Luca Rossi is the Founder of Refactoring, a newsletter and a community that helps managers, founders, and engineers build better engineering teams, and through his role, he’s seen countless job posts. Here Luca shares his thoughts about the current hiring challenges in tech and what you should and shouldn’t include in a job post if you want to attract the right talent.
Hi Luca, welcome to the CTO Craft Spotlight Q & A. You’re one of our speakers at the May 2022 CTO Craft MiniCon and Founder of Refactoring. You’re going to talk about The Perfect Job Post. In your experience, is there really such a thing?
The topic is really important today because hiring it’s very hard for everybody. The people I talk with, the managers and leaders, always have something to say about hiring, and they ask for advice, so it’s very relevant.
I’m not sure the perfect job post exists, but from what I’ve seen over time, the difference in, let’s call it, performance between an average job post and an outstanding job post is huge, and it can really make an incredible difference. So, it’s something that we should really focus on.
That’s interesting. So, how would you describe a job post in one sentence?
A job post is a document or content or anything meant to convince people that you would like to work with to apply to work with you. That is really its job, and it’s important because it has to convince the right people that you want to hire. It’s not just about describing your position and opportunity effectively but making sure that it speaks to the right people.
That’s a really good point. So why do you think that job posts are so important in the hiring process?
I come from the start-up world, and in many start-ups, at the early stage, you tend to rely on your network to help you find people because you know your network, and you trust them, and they trust you. In the beginning, they make up a large chunk of your hiring, but at some point, you need to convince other people and total strangers that it’s worth it to work with you.
So, you need a job post initially to reach out to people, or you need a touchpoint or document to present the opportunity in the best light possible.
What do you think are common mistakes when writing a job post?
There are many, but I think most of them fall under the category of the job post not being informative enough. In my experience, it’s usually more about something that is missing rather than something that is included.
It’s very hard for a job post to be too informative; I’m not sure there is such a thing. The best job posts I’ve seen that usually work well cover three major areas:
- The company – this includes the vision, mission and culture information.
- The job position – here you point out the responsibilities, details about the team and salary range etc.
- The application process – what does the hiring process look like, how many interviews are expected and long will it be etc.? It’s really important and comforting to know this from the beginning before you apply.
So, the more that an individual can take away from the job post, the more effective it should be.
I’ve read recent research that says even when engineers know a job has better market conditions or opportunities than another position; they just don’t want to go through the stress and burden of the whole interview process. For instance, maybe you’re applying to Meta or Google, and you expect to go through a lot. But for other companies that have a lean and lightweight hiring process where they can tell candidates in advance how it will work, that it will take a couple of weeks or three interviews etc., that can really make a difference.
As you run a job board, can you tell us about examples of tech companies that you think do or have done job posts well?
There are many.
I’m in this space on both sides because I have been hired, and I have hired people, and I’ve also seen hundreds of companies posting job posts, so over time, I’ve been able to assess what works better. Some companies consistently perform better, and often this may be because they include external links where people can deep dive for more information about the culture or position.
The more you write down, the better you perform, so GitLab is very good at this. Also, Notion and Stripe are very good at this.
An organisation’s culture can be challenging to define and describe. Is this something that should be included in a job post, and why?
I agree that is challenging absolutely, and I don’t think you have a way of transferring that kind of feeling and information within the job post. The key here is that you don’t have to think that you have to jam everything into the job post.
You can have a couple of paragraphs about the vision, the mission and the culture and where you are as a company, what your next steps are, etc., and then link to the resources. This is something that few companies do. For example, you could add links about company news and also if you have public documents about your culture and what it is like working in your company.
I don’t want you to dump all the content into the job post, but you may put links there for people who want to dive more into such information. So having many links for the exploration is very useful, and it’s an effective way to give more information while keeping the job post lean.
As a company, you should make it easy for candidates to understand what it’s like to work at your company.
Why are you so passionate about job posts, and do you think they’re here to stay?
It came by chance as I never thought I would become passionate about job posts!
I’m a newsletter writer, so I’m a writer, written documents that need to follow some templates or goals fascinate me. And also, the idea that you can craft a written document that is better in some aspects than others is fascinating.
And then, I had this opportunity to run the job board and see some behind-the-scenes numbers about what kind of job post performed better than others. It immediately became very fascinating because you would see incredible differences in performance from job posts from comparable companies.
