How to write a developer job description
September 22, 2023
min read

How to write a developer job description

Luis Minvielle
Luis Minvielle

If your company struggles to attract the right talent, it might have something to do with how you interact with candidates online. The first point of contact with a jobseeker is the job description. Believe it or not, this experience is usually negative. That's because your job description is not written in a way that energises, interests, and encourages people to apply. 

In this article, we will discuss a few ways to optimise your developer job descriptions so that suitable candidates are more likely to apply.

Decoding the role of a Software Developer

Decoding the essence of a Software Developer’s role is critical in crafting an enticing job description that resonates with the appropriate candidates. A Software Developer is not merely a coder, but a professional entrusted with designing and creating software applications that drive businesses and serve consumers alike. Their work involves collaborating closely with clients to grasp their needs and leveraging programming languages like Java or Python to bring these visions to life. However, the extent of their expertise goes far beyond mere programming skills.

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Red flags and turn-offs in job descriptions

Developers frequently criticise vague, poorly worded, and inflated job descriptions. As HR professionals, it's vital to address these issues directly. 

For instance, a job listing that requires “10 years of experience” in Svelte — a technology that's only been around for seven years — is not just inaccurate and off-putting. It also signals a lack of commitment from the HR crew, who most likely just copied and pasted the description and changed a few terms with Ctrl+F.  

Source: LinkedIn

Let's dive into crafting clearer, more accurate descriptions for software developers. These are practices to avoid:

1. Job descriptions by HR professionals unfamiliar with software development

A common issue in creating developer job descriptions is the disconnect between HR professionals and the specific tech roles. Problems often arise from:

Vague Terminology: Using phrases like “familiar with various programming languages” leaves candidates wondering which particular languages are required.

Broad Requirements: Asking for “experience in contemporary tech” is ambiguous. Does this mean cloud computing, AI, electric vehicles, hydrogen spaceships, or another domain?

Using Templates from other sectors: Lifting conditions and expected results from a mechanical engineer will yield job descriptions that could belong to a fax machine feed from an offshore oil drilling site. For example, developers will feel frustrated to read that their frontend position expects them to:

“Take charge of and be involved in every stage of the development life cycle, from design, estimation, development, to testing.”

“Work together and establish solid rapport within the technology team, as well as outside suppliers and overseas associates.”

“Provide reliable support for existing software products and web services.”

A vague job description may probably create confusion and frustration for potential candidates. Remember that developers know the keyboard shortcut to “Close Browser Window” by heart.

2. Overwhelmingly long list of responsibilities

Developers cringe when they come across job descriptions that lump them into a generic IT role. Here's why:

  • Overwhelming expectations: See a list covering an entire IT department's tasks? That’s not just overwhelming; it's off-putting. Developers are versatile, but don’t mistake them for an all-in-one IT solution. Would you hire someone who claims they’re a “Swiss Army Knife, Ninja Developer”? Since you might not because you’ll reckon they’re overselling themselves, why put developers through that kind of treatment and lingo?
  • Misunderstanding the role: Presenting an exhaustive list without recognising the specialised skill set of developers? That shows you might not grasp the nuances of software development.
  • Giving compensation for granted: If a company can't articulate the role accurately, it signals they might undervalue tech's complexity. To developers, this can indicate potential struggles during salary negotiations and an uphill battle once they’re on board. It’s not a coincidence that 61% of consulted professionals answered that the compensation portion is the most critical aspect of a job description.

Remember: Developers are open to wearing multiple hats only if the pay cheque matches the workload. Devs find it disheartening when companies expect a one-person army performance but offer an entry-level salary. 

So, if a firm wants a developer to take on many roles and hire a C++ Sorcerer Who Hacked Ubuntu and Pen-Tested for Big Tech, then the compensation should reflect that. Tech recruiters should be wary: grinding down devs with a mountain of tasks while shortchanging them on pay is a surefire way to deter talent. And devs might detect this policy from the description alone. If your company is not like this, ensure you don’t look like it.

Developers appreciate clarity and respect for their expertise. Craft job descriptions that resonate with their specific skills, and you'll stand a far better chance of attracting the right talent.

