April 28, 2022

How to Write Job Descriptions for Software Engineers

By Casey Higgins

Looking to fill a software engineering position? Writing the job description can be surprisingly daunting. That’s because job listings are not just a way to attract candidates. They’re also a powerful marketing tool.

Done well, your job post can help you find top talent and ensure that you’re hiring the best possible fit for your team. Done poorly, you risk missing out on qualified candidates and even driving employees away.

Hiring software engineers is especially challenging. The market is competitive and the best engineers are selective about where they work.

In order to write a great job description for a software engineer, you need to understand what makes a great software engineer:

  • Experience building and scaling systems and products
  • Problem-solving skills in debugging, coding, and systems architecture
  • Working knowledge of multiple coding languages and development best practices
  • Mastery of various tools and technologies

There’s a lot to think about. But with the right approach, you can write a job description that will help you find and hire the next 10x problem solver for your team.

So what should you say to let the best engineers know you’re looking for them?

Here are some best practices.

Your software engineer job description checklist

1. Include all basic info

First and foremost, your job description should be tailored to a specific role. It should also be clear, concise, and highlight the most important aspects of the position. A few basics that all job postings must include:

  • Name of the role
  • Brief overview of the company
  • Responsibilities
  • Qualifications
  • Location

Tip: Make it scannable. When engineers are reading through a job post, they want to know what’s important within the first few seconds. Make it easy for them to find the info they need and quickly evaluate whether or not your company and/or role is of interest.

2. Highlight company culture

Culture is one of the most important aspects of any job. Engineers want to know if they’ll be working with people they mesh with, and they’re more likely to take a job if they feel like the company culture is a good fit.

Highlight what makes your culture unique. What’s the team like? What do they value in their work?

Instead of saying “We have a strong team culture,” consider sharing real stories about how your company operates. For example, “We have a strong team culture that values collaboration and pushes each other to be better. Our team has a lot of fun together and we’re constantly learning from each other.”

You don’t need to go into great detail, but a few sentences can go a long way.

Tip: If your company is doing something cool, like allowing employees to expense meals with their colleagues, put it in the job description. It will show that you care about your team’s wellbeing.

3. Be honest about your non-negotiables

There’s a big difference between non-negotiables and nice-to-haves. Confusing the two can lead to false expectations and missed opportunities.

When writing your job descriptions, be clear about what’s essential for the role and what’s a bonus.

Example: “Must have experience in Java.”

Does your company require knowledge of a specific programming language to be considered for the position? Make sure to include that. This is a non-negotiable that will weed out unqualified applicants.

Another example: “7+ years of Java experience required.”

It might be nice to have someone on the team who’s used Java for more than 7 years. But what if a developer only has 5 years of experience and is even better at problem solving?

Consider the 2019 Linkedin report that shows men are more willing to apply to jobs where they are underqualified than women. It says that “in order to apply for a job, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.”

To expand your candidate pool, consider removing any requirements that are not essential for the role and instead focus on key responsibilities. You might be surprised at the number of talented engineers who are eager to learn and grow in their careers.

Tip: If you have a hard time filling roles because you require a specific skill or experience, consider whether or not that’s really essential for the job. Can you be more flexible?

4. Use gender-neutral language

To find great candidates, your job descriptions should use the same language that software engineers use. That means avoiding too much jargon, leaving out acronyms, and using gender-neutral language.

For instance, “ninja” is typically considered a masculine term that may not resonate with female candidates.

Other examples include:

  • “Rockstar”
  • “Power player”
  • “Take charge”
  • “Pioneer”

These all have masculine implications and can deter women from applying.

When you post a job, it’s important to use language that appeals to the widest range of applicants. Terms like “team player,” “collaborative,” and “detail-oriented” are more likely to attract a diverse group of engineers.

Tip: Textio is a tool that uses AI-powered text analysis to reveal hidden gender bias in your writing and suggest alternatives. Best of all, it’s not limited to job descriptions — you can review all your hiring documents in your team’s central library.

5. State your compensation

Many candidates read through long, detailed job descriptions only to find this at the bottom of the listing:

“We offer competitive pay with room for advancement.”

So… how much are people being paid? Will they get a raise? What is the promotion process like? Candidates want to know what to expect when it comes to salary, and they’re more likely to apply if they feel like your company is being upfront about it.

Credit: @GergelyOrosz on Twitter

State compensation and what you’re willing to offer in your job description. Include the base salary or hourly wage along with other incentives like stock options or bonuses.

Tip: Glassdoor is an excellent resource for researching salaries in your industry and can give you an idea of what to offer based on your location and the type of role.

Job description examples

Now that you know what to include in your job descriptions, let’s take a look at some examples. These companies are doing it right; in addition to all of the elements we discussed, their job descriptions have a few other key features.

Example 1: This snippet from a job description for a Product Designer at Basecamp is honest about the timeline and when applicants can expect to hear back. Who doesn’t appreciate that level of transparency?

Example 2: RevenueCat’s Senior Backend Engineer listing includes a clear 30-90-180-365 roadmap. There’s no uncertainty, and candidates can see how quickly they might be able to move up in their career.

Tip: Don’t forget to make your job description human. On the other side of the screen is a person, and they want to know that you’re a real company with interesting work and good people.

Final thoughts

Writing job descriptions for software engineers can be tricky. You want to make sure you include all the essential information while also appealing to a wide range of applicants.

Remember to use gender-neutral language, state your compensation, and focus on job responsibilities rather than nice-to-have experience. With these tips in mind, you’ll attract more talented engineers who are excited to join your team.

Tip: Many companies use Woven as the first step in their hiring process. When you opt for Woven first, we manage your job boards for you and can even write or edit your job descriptions. Start a free trial to learn more about our platform today.