It’s not that one post was from Google, and another post was from an unknown company. Comparable companies would get completely different numbers when it came to applicants based on the quality of the information included in the job post.
Not all job posts include salary details. Do you think they should?
The most important element that drives job post conversions is whether you include a salary range.
Most companies intuitively know that this makes a difference, but they don’t know how much difference it makes. Job posts that include a salary range routinely get three to four times more applications, and even if the salary is in the lower end, it doesn’t matter. I think it’s the feeling of completeness and commitment by the company. When you don’t have salary information, there is always something in the back of your mind as a candidate that says maybe I am wasting my time.
I know most companies don’t include salary details, and I know some companies think that the less you disclose, the better you can negotiate. But I don’t think that’s true, as the more you disclose, the more alignment you create upfront, and the less negotiation is needed. If you want to stay flexible, you can still give a wide salary range as nobody expects to see the exact number.
The other reason some companies may think it’s more tricky to include salaries is that it would bring a lot of internal transparency. Many companies are just not ready for this because their salary brackets are messed up sometimes. Especially in engineering, it’s easy to find people who earn more than their managers and sometimes, there are incredible pay gaps.
In your experience, do you think this inclusion or exclusion of a salary on a job post is a cultural thing too?
I don’t have the evidence, but I’m sure culture plays a part, which will vary from country to country. For example, I live in Italy, and in Italy, it is kind of rude to talk with someone about how much you earn; it’s not transparent, even with a best friend! But I think that the issue is that companies think that they will get better candidates if they do not include the salary, and I don’t think that’s true at all.
Thank you. So, as you know, our May MiniCon will focus on the Complete Hiring Arc. So, what current hiring challenges do you see in the tech industry?
I think hiring in tech has always been challenging. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been a market where the demand is higher than the supply, but especially in recent years, with the pandemic and recent events, the culture is changing very fast.
Even if you consider location-based companies, remote-based companies and hybrid-based companies and the whole discussion about how we should work, remote has made a difference. Remote work has made work more transactional because you have less human connection and relationships.
So, what you see is the average tenure going down, and people are working to change jobs faster, making the hiring cycle harder and giving more incentive for companies to keep the hiring process short. In some cases, companies will make a decision in a few days because they fear that the candidate will get other offers.
It’s all changing very fast because it happened very fast, and companies and candidates are still adjusting to the new and ever-changing reality. And it’s happening worldwide. The pandemic accelerated many hiring trends that already existed. It’s exciting on the one hand, but it’s moving too fast.
Can you tell us what Refactoring does?
Refactoring is a newsletter and a community that helps managers, founders, and engineers build better engineering teams.
It contains weekly articles and original articles about topics that are important in the sector of technology and management. We also have a library with curated content that I create myself with my past articles, guides and books.
We also have a community where you can go and ask questions if you have an issue or a challenge, and you get CTOs and managers who help you. It’s like a whole family that you join that helps with your work and career.
What made you set up Refactoring?
When I started, I didn’t think it would become so big or become my full-time job because it began to as about one hour a day or so, and I was still working in another position. I started because in my first job as a founder and CTO at a start-up after my master’s, I really didn’t know how to do anything. I didn’t know how to lead and grow engineering teams. Even though I could always find information about building software, etc., it was very hard for me to learn how to do the other required stuff, such as hiring and managing people and acting as a manager. I couldn’t find regular content that would coach or mentor me.
So, I started writing about what I would have loved to read when I was younger, and it all came from there. It grew very fast. I had more than 10,000 subscribers in less than a year, and now we are at 15,000, so eventually, I quit my job to do it full time.
Now I ask experts to contribute to my articles, making the articles ten times better; it’s a collaborative effort instead of a single creator.
Finally, can you recommend a book or a podcast that every technology leader should read or listen to either in the space of hiring in tech or leadership in general?
Yes, I would recommend the following resources:
Technical Recruiting and Hiring — by Ozzie Osman. This is a full book you can read on Holloway (which is such a great experience). It is the most comprehensive and well-made guide about tech hiring that I know of, and I highly recommend it.
How to Win at Hiring against Big Companies — I wrote this myself to help startups and small companies who struggle at hiring.
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