3. Imposing unnecessary requirements: Excluding potential applicants from the pool

A common mistake in job descriptions is listing non-essential requirements. Let's break this down with a frontend example:

  • Hands-on experience with web development using Node.js
  • Hands-on experience with parallel programming, async, and JavaScript callbacks
  • Experience with microservices architecture & REST API development
  • Deep knowledge of AWS services
  • Experience with deployment and testing of Kubernetes, Docker, and Nomad
  • Centralised Logging & Log Analytics using AWS CloudWatch or Elasticsearch
  • NoSQL database experience
  • Relational Database experience
  • Security, Single Sign-on experience preferred
  • Test-Driven Development with SCRUM certification

Is this job description useful? It’s obviously not. Not even a CTO might be able to navigate all of these tech pathways. Furthermore, it is filled with buzzwords that will earn you the ire of the top talent. Moreover, it has some severe drawbacks that developers will not forgive:

  • Broad skill vs. specific framework: While a solid grasp of JavaScript is often the core skill, a description might focus on a specific framework like Vue.js.
  • Overlooking transferable skills: A candidate proficient in React might be overlooked, even though transitioning from React to Vue.js can be swift for someone with a strong JavaScript foundation.
  • The “wish list” problem: These descriptions frequently arise when non-technical stakeholders add their inputs, turning essential requirements into a long wishlist.
  • Irrelevant name-dropping: Listing technologies like “Kubernetes, Docker, and Nomad” in a frontend job description can be confusing and off-putting, as these are more associated with backend and infrastructure roles. More so, should candidates really be experienced in three tech stacks that are exclusive to each other? Common sense goes against it.

To create compelling job descriptions:

  • Distinguish core skills from bonuses: For example, list “Strong proficiency in JavaScript” as a primary requirement, followed by “Familiarity with Vue.js or similar frameworks” as a bonus or preferred qualification.
  • Acknowledge flexibility: Instead of making Vue.js a strict requirement, consider phrasing like “Experience with Vue.js or a willingness to learn and adapt from similar frameworks such as React or Angular.” This recognises that foundational skills in one area can be transferable to another.

4. Being opaque about the salary

Include the salary range in the job description. Developers value transparency, and it's frustrating to navigate the application process only to discover unsatisfactory compensation; such a process could earn your brand a negative rep. Moreover, nine out of ten respondents told LinkedIn that clear information about the salary impacted their decision to apply, which demonstrates just how essential it is.

Source: LinkedIn

Crafting an engaging job description: Dos and don’ts for luring top talent in competitive fields

If you don't provide a clear job description, you'll limit your options and potentially discourage experienced, valuable developers. To prevent this:

Understand passive demand

To stand out, companies need to appeal not just to those actively job hunting, but also to passive candidates — those skilled developers content in their jobs but willing to consider better offers. A clear, concise job description can catch their eye.

Choose clarity over fluff

A generic job description won't attract the best. Rather than vague promises about company culture, pinpoint specifics. Will they work with React or Vue.js? Is the focus on building front-end architectures or integrating back-end services? These details help a developer weigh the genuine merits of a role.

For example, a realistic role outline should list out core tasks — but don't inflate with unnecessary duties. Maybe they'll:

  • Ship a hybrid iOS and Android app via the Flutter framework.
  • Collaborate on optimising current web platforms such as…

By focusing on actual responsibilities and growth paths, you respect a developer's time and signal, "I reckon your skills are valuable.”

Be specific, not flashy

Ditch the vague, overused buzzwords in job descriptions. Terms like “dynamic,” “passionate team player,” and “think outside the box” have been so overused they've lost their meaning. A developer skimming job ads would rather not wade through triviality to determine the requirements. For example:

  • Vague: "We're a dynamic company looking for a passionate individual who thinks outside the box."
  • Clear: "We need a Software Developer proficient in Java and Python to create new software solutions for our application."

Match your tone to your desired candidate

If you're chasing innovative, vibrant developers, let the job description reflect that. Want more playful, creative minds? Then, ditch the overly formal tone. A relaxed style might read: “We're searching for someone well-versed in Java and Python. Fancy teaming up with one of Germany’s fastest-growing tech organisations to craft top-notch software?”

