Competitive salary – we’ve all seen it. It’s typically the final line to a boilerplate, overly ambiguous and superlative crammed job advert. It’s also the trademark of an advert that will find it difficult to receive quality applications, particularly for competitive technical roles like web developers, engineers and product designers.

Businesses invest time and money into crafting campaigns and curating content to advertise themselves to prospective clients. The value your business adds is explained clearly, how you differentiate from the competition is demonstrated and the common questions are answered before they’re asked. A client generates income, so the process for them onboarding and engaging with your business should be as frictionless as possible.

With that in mind, why do businesses allow so much friction in the adverts that they post to grow their team, which could in theory allow them to work with more clients, or deliver their product, more efficiently?

We’ve created this content in partnership with our friends at Haystack, who through their mobile app are giving power to the techies by allowing you to discover opportunities and make yourself visible to companies that you’d like to be contacted by.

If your salary is competitive, show it

Businesses can list the salary of a role as ‘competitive’ with good intentions, but ultimately it can be harmful to applications. I recommend to every business that I’ve worked with and in, that at least a bracket is included in the advert – there is no second mover advantage to listing your salary as competitive.

Some of the common barriers to this that I’ve came across are;

We don’t have salary bands for the role

Particularly when recruiting for the first role of its kind, many businesses don’t have a salary bracket and default to the competitive for fear of getting wrong and either a). overpaying a hire, or b). getting the bracket wrong and receiving no applications. There’s also businesses that use as an opportunity for the candidate the business itself to have a greater level of negotiation on salary – the primary difficulty being getting applicants in the first place when advertising without a salary and the potentially lost candidates that decided not to apply.

We don’t want other businesses to see what we pay

Some businesses treat their salaries as a competitive edge that they do not want public – only those that apply will find out the brackets. Whilst there is some value in this and salary can be a critical deciding factor when it comes to comparing two similar roles, ultimately this information inevitably makes it into the hands of competitors anyway. If salary truly is a competitive edge, then advertising at least a bracket sends a clear signal to your industry of how highly you value the roles in your businesses.

We don’t want our staff to see what we’re willing to pay

Salary disparity can happen in businesses for a number of reasons – the most common instance being staff that have a significant length of service with a business will likely have received incremental salary increases, whilst any salary brackets have remained unchanged. Salary brackets need a regular review and your staff should be compensated fairly in the current market, not the market as it was when they joined or the bracket was created. Ultimately, a staff member that is paid poorly will be the first to look at the roles that do advertise a salary band and either raise their concern, or worse, apply for the role that they’ve found.

Rebecca Mason from Haystack added;

“We like to uncover the tech landscape from both perspectives. After speaking with both users and partners of Haystack, this is what we’ve uncovered: 79% of surveyed users believe that a transparent salary is key when looking at a job description and 63.6% of users would not apply for a role without a salary stated in the job advert.

On the flip side, a recent study that we conducted revealed that in companies with 10,000+ employees, 97% don’t disclose salary information on roles, compared to 67.8% of companies with 0-25 employees. The most likely to disclose salary information are companies with 26-50 employees, with 46.6% advertising roles with a salary range. We’ve also found that roles that are advertised with a salary receive 5x more applications than those that don’t.”

Know the difference between remote and hybrid

Even before the pandemic and the rise of remote working in mainstream business, various technical roles have been able to operate effectively remotely. Since then, some businesses have remained open to remote working, some have (in certain cases, infamously) mandated a return to office and others have landed on the midpoint of hybrid working.

With the knowledge that many of us enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home, adverts have begun to use remote as a bait-and-switch for drawing in applicants, advertising a role as remote but then mandating office time. The idea from a business perspective here is that advertising as remote will draw in talent from further afield and a reduced amount of office time makes a further commute feel more acceptable.

If we’re being strict, remote working implies zero requirement to attend office premises, perhaps with some one-time exceptions for the likes of events and company-wide training. Any role that advertises office time is by definition, hybrid.

It’s crucial when publishing any job advert to be clear in your expectations when it comes to working from your business premises.

