We've tested and reviewed hundreds of engineering job descriptions, so we wrote this guide to capture our top recommendations for each aspect of the job listing.If you fill out the guide we'll review it and give you feedback!
For an early-stage startup, titles don't matter too much, but can be helpful in attracting more potential applicants. As a startup matures, excessively lofty titles can create friction as the team scales. Highly recommend reading Ben Horowitz's article on this topic.We also recommend the following:
Salary compensation is a very deep topic and most startups haven't figured out which approach to use. If that's the case, Buffer's formula-based approach is a great default to use since it's fair, easy-to-implement, and based on the proprietary Radford global compensation database that would be expensive for you to access on your own. This is important because a principled approach to compensation will reduce the offer negotiation required when closing candidates.
Buffer's salary calculator is an excellent benchmark for setting your salaries.
If you'd like to go deeper, here are a few other compensation resources you may find useful:
The size of your salary range shouldn't exceed 30% of your minimum.
✅ $100k - $120k (20% difference)✅ $120k - $150k (25% difference)❌ $100k - $150k (50% difference)Even if you're willing to pay far outside your range for an exceptional candidate, setting too broad of a range may impact your ability to attract the majority of candidates in your target demographic.
For your first 3 hires, 1-2% is a standard rule of thumb for how much equity to offer.When setting equity, these are the two articles we recommend reading:
Your job description should be content-rich but easy to skim, so keep paragraphs short and use headings and bullets when you can.
Your job description should cater to different types of job seekers. Some candidates use the "spray and pray" approach of submitting their resume to any post that looks remotely interesting, while others take the "quality over quantity" approach by thoroughly researching every company they consider.There isn't one ideal format to use, but these are the sections we recommend including:
This should be a short paragraph (3-4 sentences) that captures the most important compelling details about the company. You want to keep this relatively short because candidates are browsing and want to quickly check whether they're even qualified to apply.
This should be another short paragraph (3-4 sentences) capturing the most important details about the opportunity. This is a good place to emphasize any hard geographic requirements.
List 4-6 of the responsibilities candidates can expect to have, in order of importance. It can be tempting to include more than 6, but a concise list will place greater emphasis on the most prominent responsibilities. If helpful, consider different levels of responsibility, from the long-term objectives candidates will own to the specific projects/tasks they'll be working on to who they'll be working together with.
Examples grouped by type:
List no more than 4 must-have qualifications for the role (any nice-to-have criteria can go in the 'Bonus points' section below). It's important to distinguish between must-haves and nice-to-haves so candidates can more easily self-select whether they are qualified to apply.Not distinguishing between the two will result in:
A concise list forces you to prioritize which skills candidates truly need to have on Day 1.
Examples grouped by category:
List 4-6 nice-to-have criteria for the role. These are skills that wouldn't eliminate a candidate from the running, but would describe the ideal profile for the role. These can include industry background, startup experience, culture fit, or additional technical expertise (including non-engineering skills like design).
Highly recommend including this line at the bottom of the section:"Not sure you meet 100% of our qualifications? Please apply anyway - we look forward to hearing from you!"
It's time to make your sales pitch! Why should candidates be excited by this opportunity? Even if you can't pay top-of-market, remember that compensation is only one aspect of the employee value proposition. Highlight the caliber of the team (including advisors and investors), company culture, ownership, growth opportunities, tech stack, impact, and perks. The more unique, the better!
Unless you've listed it elsewhere, you need to include the tech stack that your product is built with. If you have flexibility in which technologies to use, you should absolutely indicate that.Example:
See Netlify's job listing for a great example
Necessary if you want to include specific instructions on how to apply.Examples:
Playhouse's Frontend Engineer role
CHPTR's Founding Backend Developer role
Netlify's Staff Backend Engineer role
Run your JD through a gender decoder to avoid deterring women from applying.
Studies have shown that masculine-coded language (e.g. "ambitious", "driven") reduces the appeal of job listings for women, while the reverse is significantly less pronounced. Since 92% of developers are men (according to Stack Overflow's Developer Survey), it's important to open up the funnel as wide as possible.