State of the market
It is harder than ever for startups to hire talent. In Australia this is driven by multiple factors:
- Big tech companies (Atlassian, Canva, REA, Xero, Myob, CultureAmp, Envato) are massively expanding their teams and have the resources, brand power, salary & equity options to attract talent
- Big consultants (Deloitte, PWC, EY etc) all have massively growing service arms also hiring madly
- Other verticals now have aggressive expansion plans for tech teams as retail and other services go increasingly online-first (Kmart, Catch, Coles, Bunnings)
- Banking, finance & insurance sectors all are primarily staffed by dev and design teams as they try to out-compete each other on apps and website experiences, also hiring a lot
- Covid has meant that many people in the tech sector now have established home offices and prefer to work from home. Some went the opposite way and urgently want to get back into the office. This makes it tricky
- On the positive side, remote work does open up the market to hiring from outside of your local area which can be a huge advantage if you do it well
- Over the last few years we also saw “The Great Resignation” where many people changed jobs for more money, better working conditions or other benefits
- Many people also burned out over the last few years, hitting their tolerance levels for ambiguity, lack of autonomy and unsupportive cultures. They will be looking for stability, clarity, boundaries and autonomy in their next roles, many of which startups don’t have.
- Remember that job descriptions and job ads are different documents.
- Use the job ad to sell your EVP (see below) and give a sense of the day to day in the role
- List any must-have skills
- Include a short blurb about your org and where you’re at in terms of growth, why you’re hiring for this role
- Describe what a day or week in this role would be like
- Share who they might be working with and what your team set up is
- Describe any processes or ways of working at a high level
- Share what the role’s main aim is
- Include the salary, up front
- Share a little about the hiring process and how soon they might hear from you
- Keep it lightweight and brief
- Require unnecessary qualifications that don’t relate directly to the role
- Just post the position description
- Write a massive essay
- Consider posting the same job with different titles or locations to broaden your reach
- Research what is happening with titles now. Search algos on these sites still aren’t great. That includes:
- Punctuation e.g. is it “Front-end” or “Frontend”?
- Title: “UX designer” or “Product designer”? “Software engineer” vs “developer”?
- General vs specific “Backend engineer” vs “Full stack engineer”
- Consider listing the job ad under a different title to the PD. You can be up front about this in the process.
- Inflate titles in order to try to catch higher quality talent. This will cause you untold sorrows.
- Everyone wants seniors right now. Literally the most desired worker in our sector. Hotly contested. Be aware that you are competing with all the companies at the top of this document for a relatively small pool.
- Lead, principle, staff – these are much rare titles and not as frequently advertised but obviously very desired by talent. If your role is actually at this level, it’s worth considering. Obviously this means more autonomy etc.
- Junior, intern, graduate – rarer again but there is a massive amount of people in this skill level looking for work. People are coming out of bootcamps, some of them quite good, and going straight into standard “Developer” or even senior roles. It’s going to have to reset at some point. Obviously you need to be able to actually support a junior but be aware that it’s obviously a cheaper salary and a much easier market to hire in.
- Director, VP, head of – management class titles, avoid unless this is actually a people management role.
- Founding designer/founding engineer – seeing this more, seems to be a signifier for “First of your breed” roles in startups where the role could be on a path to head-of down the line if the startup succeeds. Obviously a gamble but some people want in. Consider if this is you and you could see this role evolving in this way.
- List an an appropriate seniority level for how much autonomy you want this person to have
- Consider other levels of seniority if you’re lucking out at Senior.
- Australian tech salaries have increased quite a lot in the past few years, but we still pale next to the comparative markets in the states.
- There are various salary reports you can download, but I’d recommend also looking on LinkedIn and Glassdoor for salary data as it’s listed by actual employees.
- In general, developer wages run higher than designer and product manager wages. I would expect this to normalise soon, but there is generally still a prevailing bias that software engineering is more complex/harder than those other disciplines.
- For larger tech companies, base salary is only one part of the “package” which usually includes bonuses ($10K-$20K+), profit share (% of base salary), and sometimes equity (can be upwards of $100K+). Despite this, most negotiations with recruiters do focus around salary.
- Smaller companies will be running smaller salaries but offering larger equity shares, which will be cheap at time of issuing and (hopefully) expensive at time of selling, offering the possibility of significant upside if the startup goes well. Almost all of these equity offers come with 4-5 year vesting periods to prevent employee churn, which is one of the most high cost things for a growing company. This is known as “golden handcuffs”.
