Developer Mind Reading 101

Developer Mind Reading 101

What Developers Look for in a Job

If you’re a technical recruiter, knowing what’s on your candidate’s mind helps tremendously at every step of your interaction with them. The better you know what the most important considerations are on their mind, the better chance you have to successfully recruit them. Here is a list of super power you’ll get when you can “read mind” –

  • Having developers return your email or phone call during your initial reach out
  • Sustaining your candidate’s interest level while going through all the testing, qualifying, and interviewing
  • Reaching a win-win outcome during the offer negotiation to bring them on board

What developers tell you

It turns out this is a hot topic among technical people as well. Whenever I talk to my fellow developers/engineers, I get many eager responses. Here is a (long) list of typical answers you’ll get when you ask technical people what they are looking for:

  • I like to wear many hats
  • No bureaucracy
  • A place where I can build something awesome
  • I want no politics
  • I have ownership in the product
  • What I do and how hard I work actually matters
  • I have responsible for things that are above my pay grade
  • The harder I work, the faster I grow and become rewarded
  • I want to be self-directed
  • I need a sense of purpose
  • I want become even better in what I do
  • The team I will work with is important
  • I want to solve an important problem (ex: technical challenges, or solves a personal pain point, etc)
  • I’m looking for the *opportunity* to make a lot of money via options/equity is exciting
  • I’d like to play a key role in defining product/strategy (personal voice and influence)
  • I want the right title/role/responsibilities
  • I am looking for a sense of freedom (e.g., escape bigger company politics/inefficiencies, more flexibility in schedule, etc)
  • Experience (experiential learning, connections, etc) that can lead me to a bigger career goal is important
  • Company culture/environment matters a lot
  • I am looking for a collaborative environment
  • I need variety in my work so I won’t be bored
  • The opportunity to be shaping the technical landscape of a product excites me
  • I want to be an early engineer at a famous company


What they are REALLY saying

With a list this long, it’s difficult to keep all these in your head when you interact with your candidates. The good news is that we can boil them down into four simple categories:

  1. People
    • I want to be belong to a league of smart people
    • I want them to like me and recognize my ability and contribution
    • I want to learn from smart people I work with and become even smarter
  2. Work
    • I want stimulating and challenging work
    • I need to find meaning in my work and see my work make an impact
    • I also want to do work that will increase my market value even more
    • I want to be constantly learning new technologies and gaining skills
  3. Reward
    • I like to see a direct correlation between effort and reward
    • Furthermore, I’m excited about the chance of hitting the “jackpot” by joining the next Facebook
  4. Autonomy
    • The company trust me to make decisions, from technical decisions to my work schedule


How to use it in your recruiting

Now when we look at this summary, we can see that technical people – developers, software engineers, designers, QA engineers, database architect, DevOps, PMs, etc. – want pretty much the same thing as everyone else. The difference is that good technical candidates are in a position to choose, so they set the bar pretty high. This means they expect to find a job that meets ALL of their criteria, because they can.

Now you knowing the main decision factors of technical talent, incorporate these into all your interactions with your candidates when you recruit them. For example, saying something like

“In our Big Data SDE role, you get to play with petabytes of data, code up mind-bending machine learning algorithms, and become a master of all things Big Data – Cassandra, Hbase, PIG, Hive, Hadoop, and more.”

is a lot more enticing than saying

“I have a very exciting job opportunity at a very good company. I am attaching the job description. If you are interested, kindly send your updated resume.”

Intrigue your candidates by mapping the job requirements to what they look for in a job. When you incorporate this into every piece of communication, your candidates will become a lot more enthusiastic and cooperative.

Getting to a successful hire

These are the basic requirements developers have in their next job. Be sure you address most, if not all, of them.  Think about how the new job opportunity would offer your candidate an improvement over their current condition.

To go beyond the basics, you need to also learn about each candidate’s unique situation. That’s where the more subjective requirements come into consideration.  Knowing how your candidates rank their decision factors will be crucial to increase their engagement and facilitate a smooth closing.

Do you have other items or recruiting stories you’d like to share? Please let us know.

2 thoughts on “Developer Mind Reading 101”

  1. Pingback: Advice for Contacting Software Developers | Geekology Blog

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