team uses and why they use them, we don’t recommend making all the technologies a requirement for the job. It is important to differentiate between a core set of required skills, and those that are just nice to have. We find it’s usually best to describe how your team works, and then leave it up to the developer to decide if they would be a good fit. As the C++ developer put it, “It’s not that I would have to be a direct match for [all the technologies in the tech stack], but a high quality posting for me would list these things in detail.”
Some interviewees expressed that they often feel they don’t see how the outlined requirements match the job title. This sounds like it should be a simple thing to fix, but from our conversations with developers, it happens quite often. Many listings include vague information, have duties that are not relevant to the title, or have confusing job titles that don’t clarify what the role and responsibilities would be. As the VP of engineering of a startup knows too well, “companies just use general placements and recycle ads.”
Recycling job listings or reposting new openings with minor tweaks isn’t effective, and can actually be self-defeating. Taking the time to truly understand each posting and describing how a role will impact the overall company’s success can have a strong employer branding effect. Some interviewees implied that they assessed culture by seeing whether the job listing gives them a clear indicator of why they should apply for the role, as well as a clear picture of benefits and perks. After 15 years of experience, the VP put it plainly: “I want to know what connects me to that specific job.”
Job listings that were considered top quality by our respondents were those that gave enough information about the job, the company, and its mission. Developers want to form a full impression of the role and the workplace, and they like when a company goes the extra mile by providing photos of their potential office in the listing.
One thing that developers like even less than missing information and weak descriptions are job listings full of fluff and marketing clutter. Clear and accurate job listings that were tailored to the specific job opening were praised as being high quality, whereas overly brief listings, cluttered listings, or generic bulleted lists were labeled as low quality.
We heard several complaints, like this one from a senior software engineer at a large global software company, about “job postings that have a lot of fillers or marketing material in it.” Respondents would prefer this additional information live on a website linked from the post, and not overload the job listing itself.
For a job listing to convince developers, it should offer specific details that will entice them. When you see your listings perform badly in tests, start a conversation in your team. Recruiters can get specific information from the hiring managers, team leads, or the developers who will be this employee’s peers. The more details you can provide, the more you can explain the role and how it works with your tech stack, and the less filler and marketing copy you lean on, the better your chances are to attract developers to your open position.