May 13, 2017

Your tech job posting is broken. Here’s how to fix it


Over a year ago I wrote on the subject of empathetic hiring and how we’re still failing to make it efficient, respectful and inclusive. Changing employers can be frequent in the rapidly growing tech industry, and it’s reasonably easy to hear fellow developers opinions about what went well and not so great:

Overall, I found the process to be dehumanising, stressful, chaotic, inaccurate, opaque.

There are innumerable amounts of tech job postings. A good deal of them are gendered to favour male candidates, full of meaningless buzzwords and failing to picture what the job actually requires, let alone mentioning what you’ll get in return. We need to fix this.

It’s a complex undertaking, incredibly hard to get right, let alone offer generic advice on. Nonetheless, I’d like to gather my personal experiences from both sides of the process, hopefully empowering you to improve.


Use inclusive language

Sadly, it’s still fairly frequent to see “ninjas”, “gurus”, “rockstars”, “unicorns” (often derogatory to bisexual individuals) or “gangsters” (yes, gangsters, believe it or not) being sought after.

Hero-worshipping and harmful clichés not only fail to describe the person you’re looking for but also do a marvellous job on excluding candidates, especially from underrepresented groups.

Same does gendered language. In 2015, 49.55% of the world population were women, which hardly justifies sweeping “he” generalisations we’re used to seeing.

Fortunately, there are tools helping to ensure inclusive, non-gendered language—Joblint, an Open Source project by Rowan Manning validates against an editable list of rules. Alternatively, Textio offers a collaborative environment for writing effective job listings. These services can’t guarantee perfection but certainly, will bring benefits to the table.

Include timezones if hiring remotely

Remote work is still on the rise, which I wrote about in length in Building Remote-First Teams. Unfortunately, there’s an important distinction to be drawn between fully remote and so-called ‘remote-friendly’ jobs.

A significant amount of organisations advertise as remote, but in reality, hire only within the United States. It’s understandable to have timezone requirements, especially for roles that have direct reports, but the lack of clarity is inexcusable.

Here’s a good example of transparency from Helpscout:

Work from our office in Boston or anywhere else, provided you have 4 hours of overlap with the team.

And one from Basecamp:

You can work from anywhere in the world, so long as your working day overlaps the beginning or end of the day in the U.S. That means 8–10am Eastern time or 3–5pm Pacific time.

If synchronous overlap is necessary ensure this information makes it into the job ad. Not hiring remotely at all? Call it out too.

Share diversity statistics and future team members

What’s a crucial requirement to many members of underrepresented groups still hardly makes it to career pages.

As a woman, I cannot imagine joining a company without understanding who I’d be working with and whether there’s a quantifiable commitment to inclusion and diversity.

I’ve heard the same opinions from many fellow women in tech as well. A recent Kapor Center report, “Tech Leavers”, highlights:

78% of employees reported experiencing some form of unfair behaviour or treatment; Women from all backgrounds experienced/observed significantly more unfairness than men and unfairness was more pronounced in tech companies than non-tech companies.

Fortunately one of the other key findings is that Diversity and Inclusion initiatives can improve culture and reduce turnover if done right.

The report on its own is a great resource, especially for those who still don’t quite understand why diversity is a huge problem in the tech industry and has to be challenged. Alternatively, Project Include has published extensive articles from defining culture, progress tracking to conflict resolution and leadership. Last, but not least, follow the example of other organisations, such as Slack and their diversity report or Buffer and their transparency page. Ideally, the reports should include employee retention data, which is by far more indicative of inclusion and culture rather than headcounts.

Additionally, when discussing team structure remember to avoid tokenism. One member of an underrepresented group cannot be used as leverage, nor makes a team diverse.

Consider removing the experience level

As a big fan of empowerment, I strongly believe people are capable of rapidly growing into more senior roles if they get a chance to. While some jobs are senior by nature (C-level, tech or design leadership, etc.), requiring significant expertise others could easily skip naming experience levels, encouraging more diverse candidate pool, who wouldn’t feel confident to apply otherwise.

Think about this welcoming statement, again by Basecamp:

We’re especially interested in applications from folks in the early stages of their operations careers who show great aptitude.

Next time experiment with looking for “Front-end Developer” or “Designer” rather than “Senior UX Guru” and see how it affects the results. Note that this strategy might not work that well for candidates specifically looking for an introductory job in the tech industry. In that case keeping the “Junior” and emphasising learning environment and mentoring might be more beneficial.

Outline the interview process

It’s virtually impossible to guess how much time interviewing with a company could take. I’ve been spending three months on average to find a reasonable place to work at. This isn’t uncommon — see Jeff Kolesky’s Thirteen thousand, four hundred, fifty-five minutes of talking to get one job for more detailed insights.

Outline how many interviews have to be conducted, whether there’s a need for an assignment or a reference check. Have a peek at DuckDuckGo’s hiring process to get the ideas going.

Don’t forget to mention how fast one can expect an answer. Nobody enjoys frantically refreshing their email. For example, Zeit promises 7 days response.

Reveal the salary range

It’s baffling that including salary ranges in job postings doesn’t seem to be a baseline requirement yet. Leaving conversations about money to final stages of the interview process raises red flags and sets up for disappointment.

In most cases, budgets have been set well before the interview phase commencement. While there’s always some wiggle room, those numbers are known to HR departments, who’s responsibility should be to communicate it outwards to the applicants. Hiding wages is especially damaging for underrepresented groups, who are frequently discriminated against and don’t negotiate as fiercely as their white male counterparts.

Gender and ethnicity pay gap isn’t a myth, it’s a fact.

Don’t perpetuate the status quo and enable equal opportunity by sharing wage brackets.

Name the employee benefits

Most organisations excel at listing countless must-haves for candidates, but forget that hiring is a two-way street — building a mutual, successful relationship, beneficial for both sides.

Be as dedicated to highlighting the perks as you are to checking the boxes on the dream candidate.

Different individuals have varying requirements for their future gig—from generous annual and family leave policies, medical care to a conference and learning budgets. Make it easy for them to decide whether applying for your job is worth their time. Disclose as much information as possible. If in need of inspiration, check out comprehensive Employee benefits at Basecamp.

Describe a day on the job

Writing down an endless list of tools or frameworks applicants are supposed to know doesn’t tell them much about how a regular day could look. Consider describing the range of tasks, duties and specific areas to be worked on. Is it common to lose a day or two to meetings? Throw that in as well.

For example, Basecamp discloses recent Ops team backlog, which they’re hiring for, painting a good picture of possible day-to-day tasks.


Quite a few great companies misrepresent themselves by failing to describe how the employee-employer relationship looks. Take an opportunity to explain how people will grow, and how you’re going to help them get there.

All of the above tips are actionable and reasonably easy to implement. But don’t forget that doing so without dedication and commitment to diversity, inclusion, respect and a fair-go you’ll end up with a vast difference between what you write and putting your mouth where the money is. The candidates can see straight through dishonesty and lack of values.

Honesty and radical candour won’t hurt your company, they’ll likely save thousands of mismatched hires and a lot of disappointment.

Good luck!