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Why are your job descriptions so boring?

We’re not that picky about who we hire – we just need a qualified warm body to fill the chair.
— Said by no startup CEO … ever

Things are going great here at MadKudu. We hit our growth milestone and our recent pivot allowed us to sign up awesome customers like Segment, Contactually, and Codeship.

But … alas … there is little time for celebrating in a fast-growing startup because success just creates new problems. We now have the #1 challenge facing every startup with traction: hiring initial team members.

We decided to get serious about building our team and invest time attracting the right people. We created a “careers” page and and started writing job descriptions.

I’m tasked with hiring our first full-time marketer. Before writing the job description I did – what you do – read a few dozen open job recs for ideas.

I’ve got > 2901 competitors for the right candidate

Shocker! We’re not the only startup trying to fill a marketing role – actually there are open marketing positions at 2,901 other startups on Angel List alone.

My challenge is getting the attention of the most talented people – those who could compete for jobs at companies like Medium or Slack.

At first I found this prospect intimidating – that is, until I started reading the job descriptions.

Most startup job descriptions are horrible

Generic. Repetitive. Uninspiring. BOOOORING.

Most look like they were written by Dilbert & edited by Catbert.

Don’t believe me? Spend a few minutes browsing jobs on Angel List. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

See what I mean?

“need … excellent communications skills … a team player … “

If “hiring” is a startup CEO’s biggest challenge why do so many put no effort into writing job descriptions?

I attempted to do better

I stopped looking to job descriptions on Angel List for inspiration. Instead I imagined myself talking to an incredible person – someone who has lot of choices – and trying to help her decide if the job is for her.

After a few hours I finished Want to be our Head of Marketing? It could be a lot better but it was the best I could do in the time I had.

How to write a job description that attracts the candidates you want

Sell. The. Job.

The people you want to hire have options. They are probably not even looking for a job. You need to sell the opportunity to work at your amazing company.

Write TO your ideal candidate. Tell her about your company and why you need her help. Make the opportunity sound so compelling that a friend would forward the job description to her.

Suppose your company keeps growing and she does amazingly well. What would be her opportunities? Sell a prospect on your vision for her awesome future.

Skip the superfluous bs

Everyone thinks they are …

… good at communication,
… a team player,
… a self-starter,
… and on … and on.

So don’t include these words in your job description – they just fill up space and make you sound like everyone else. In the history of job searching nobody has ever read a job description and thought …

“hmmmmm… this job sounds good but they don’t mention teamwork … guess I’ll pass since I won’t get to improve my teamwork skills”

good communication skills? Well that’s not me – I’m boring and ramble a lot. Better not apply for this job.”

Say what the job ISN’T – and who will HATE it

One of the easiest ways to attract the right candidates is to say what a job ISN’T. Talk about the pros and cons of your company.

For instance, Silicon Valley is full of legendary companies that “started in a garage.” Sounds cool AFTER the company is successful – but what is it like actually working in a garage? No windows … or air conditioning … plenty of dead crickets … not exactly an inspiring workplace for most people.

Except WE’RE NOT most people – and we want to attract people who share our values. We’re currently working in a shack we affectionally call “le donjon”. (yes, that’s French for “dungeon”).

donjon - 1

It has a whiteboard, a few desks, and lots of coffee stains. In the center is a little bell we ring whenever we close a new deal. I fell in love with the donjon the first time I saw it.

The right candidate will feel the same way.

Give examples. Tell stories.

Why are you hiring? What problem are you trying to solve? Can you describe a recent problem you need the ideal candidate to solve? Can you give a real example?

The right candidate will see the problem and think “I can do that!”

Yes, this takes more time – up front

Hiring can feel like a big distraction when you’re trying to do “real” work. It is much quicker to cut-and-paste someone else’s job description and hope it works out.

Invest the time selling your opportunity to the right candidate – you’ll get better results and save money in the long run.

Want to work in our beloved donjon?

Sweet – you’re one of us. I hope you’ll check out our open positions and apply.

 

photo credit: star5112