I meet many startups in London and the rest of the UK who struggle with hiring engineers. It’s a competitive marketplace for sure, but differentiating yourself from other companies and selling your engineering brand is important. It also differs from your company brand. Hiring isn’t just about writing a job spec.

You need more than the following:

At Acme Company, we build cutting edge solutions for developers working on the Bungee platform. You’ll join an experienced development team with laser focus on user experience, infrastructure and code. You’ll build features to make businesses more effective. You’re a good fit if:

– you can write code and solve problems:
– you have a bachelors degree from a top university or some experience as a programmer.
– like to write code that’s simple and maintainable with a focus on quality
– Comfortable with frontend and backend
-Enjoy working collaboratively with others
– Enthusiasm to build and deliver the right features

Working at Ace Company you’ll collaborate with others to design, spec and build features with engineers from Acme A, Acme B and Cambridge University. You’l’l work 40 hours a week in our office in Cambridge.

We’d like you to have:
– Experience with Javascript and Java
– Experience working on a hosted product
– Experience working with agile methodologies

Benefits are:
– Salary of 30–50k, depending on experience
– Healthcare
– Flexible working hours

I could pick a hundred job adverts off any job site that read like this in terms of dull, monotonous bullet-pointed requirements. You’re not really telling anyone about the company, product or software they are going to be working on and you don’t stand out against competitive companies. Candidates will look at the salary, they may look at your website and whether they have the skills (maybe).

Johanna Rothman has a great book called “Hiring Geeks That Fit” which explains and provides some great advice around hiring technical members of the team.

Developing the Job Advert

I go through the following process, explained by Johanna, when hiring:

  • Job Analysis — an internal document produced detailing who the person interacts with, how often they interact, essential and optional skills, salary information.
  • Job Specification — an internal document detailing the specific role, requirements for members of staff to understand.
  • Job Advert/Candidate Brief — Picture of unicorns, bears, tigers and whatever you need to do to sell the job to technical team members. Do not copy and paste the job specification here. Nein. This will often link to the job specifications and can be generic for all engineering roles.

If you’ve talked to an executive headhunter before then they will have prepared a brief detailing the role to senior candidates that sells them on the company, team, product vision etc… . I see absolutely no reason why the same thing shouldn’t happen for the tech team. Your job advert/candidate brief should outline exactly these.

The Candidate Brief

I structure the candidate briefs as follows:

  • Company & Product — an understanding of what the company does, who it sells to and what the product does for your customers. ;
  • Product — a detailed overview of the product and what it does. Brownie points if you manage to include a video of the product in action or a demo of some sort — winning;
  • Product Roadmap — what product features and major projects are coming up that engineers will be working on that are exciting and important to the company. Excite and delight;
  • Platform Roadmap — the corresponding part to the product roadmap detailing your infrastructure projects to meet scale, performance, security demands. Often, the engineers will care just as much about this as product features. Make sure you include things that you may be looking at in the future — quantum computing, haptic device integration, virtual reality etc…;
  • Platform/Tech— go nuts on the tech detail — no I mean it. I want to see frameworks, libraries, languages — research you might have been involved with, technology partners etc…
  • Culture — a good overview of what it’s like to work at the company and what your core values are. What does the company do outside of work in terms of events meetups;
  • What You Offer & Career Development — what you provide in terms of career development — budget for doing so, resources (books, courses, online learning platforms etc…). Include salary, flexibility in hours, remote working, bonus, learning etc… Make it human and ensure that you identify with people who may have families and how you adjust things to fit their lifestyles.

About Me
I’m an interim/fractional CTO living and working in London. I hibernate in Chipping Sodbury, Bristol.