No wonder that no software developer applies to you

Guest contribution by | 03.08.2020 | Software development |

Is your company also looking for software developers? Not that easy, is it? The competition for talents or employees willing to change is huge. What are you doing to win this competition at least selectively? How do you stand up to other companies that are perhaps more renowned, sit in hip districts in cool cities or pay more salary?

Shall we do a little experiment? Imagine that I am a software developer. And I’m thinking about changing my job soon. You want to inspire me for your company and win me as a new employee. What do you do? Do you place an ad on Stepstone, Monster or on a portal for software developers?

Good developers do not need job advertisements

Let me tell you a little secret: As a good software developer I do NOT look for my jobs in a job portal. No, I ask my friends and colleagues who work in IT:

  • “I’m thinking about changing jobs. Do you have a tip for me?”
  • “Which company would you like to work for?”
  • “Aren’t you looking for new employees?”

If things go “normally” for me, my job search will be over before it gets strenuous. Because if someone is good in his or her job and has a few friends, he or she usually gets the tips and advice he or she needs. A simple question among friends, a small recommendation at the beginning and then a straightforward contact with the potential employer, that’s all it often takes to find a new job.

Well, this seems to be a very simple experiment. Let’s make it a little more difficult. I would like to move soon, from a big city to a small one, or from a small one to a big one. And: despite all the advantages, I don’t want to take part in any Meetups, even if I could easily meet and get to know potential colleagues and companies there. And I don’t have any friends who are well connected and know exactly the one vacancy that fits my specialisation, knowledge and interests. In this case, a job advertisement might make sense after all.

So let’s just go to a portal, for example to Karriere.at. On 14.07.2020 1,423 offers will be displayed under the search term “Software Developer, Austria”. Wow.

Bigger, better, higher. Or: We are so great!

My mother gave me a good tip during puberty: “If you want to impress a nice girl, don’t start the conversation by telling her how great you are. Because it’s not about you, it’s about the girl.

Let’s take a look at a “typical” job ad:

“ABC is a privately held company in the XYZ industry. For over 160 years ABC has been a leading provider of 123 and is constantly developing its portfolio through innovation. The core business includes 456, 789 and 0816, as well as the associated services. Through digitalisation, ABC enables long-standing customers around the world to intelligently manage their infrastructure to ensure sustainable value over the entire life cycle. You can find further information under …”.

Apart from the fact that this job ad is written in the third person and I seriously wonder why people do this and if I really want to talk to someone who writes about themselves this way, what does the job ad say? The company is market leader, operates internationally, is innovative and has customers. Great. And it’s probably all right, too. Of course, companies can be proud of what they have achieved and can be happy about market positions, prizes won and long-standing customers. But: Is this the best way to start the relationship between the company and me that is just beginning to take shape? Where does it concern me?

The job description, which says nothing

Let’s take a look at the job description in the job advertisement:

“The following tasks await you:

  • Development and conception of software with .Net technologies
  • Creation and validation of software design concepts
  • Code reviews and implementation of quality assurance measures
  • Cooperation in an agile team”

Who’d have thought it? So the company is actually looking for software developers who develop software. Blatant. Unfortunately, for me this also means directly: Why should I change jobs if I do exactly the same things as I do in my current job? If I’m looking for a new task and challenge, I won’t switch to ABC – I already know that much.

Wishy-washy qualification

The company description in third person and provided with “typical” information, the job description is meaningless, perhaps there is something essential in the passage about the required qualifications? Or in other words: do my knowledge, skills and interests fit the company?

So let’s have a look:

“Your qualifications – sound and adequate:

  • Completed technical, scientific education
  • Experience in object-oriented software design
  • Experience in the programming language C++
  • Basic knowledge in agile development
  • German and English language skills

General competencies required:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Communication skills
  • Own initiative
  • Creativity
  • Learning ability
  • Analysis capability
  • Motivation and enthusiasm”

Mmh, so this company is looking for someone who has completed a technical education, has programmed a class or method in C++ at least once in his life and does not consider himself stupid, lazy or antisocial, in other words someone who is a team player, capable of learning and communicative. Seriously? This kind of qualification should really satisfy every software developer. But immediately I ask myself the question: “If the company is looking for newcomers, is it willing to pay my salary as a professional?” By the way, what does the company offer?

Usual commodities

“We offer:

  • A demanding, interesting and varied job
  • Good development and training opportunities
  • Extensive social benefits, fruit, coffee, tea, soft drinks
  • Flexible working hours with flexitime
  • Pleasant working atmosphere in a young, motivated, growing team”

Sorry, but less with more words is hard to say, isn’t it? Of course the tasks are demanding, interesting and varied – but for whom? Nice to have a pleasant working atmosphere, whatever that might be?! And it’s good that I can also develop myself – but where to?

Yes, I know, I am tough. There has to be something written there. But: the company offers me nothing that I haven’t already got. Maybe they’ll at least offer a little more salary?

Unclear salary

“According to the IT collective agreement, the minimum monthly salary is € 2,392. We will gladly adjust your salary to your qualifications and experience.”

In my experience, software developers know the monthly minimum salary according to the collective agreement. And the wording in the job advertisement indirectly says that the company does not expect the applicant to start working for this amount. But what remains unclear is the amount of the salary.

Of course, companies want to remain flexible and not put all their cards on the table. But: the one question that interests the applicant is not answered. It would be so simple, because by indicating a salary range, the applicant receives an indication and the company has a certain flexibility. But the question about the salary is simply not answered in this way.

Conclusion

The ad is finished. So is my experiment. Would you apply for a job with such a company?  As a fictitious software developer, I’m not thrilled about the job ad. I wouldn’t invest the time to apply for that position.

In fact, software developers look for jobs much less often than might be generally assumed. And if they do look at job ads, they probably like those without PR texts, meaningless job descriptions, unspecific requirements, usual commodities and an unclear salary.

What happens in reality after an applicant has looked at such an advertisement? He or she simply stays where he or she is. According to a 2020 survey, 55% of developers are interested in job offers, but are actively looking for a new job only slightly more than 10%.¹ If you are looking for software developers who are actively looking for a new job, please do not use such a job description. With such a job description, it is no wonder that you will not receive applications from those with whom you would like to strengthen your team.

 

Notes:

Are you interested in 5 steps to formulate an outstanding job advertisement? Alex Rammlmair describes these 5 steps to you here (in German).

[1] Entwickler*innen 2020 – Motive und Zahlen (in German)

Alex Rammlmair has published another post on the t2informatik blog:

t2informatik Blog: Who needs long-term goals?

Who needs long-term goals?

Alex Rammlmair
Alex Rammlmair

Alex Rammlmair helps IT companies to grow in a targeted and strategic way. He is managing director of AX-XO GmbH and offers with "Umsatzsprung" a service through which companies fill their lead pipelines, establish a reliable sales process and develop a scalable business model. He likes to give others back the fun of selling and to have a Plan B in his pocket.