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3 Tips to Write an Effective Job Spec

16 March 2020 , by Lara Bower

The tech industry has become one of the most competitive hiring markets: There are significantly more job openings than there are developers to fill them. That means developers have a lot of options, and companies are competing more to attract them. One key way to win at this is having a solid job spec. Here's what to consider to take yours to the next level.


As an Account Manager at OfferZen, I interact with dozens of companies on a daily basis, helping them navigate their hiring process.

Here’s a scenario I've see quite often: A line manager says they need to hire someone, so the HR department asks them to write out a list of requirements. Most of the time, this is more of a ‘wishlist’ of all the skills the hiring manager feels their team could benefit from than an actual job spec. Once this list has been made, it’s often published as it is without anyone spending time on turning the information it contains into something more exciting that sells the role better.

While this makes it easy to screen candidates for surface-level skills, it doesn’t create excitement for someone who has several options to weigh up against each other.

That’s why I've found it’s important to:

  • Craft job specs as adverts
  • Detail not only the requirements, but also what makes your company a great place to work
  • Get hiring managers and HR representatives into a room when building a spec so that everyone is on the same page

In reality, job specs are adverts

From my experience, the first thing successful companies seem to understand is this: A job spec is not just a list of prioritised requirements but rather an advert. I’d even say it’s possibly one of your most important adverts because when a candidate starts looking for a new opportunity, your job spec is most likely the first interaction they have with your company. That means they might not know anything about you or your employer value proposition, so your job spec has to make them want to interact with you.

Think about how Coca Cola advertises their product, for example. Their branding is bright red, which immediately grabs someone’s attention, and their adverts show happy people enjoying cold, refreshing drinks in beautiful settings. Even without knowing what Coca Cola is or what it tastes like, seeing it advertised in this way entices everyone to want to try it. The adverts never contain the ingredients, or what the health risks are with drinking the product: They contain only the information that they know will be attractive to someone who sees it.

So, from what I’ve seen, a great job spec does not only inform but also catches a developer’s eye and makes them excited about talking to you.

Take the opportunity to sell why your company is a cool place to work

While it’s important to provide the baseline information that a candidate needs to know about a role, for example, the tech stack that you work with, information that ‘humanises’ the company always goes a long way to set your spec apart.

Here are some ideas on context that you could provide in your spec outside of someone’s responsibilities:

  • What their typical day could look like: This is the number one question asked by candidates in interviews, so taking the opportunity to lay this out creatively can really inject some life into the spec. This section is a great opportunity to describe some of your favourite elements of your company culture, and how your team dynamics work.
  • How their role fits into the wider mission: Taking the time to describe the why behind your company and the values that you aim to uphold can help a candidate better understand where they would fit into a bigger whole. It also provides more context and helps them get a more complete sense of the environment they’d be joining.
  • What projects your company has worked on lately: Including some background on this is another way to spark excitement for a candidate, as it gives them tangible examples of the work they could be involved in.
  • What learning and career progression opportunities you can offer: This is something that matters a lot to tech professionals, so stating up front what kind of levelling up your company offers is something that candidates are likely to be drawn to.

Get on the same page as a team, so the spec you put out yields the best results

Now that you’ve made sure you’ve explained everything that’s great about your company, you also want to make sure your ad is exciting for the right kind of candidates. From our interactions with companies, I’ve seen that these are useful questions to unpack as a hiring team when crafting a spec:

  • What does our ideal candidate look like?
  • If you could have anyone fill the role, who would it be and what could they bring to the team?
  • What would be important for this candidate in a job?
  • How can we advertise that for this person in the best way?

Reflecting on this makes it easier to map out what information you’d need to round off your job spec before sending it out to the world, and this is where I’ve seen collaboration between technical hiring managers and the HR team is especially important.

You want to be on the same page about how to answer these questions, so that when the applications start coming in, your thinking around who to progress with is aligned.

As a last point, I’ve seen that tech professionals are pretty vocal about how they experience hiring processes, so do some user research and find out what’s important to them! Doing so can only help you create the best experience possible for the people that you’re most interested in appealing to.

Lara is an Account Manager at OfferZen who helps startups level up their hiring processes. She has a degree in marketing and brand management from Vega, and over three years of account management work experience. Fun fact: She’s originally from the Eastern Cape and her happy place is the beach!


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