job descriptionTrying to find top talent is especially challenging these days in the IT industry. Many of the top performers, those with the most desirable skills and experience, are already employed. Those that are actively looking are heavily wooed, have their pick of the opportunities, and don’t last on the market long. Every interaction you have with a potential candidate influences their opinion of your company. Every facet of the experience is a potential to win them over or to turn them off.

In an interesting article on, Segment Your Recruiting Messaging, contributing author and HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan discusses the importance of carefully crafted messaging in attracting top performers. From job descriptions, to websites, to social media, whether or not you’re including the right information can make a big difference in who you attract. Highly skilled, very qualified, specialized professionals are motivated by more than just a good salary and benefits; those are important but almost a given for these hard to fill positions and hard to find people.

Dr. Sullivan provides a list of “excitement factors” that matter to innovative performers and technology professionals. He also suggests interviewing your own top people to find out what they like about the company and their work, what keeps them motivated and happy. I absolutely recommend doing that but I also think that his list is pretty good based on my experience. The list is in descending order of importance.

Excitement factors for top performers, techies, and innovators:

  1. Doing the best work of my life
  2. Doing work that has an impact on the customers and the world
  3. Having a great manager
  4. An opportunity to innovate and take risks
  5. An opportunity to learn rapidly and be challenged
  6. The opportunity to implement their ideas
  7. A choice of projects and assignments
  8. A chance to work with the latest technologies and tools
  9. Input into their schedule/ location
  10. An opportunity to work with top co-workers
  11. The opportunity to make decisions and for fast approvals
  12. Working in a performance-driven meritocracy where rewards are based on performance
  13. A transparent environment where the needed information and access is readily available
  14. Sufficient budget and resources to reach their goals

We’ve mentioned many of the points on this list repeatedly in various columns on attracting and retaining the best talent, so it’s not surprising I agree with him. I also like his practical advice on incorporating these excitement factors into the recruiting materials you are using to attract candidates. He’s right.

We tell both candidates and clients that every interaction reflects on you and makes an impression on the other party. As Dr. Sullivan points out, too much of the standard corporate recruiting materials are just that – standard and too generic. They are not going to draw in the kind of person you are looking for. Whether they first hear about the job through a friend or recruiter, eventually they are going to read the job description and other related materials. You want to make sure that everything, from small touch points to more involved contact, reinforces the right message, tailored for this specific audience – high-achieving, top performers. His first two pieces of advice:

  1. Start with the job posting – it’s short but try and include one or two key words that convey some of the points on the list. It’s you’re first chance to attract.
  2. The job description is your best opportunity to communicate excitement – make sure you detail as much as possible how the position and responsibilities fulfill things on the list above. Don’t be boring!

I encourage you to read the full article to benefit from all his suggestions but I sure like the first two! The importance of the job description is not something you have to convince any recruiter of – we’re always looking for as much detailed information as possible. When you are trying to fill a mission critical position for which you must find an elite performer, it makes sense to do everything you can to up your odds. If your position offers what they are looking for, for heaven’s sake make sure that comes across in everything!

As recruiters one of our tasks is to make sure candidates appreciate what top positions and companies have to offer and to connect the right people with the right opportunities. If a company’s recruiting materials strongly supported that, it certainly helps. Tailoring your message to your target audience seems like a pretty cost effective idea that might help land you that impossible to find software developer. In today’s recruiting environment, every little bit helps! Good luck!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International


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