Insight from Haystack

The shift in remote/hybrid working is one that is valued by the tech community, with 76% of our users stating that it’s one of the top factors they look for in job descriptions. Companies should be adapting their working practices, where possible, to allow their employees to work more freely and in a way that promotes a better work-life balance. This type of job mobility is a common response to economic uncertainties, as tech professionals are looking to protect their livelihoods and secure their financial futures.

Be detailed in your description

The belief that a broad job description will attract more applicants as by nature, it’s applicable to more people, might be true, but when it comes to hiring, the quantity of applicants does not necessarily align with quality.

When it comes to writing a good description for an advert, there’s a fine balance to strike between sharing the details without drowning the reader in content. Without reverting to a boilerplate, aim to fit the following key details in, with a combination of sentences and bullet points where appropriate.

  1. Official job title, working terms (on-site, hybrid or remote) and salary or salary bracket,
  2. Role description, including information on the team that they’ll be a part of and who they would report to,
  3. Key individual responsibilities, requirements and prior knowledge,
  4. Opportunities for growth and career development,
  5. Benefits beyond salary, such as holiday allocation above statutory, death in service cover, etc,
  6. An overview of the company, it’s sector and offering,
  7. Any legal and statutory requirements and disclaimers.

Think of the advert and content as an extension of your brand and marketing – if your brand is heavy on image and video-based content, be sure to include this in your advert. A walkaround of your HQ, a video of your CEO or engineering lead, or even a promotional video that helps to show what your business is about. Ultimately, you’re marketing the role to a potential applicant.

Insight from Haystack

As we mentioned previously, salary is a key piece of information that techies are looking for in job descriptions, but it’s not the only important info. In a recent survey, 77% of respondents said they wanted to know about a company’s stance on remote or hybrid working preferences before applying. Company culture and personal progression are also important to techies, with just under 60% reporting they like to see this info in a job description. Simply detailing what the role entails and the skills needed just isn’t going to cut it anymore – the more info you can provide about your company, the more likely your job advert is to attract the right calibre of candidates.

Remove the requirement for years of experience

In some roles, years of experience can be a suitable measure of relevant expertise. In technology and particularly in programming, this is simply not the case. The landscape of technology moves quickly, languages evolve and standards change. A developer that has spent five years working with a legacy version of a programming language to maintain technology has arguably gained less experience than another developer that has two years of exposure to the same language stack across a range of projects in agency – in terms of both depth and range of knowledge.

Insight from Haystack

The traditional path of spending years at university and earning a computer science degree is no longer the only way to enter the tech industry. The landscape is evolving rapidly, with experience, skill set, and the ability to learn quickly taking precedence over qualifications. With the wealth of resources to aid personal progression that is now widely available, it has never been easier for techies to upskill themselves. Work ethic, attitude and desire to personally progress should be more important to you when hiring than simply looking for a number of year’s experience, and by putting this requirement in your job adverts you’re potentially missing out on techies that would be a real benefit to your company.

Our friends over at Northcoders and TechReturners are doing exactly this – upskilling individuals within the tech space to be able to grow and remain confident within their roles.

Show where the role can go

Of the applicants that find your role, some will be interested as it’s a progression from their current position. With that in mind, it can be helpful to show where else the role can lead to – be that a vertical progression, or an opportunity to move horizontally into other roles in other teams. To use technology as an example, many businesses advertise development roles for specific teams, such as Platform or R&D. Within the advertised roles, it’s made clear that there are opportunities to progress upwards into senior development positions, as well as into other teams with differing focuses and disciplines.

Insight from Haystack

Tech professionals are highly skilled and motivated individuals who are always looking for new challenges and opportunities to grow, with 58% of users stating that personal progression is a key factor they search for when looking for a new role. They’re often self-taught and motivated by constant learning and development. Engineers are looking for positions that will help them learn and grow. Tech changes so quickly, that good devs know that if you want to progress it’s imperative that you put the time into learning. Good companies know that they need to support their engineers with this endeavour.

We’d like to thank Rebecca Mason and the team at Haystack for their added insight and supporting data for this post.

If you’re beginning to review or create new adverts, job descriptions and career planning for technology roles in your business, Embeddable is a consultancy that can work with you to craft effective recruitment and progression strategies. As experts in building high performing teams, we embed into your business to help you deliver your definition of tech success.