- Be specific to list whether your salary is base or inclusive of super. I would say it’s becoming more standard to talk about base salary + various benefits + super.
- Competing on (base) salary is a tricky thing to do. Big companies have deeper pockets. This is why smaller startups look to equity offers which cost the company little at issuance and can be cashed in once the company has grown.
- If you aren’t competing on base salary or equity, that’s fine, but be aware of what’s going on in the market.
- High salaries are also hard to walk back. If you pay your team competitively high salaries and then later need to start hiring more people at lower salaries, you will find yourself in a pay inequality situation, which is not an ethical place you want to be.
- Some employees may prefer more of their compensation outside of their base salary as it is more efficient from a taxation perspective.
- Research salary ranges for the roles you’re looking to hire for on LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
- Present salary range or figure on the job ad, and be up front in your process about how much negotiation is possible and why.
- Choose a salary that makes sense in the salary landscape of your organisation.
- Be realistic about what you can afford. If you can only afford a junior, then hire a junior.
- Consider how you can make your package competitive if not through base salary.
- Inflate salaries to net top talent. People who only work for the top dollar are not necessarily the top talent.
- Underpay with no other competitive differentiators.
- Obfuscate salary throughout the job application process.
- On top of compensation, your employee value proposition outlines other benefits of working at your organisation.
- The EVP should be reusable across various roles but you may have some benefits that resonate with some more than others e.g. Computer choice/top end equipment will matter more to developers.
- EVP is a hot space for competition in the job market now.
- You might consider:
- Equipment choice and budget
- Home office budget
- Extra leave including regular “break days”, mental health leave, miscarriage leave, menstrual leave
- Unlimited holiday leave
- Remote/hybrid/in-office choice, budget for renting co-working space
- Timezone/async support
- Gym/yoga/exercise/wellness budget
- Paying for healthcare
- Company events like triathlons, hackathons, etc.
- Meeting-free days
- Learning and development budgets
- Performance review commitments and pay increase commitments
- Management / IC development pathways
- Car/transport budget
- Conference/meetup budget/training
- Work from anywhere policy
- Commitments to gender equality and diversity, including certifications
- Mental Health First Aid training
- Tree planting days
- Charity/non-profit leave
- Matched or doubled donations for charitable giving.
Where to post
- Overall I have found that LinkedIn Jobs is the highest yield platform. It is somewhat expensive but for our market seems to be where people look.
- SEEK/Indeed are expensive and seem to primarily yield low quality candidates from international sources, usually without proper responses or cover letters. Low ROI.
- Other more niche boards tend to have low view rates or a lot of overlap with LinkedIn Jobs. YMMV depending on the board.
- Glassdoor’s jobs offering might be worth investigating.
- Posting on your company’s social media, including LinkedIn, can be effective. In particular on LinkedIn, sharing a personal message from someone on your team is helpful. Remember that the LinkedIn algorithm really values comments so if you can ask other teammates or friends to comment on the post, it will get shared to their network too. Ideally sourcing someone through your network is actually ideal.
- Posting the job on your careers page on your website is important. You can easily ask LinkedIn Jobs to send them to your site for application. On your website you want to include not only the job listings, in as similar a format to LinkedIn Job as possible, but also your EVP and a little about your company.
- Photos are very effective and give people a sense of who you are.
- Include your company values if possible.
- A short history of your company, including where you’re at now, is helpful context.
- A short statement about your current mission/purpose/goals/vision is helpful for people to understand where you’re at and figure out what it might be like to work with you.
- If possible, include some testimonies from other employees.
- Sharing who is currently on your team, their roles and pictures of their faces, will be really helpful information.
- Remember that your Careers page on your website is your best opportunity to sell your company as a great place to work. Anything you can include here about commitments to diversity, great benefits/perks, or anything that makes you seem appealing is worth including.
- Make sure your company page on LinkedIn is up to date and as complete as possible.
- If you can, it is useful to take advantage of LinkedIn’s company pages feature which allows you to also showcase your organisation as a great place to work directly on LinkedIn. Video content performs well here and is worth creating if you can!
- If you are hoping to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds and abilities (which you should), you will want to reach out into their communities and make yourself known proactively. Hoping that they stumble across your role is a little laid back and frankly, lazy.
- There are specific meetups for lots of different groups in tech, which you can sponsor, attend or speak at. There are