It’s noisy out there in the IT jobs market. Attracting quality candidates with the right fit for your culture is a perennial problem for any IT consultancy or software development company.
Yet there are some straightforward steps to ease the process of recruiting high-calibre IT staff.
It all begins with the humble job ad
So many people get the basics wrong when writing a IT job recruitment ad. Let’s look at an example.
Here are some opening lines from a typical IT job advertisement, lifted at random from a well-known recruitment website:
‘My client is a world-class IT consultancy… You will be proficient in the following programming languages blah blah blah. Benefits of employment include blah blah blah.’
For many candidates, if not all, changing job represents a milestone in life. So let’s treat it with the respect it deserves.
A copywriter’s take
As a freelance copywriter I’ve edited plenty of job adverts for IT consultancies and software developers. Drawing on that experience (plus general IT copywriting best practice) here are five ways you can improve writing your job ad.
Every step brings you closer to self-selecting candidates, so you cultivate more of the right kind of people in your IT business.
1. Focus on the real objective
The goal of your IT job advert is not to sell your company or intimidate prospective applicants.
It is to pique the interest of the right person, so they feel compelled to get in touch and explore working with you.
Why? Because it defines what you will write about and determines what should go in, and what should be left out, of your IT job advertisement.
Like copywriting, this is an excise in building bridges between writer and reader.
The relationship has to be perceived as mutually beneficial and the job ad must convey that. You have to be the right fit for the candidate, as much as they have to be the right fit for your IT business.
Remember this and you’ll attract and retain the right IT staff, for longer.
(Sorry if I’m teaching you how to suck eggs here but so many people get this fundamental premise wrong. In copywriting circles we call this goal-oriented copywriting, or simply put: writing with purpose. You’re focusing the mind before writing. When people write without professional help from a copywriter, the most common mistake is not thinking about what you want to say first.)
2. People first
You’re hiring a human with personality, not a drone. So a smart way to frame the vacancy when you write your job ad, is to describe the ideal candidate’s disposition.
Let’s add context and bring the role to life in a vignette:
‘You’re the kind of person who’s a pleasure to be around first thing on a Monday morning – buzzing, friendly and eager to fix the latest bug you’ve been puzzling over all weekend.’
We’ve humanised an outcome here. We didn’t just stop short and say we want someone driven, enthusiastic – a self-starter. We’ve qualified what we mean, given it context.
What you’re looking to create is a lightbulb moment, where the ideal candidate reads the copy and exclaims ‘yep! that’s me!’.
3. Add feeling
Instead of talking about why you’re recruiting for this role (a mistake I see all too often), talk about what the new job feels like. What’s exciting about it?
Sell the role, not your company:
‘You can breathe easy in your first month, shadowing a senior developer while you learn the ropes and settle in. We’ve all been new to a job before, so expect kindly patience and compassion. It’s just how we do business here. You’ll get reassurance from other programmers too, share ideas and join lively debates on how to overcome the latest challenge we’re wrestling with.’
Notice how we’ve not only described what life feels like for a typical newcomer, we’ve also given an impression of what it’s like to work there too.
Copywriting this way creates a richer picture – helping the ideal candidate for your IT business imagine what it’s like being a part of your team.
4. Emphasise variety
Every programmer is a born problem-solver, but the same repetitive tasks over and over again crush the spirit and kill creativity – bad for any business, IT or otherwise. (This is partly why I quit programming myself, only to get more of the same in middle-management!)
So if you want to attract smart, active minds to your IT business, you must directly address the issue of mental stimulation and variety.
Write about the diversity in your projects, clients and technical challenges, or how fluid roles are between teams. If you can’t promise that (why not?), write about how your programmers rotate between projects, or how they’re welcome to pursue side-projects or learn new skills on company time.
5. Find common ground
People increasingly demand meaning from their jobs. They want to feel like they’re part of something bigger, that their efforts matter, and that their beliefs align with those of their employer.
To tackle this one, write upfront and unashamedly about your vision and values. They’re the best screen for filtering out the right people. It works in much the same way as people buy why you do what you do, not what or how.
‘We take a no-nonsense approach to software development. We’re born fixers who won’t rest until a problem’s put right. We only build software for socially or environmentally useful projects, and our no-harm principle always comes first. Always.’
A well-defined tone of voice comes in handy here, to convey genuine passion. If you’re a can-do IT consultancy, an affirmative, punchy tone that gets to the point can achieve that.
Whatever you do, don’t just say you’re passionate about IT solutions – everyone else says that too. Qualify everything, give context, paint a picture.
One final extra piece of advice for would-be IT recruitment copywriters
Read through your first draft and ask yourself – do we sound arrogant or demanding?
Too many IT job adverts demand a lot upfront from candidates. They raise the first hurdle too high, thinking it’ll dissuade all but the best and most ambitious. Problem is that this risks ruling out someone who’s a perfect fit, but only 80% there in skills or experience.
Advertisements are suppose to persuade, not dissuade.
This is the premise of my argument throughout this entire article. It’s that you’re better off writing something that resonates with the right kind of people, than raising barriers to discourage the wrong kind of people.
If you come at your copywriting from the angles I suggest here, you’re more likely to match on a human level with candidates – which is far more important.
After all, you have to work alongside this new recruit day-to-day. An agreeable personality and natural aptitude are most important – the remaining 20% shortfall in skills and experience can always be made up on the job.
Back to basics
Remember, the role of the well-written IT recruitment advert is to pique interest and open up dialogue. Worry about screening out the nutters later.
Human nature, aptitude and personality aren’t black and white items you can check-off in a job description. Humanity inhabits a grey area. And it’s this area you must explore when you write copy for your next IT job advert.
Take my advice and you’ll stand out from your competitors, and appeal to likeminded, self-selecting candidates who’ll be the perfect fit for your IT consultancy or software development company.
Need a hand copyediting your IT recruitment job advert?
Drop me a line and we’ll go through your job advert with an expert copywriter’s eye.