Want to Keep your Talent Pipeline Full? Sell the Work (not the Job).

June 11, 2015

SpaceX, Boston Dynamics, and Harley Davidson are well-known, by engineers and non-engineers alike, for the the things they make.

They also enjoy massive employer brands.

The secret to having people want to work with you has less to do with the job description in your ads and more to do with the big picture: Who are you? What kind of work are you doing? What do you build?

Before you write your next job ad ask yourself: is the story you’re telling about your company, and the work it does, compelling?  

“There are a lot of silly tips and suggestion out there that only pander to naïve recruiters,” says Tom Armour, CoFounder of HighReturnSelection, but if you want to keep your talent pipeline full, cost of hire low, or the time-to-fill short, “you’re best served by focusing on the fundamentals.” 

Start with the work itself

Perks are nice, but that’s not likely to sway engineers one way or the other (particularly if your application process takes more than a few minutes to complete.) If you want engineers beating down your door, sell the kinds of projects they will be working on.

“Many talented engineers look for the prospect of being mentally and intellectually challenged by their work, as well as learning new and interesting things,” says Michael Lan, Senior Resume Consultant at Resume Writer Direct.

For engineers, having an interesting, challenging problem to work on – or working on a project that will benefit the world – is at least as important as income. Probably more so.

“A high quality of life that allows for a balanced home/work environment is so much more important than most employers I encounter usually take into account. A high salary is nice but I would much rather work on cool projects that I am passionate about and have the freedom to set my own schedule.

– Sean Kane, Senior Software & Android Engineer in “7 Things Engineers Want Recruiters and Employers to Know

“Sell your company as one that is innovative, visionary, and unique. Top talent will no doubt be drawn by the prospect of being part of something special that aligns with their own interests,” Lan adds.

Think like a marketer

To sell the work, not the job, you need to think like a marketer. What is it about your company’s product or service that would be particular compelling?

Start from what you know:

  1. Circle back to why you joined your company in the first place and write it down.
  2. Expand on that a bit – ask your current engineering team what it is that they love about what they’re working on. Record their thoughts.
  3. As you write your next job ad, be sure to illustrate the projects the candidate will be working on from the engineer’s perspective, what your engineers love about those projects, and the points about the company’s big-picture work that made it compelling to you.
  4. Sell what the candidate will gain by getting to work on this cool project/service.

Engineers who might not pick up the phone for a few thousand dollars increase in salary will beat down your door to work at the cutting edge of robotics, build a world-changing biomedical device, or help land a robot on Mars.

If your company is doing amazing things this is a tremendous point of difference you can leverage for the benefit of your employer brand – and your talent pipeline. Use it!

How do you advertise the work your company does to job candidates? Drop a note in the comments or chat us up on Twitter @HireEngineers.