Anti-patterns in Job Posts
It’s that time of month again: HackerNews has their monthly “Who’s Hiring” post.
I also happen to be looking for work at the moment, so I am reading a lot of job posts. And I am seeing some recurring things which I feel are probably working against the companies - limiting their potential success in finding appropriate candidates. This essay may appear like a rant, but it’s really just my observations and ideas on how to make the hiring/searching process more effective and less sucky for everyone involved.
In no particular order:
No Pay Range Listed
This is a sensitive topic for most companies. They have many reasons for wanting to keep this information secret, and most of those reasons ultimately come down to wanting to pay as little as possible for the people they hire.
The company’s very first interaction with a potential employee is adversarial rather than the beginning of a collaborative relationship.
As we’ll see below in the “why do you want to work here” point, most jobs or companies aren’t particularly exciting to most candidates. So experienced candidates will simply pass up job posts for average companies that don’t list a pay range. Many candidates have experienced 1-2 rounds of interviews before finally being told the pay level, discovering it was much below their threshold of interest.
Not all companies can afford to pay particularly high salaries; but in the same way that candidates should be honest about their lack of skill in a particular technology, companies should be open about their low salaries. Some candidates will still apply even if the listed pay is low (perhaps they want to build experience in that industry or with the tech stack the company uses).
- Stating “competitive salary” is meaningless. List a pay range or say nothing.
- If the stated range is exceedingly wide (100,000 to 700,000 for example), give one or two L examples.
- If not legally required to list the pay range, provide at least a minimum salary. Some candidates who find that a bit low may still apply and try to negotiate later.
Tell Us Why You Want To Work Here
… “because I’ve always been fascinated by payment systems!” (or CRMs, or internet marketing analytics, or insurance, or …).
Most companies do boring things that are necessary and valuable to society. That’s perfectly fine. But expecting candidates to make up some reason why they are “excited” to work for typical companies is either asking them to provide creative lies, or daring them to be honest.
“Because I like money, and you pay pretty good money.”
“Because I like remote, and you’re a remote-first company.”
“Because I know someone at your company, and he says once you learn how to play the company politics and KPI game, raises are big and job security is great.”
Some companies actually do make really cool things, but they don’t even really need to ask the question. It’s obvious why most people would apply to Lego, for example. How many of their applicants said, “because I still play with Legos as an adult!”
Tip: hiring and job searching are already arduous tasks; don’t add pointless work to it.
No Job Hoppers
Some job posts say “no job hoppers”, or “must have worked for at least 2 years at one company within the last 5 years”.
It is understandable that companies want employees who will stick around, but one can never know why another person has had more, shorter-duration jobs without discussing it with the candidate. Maybe the candidate had bad fortune and was laid off multiple times. Maybe they had family/relocation needs. Maybe they were looking for a good fit. Or indeed, maybe they were trying to climb the ladder by moving laterally.
From the employee perspective, retaining talent is not rocket science. The problem is less likely to be the candidate (who “job hopped” in the past, and more likely to be a company problem).
Reasons companies can’t retain workers:
- low pay for the role (can be made up for somewhat by good positives)
- toxic atmosphere (favoritism, nopotism, bad managers, sexism, etc.)
- corporate politics as the primary path to success (promotion, pay raises)
- work structures and practices which are counter to what employees need (loud open office vs private offices or remote work)
- vast pay disparity between lowest workers and executives (even many well-paid workers will not be happy knowing the guys in the mail room or the factory are earning pennies while the CEO pulls 8 digits per year)
- poor work/life balance (leading to burnout, loss of motivation, depression - regardless of high pay)
Interestingly, many companies don’t recognize that their high employee turnover might be a problem with the company - not that employees like to job hop.
Laundry List of Required Skills
We’ve all seen this one. Regardless of the role, 2-3 role-appropriate skills are listed as well as half a dozen or more other skills. Often they are not broken up into must have and nice to have.
Usually this means the company is trying to replace someone who left, and the HR person asked the engineering manager, “What tools and technologies did Bob use in his job?” Bob most likely came in with some of those skills and picked up the rest as needed while doing the job. This is particularly obvious when there are “conflicting” technologies - technologies which suggest a significant shift in direction within the company technology at some point.
This issue does seem to be improving a little. Lately I’ve seen a few more cases where the post says, “candidate should have experience in one or more strongly typed languages”. Especially nice are the ones that say, “must be willing to learn technology Foo”.
Experienced candidates that see what appears to be a wildly unrealistic list of required skills will pass right by the post, assuming that the people running the tech part of the company don’t know what they are doing.
Tip: if the company isn’t willing to allow the employee to learn on the job, just list 2-3 hard requirements.
Hiring and job-seeking is time consuming and not enjoyable for most people. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are certainly some mistakes that can be avoided - resulting in a more efficient, less unpleasant experience for everyone involved.
The Candidate Side Has Issues Too
But that’s a topic for another time. I will leave one piece of advice: Don’t pee in the pool. (People using the shotgun approach, blasting their applications to hundreds of companies without really considering their real potential fit are ruining it for everyone, themselves included.) Don’t do it.