Remember, clarity, and tone set the stage. Developers value transparency. A straightforward description distinguishes between a passed opportunity and the perfect match.

Reach out to your ideal personality type

Developers should read a description and think, “That's me. That's where I fit in.” Tech recruiters can target their ideal persona with specific language and tone. 

If you’re seeking seasoned developers, you could joke with them about their obsolete language experience and tap into their managerial roles: “We value the wisdom from years of experience. We're interested if you've tackled challenges, led teams, and are ready to mentor the next generation who’s never had to write code in COBOL.” 

If you’re instead chasing newer talent, you could say: "If you have never shipped a mobile app but are confident you could learn how to, this is a role for you. We're keen on growing together, and your new ideas are precisely what we're after."

Be transparent about the salary

We said it in the previous section, where we explained how one of the things not ever to do was being opaque about a salary range. So, include the salary range in the job description. 

For many HR professionals, there's an underlying anxiety that putting a salary range in the job description could scare off candidates. 

Source: Workable

But here's the reality from a developer's standpoint: if they learn the salary range during the initial phone conversation and find it unsatisfactory, you're likely to lose them anyway. The difference? Now both parties have wasted valuable time on discussions that were doomed from the start.

By providing a precise salary range from the beginning:

  • Shows respect for everyone's time: Developers value their time immensely. By being transparent, you're telling them you understand that.
  • Shows that your company is honest: It shows that your company believes in being fair and open. A defined salary range can be a litmus test for many to gauge a company’s honesty.
  • Levels the playing field: Keeping salary a secret gives an advantage to those with insider information, creating a divide. And trust us, developers talk. If they sense opacity or disparity, it won't bode well for your company's reputation.

Avoid the fallout and gain respect: be clear about compensation from the get-go.

Attract talent with the right expectations

Developers hate mismatched expectations. If you're offering $50k, don't ask for a 5+ year veteran. On the other hand, developers value clarity and fairness in job listings, so, instead:

  • Be realistic and align pay with expertise: A $50k offer should align with the experience level you're seeking.
  • Clarify the role: Are you after a foundation builder or a rapid coder? Specify.
  • Stay flexible: New grads bring fresh ideas, while veterans offer deep expertise. Don't be overly rigid with experience requirements.
  • You get what you pay for: If you are willing to offer the candidate more, then you are most likely going to get a better class of developer. This doesn’t always have to be in terms of pay. You could offer hybrid or remote work, travel opportunities, leadership experience, or anything else that might be of value to a candidate. 

Showcasing your company without overdoing It

Would you buy a used car from a salesperson who promises it’s impeccable? When crafting a job description for software developers, striking the right balance in showcasing your company’s values and culture is crucial. While it’s essential to highlight what makes your organisation unique and appealing, overemphasising these aspects can overshadow the core details of the job and potentially turn off potential candidates who might consider your ad disreputable.

Developers quickly see through inflated company values. That’s why you should consider these aspects:

  • Authenticity is key: Overhyping culture rings hollow. Stick to genuine company values.
  • Online reviews: Developers frequently check Glassdoor. Ensure consistency between your description and actual employee feedback.
  • Skip the old chestnuts: Everyone has team lunches and office perks. Highlight truly unique perks like “quarterly hikes through the Austrian Alps” instead of the standard fluff. You would rather not end up like the company that made a splashy announcement about their… lunch breaks.

Teaming up for great job descriptions the best talent

So you’ve put together the perfect job description to capture top European talent — now what? How do you ensure you can effectively reach out to your ideal frontend developer?

At WeAreDevelopers, we connect you directly with our exclusive network of software engineers, particularly in Europe. Why scatter your role on generic job boards when you can:

  • Reach a targeted audience: Over 1.2M unique visits annually, centred on development and IT.
  • Engage with an active community: A yearly social media reach of almost 22 million and 120k+ members.

We have fostered a developer community that trusts us — and we can help you. If you aim to make a real impact with your job listing, we're the platform you need. Ready to get started? Let’s chat. Connect with our representatives now.


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