At Haystack we’re on a mission to connect the world’s tech talent with employers that matter to them. We’ve created a community of tens of thousands of tech professionals who are tired of the status quo and that use Haystack every day to browse the tech scene and discover opportunities - on their terms. The Haystack platform gives talent acquisition teams and hiring managers the tools to engage techies that are warm to their brand and that actually want to hear from them. - The Haystack Team

If candidates act like consumers it’s time to recruit like marketeers. It's time to use the tools that meet candidates where they're at. We surveyed the Haystack community to analyse what sources of information they used to explore companies of interest and what they looked for in them when evaluating whether or not to apply. We also asked what made the process of applying and interviewing pleasurable or painful. We analysed the results and distilled them into how you can create a custom experience for software engineers that will transform your tech recruitment prospects. Building a tech employer brand is about providing the insights techies need to have before making the leap to apply. If you don’t have a specific tech employer branding strategy, you’re missing a trick.

Job Seeker Considerations

We asked our community how they learn about a company when considering changing positions.

Get your own house in order

Although 58% of respondents sought out information on third party company review sites like Glassdoor or Blind, your website (69%) will be the first stop for the majority of job seekers interested in your open positions. The great news is that this is entirely within your control.

Start With Your Company Careers Page

Don’t bury your careers page link at the bottom of your website next to your privacy policy and terms and conditions (that nobody reads). The link should be on the nav bar, front and centre, so people don’t have to go looking for it. Be easy to discover. Make sure your website meets their expectations with a careers page that provides the information and personality they're looking for (more details on this below). 👇

Look After Your Glassdoor Profile

Over half of job seekers will also visit Glassdoor (or similar) to check out your company reviews. It is free to build a basic company profile, outline your mission and respond to reviews. Take the time to respond to all reviews - positive and negative.It shows you take feedback seriously. Avoid sounding like a dumped 16-year-old, however unjust that one-star review from the guy who never showed up might be! Encourage your existing team members to leave reviews without pressuring them or flagrantly trying to cancel out the negative review that has just been left.

Get Social

Just under half of people (47%) admitted to taking a look at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to gain insights into potential employers. This is a great way to show off the mission, personality or diversity of your organisation. If you’re in need of some inspiration check out Girls Who Code on Facebook and HubSpot on Instagram.

Media and Press

After speaking to personal network (34%), the fifth most utilised source was general media articles about your company (27%). Run your company name through Google News and see what comes up. If it’s nothing or an article talking about your seed round from five years ago it’s probably time to start drafting some press releases. New office openings, client wins, recruitment drives, funding rounds, CSR initiatives all qualify as newsworthy and show your business on an upward curve.

Decision Making Factors

We then surveyed our community to find out what would most influence them when assessing whether to apply to one company or another. We removed factors such as salary, benefits and location and asked what three characteristics are most important to them. The results showed there were definite factors specific to the tech community and significant differences between women and men.

#1 Consideration for Women, #2 for Men

Display an Authentic Company Culture

The general company trait that techies look for most is authenticity. Make sure your content delivers in terms of the information and personality they are looking for. That way it will resonate emotionally. The best way to do this is to think of your company as a person. What qualities do they have? How do they talk? What interests and motivates them? What do they find funny?

#1 Consideration for Men, #4 for Women

Talk About Your Tech

Even if your brand is not the coolest or most sought after in the tech world, by promoting the virtue of your tech stack you can still stir the interest of techies.

#2 Consideration for Women, #4 for Men

Shout About Flexible Working

This is a common theme found on most company careers pages, but so many fall short of backing up their claims. Highlight what the team is up to out of the office in the time that flexible working affords them - and make it personal.

#3 Consideration for Women and Men

Opportunities for Professional Development

Tech talent has an appetite for fast moving personal development. They’re often self-taught and motivated by constant learning and development. Engineers are looking for positions that will help them learn and grow. Tech changes so quickly, that good devs know that if you want to progress it’s imperative that you put the time into learning. Good companies know that they need to support their engineers with this endeavour.

#4 Consideration for Women, #8 for Men

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

A lot of companies want to increase and improve their levels of diversity and there are sound moral and business reasons for doing so, but fewer talk about how they do this, which is where equity and inclusion come in.

#5 Consideration for Men, #8 for Women

Remote Working

Make sure you’re not confusing remote working with flexible or hybrid working. You don’t offer remote work if your employees need to spend one or two days a week in the office. If you do offer genuine remote work options that’s great, but saying you offer it is only part of the story.The key to the success of a dispersed team lies in the onboarding, regular and effective communication and nurturing a shared sense of purpose.

#6 Consideration for Women and Men

A Sense of Mission

Start With Why. Nobody wants to work for a company that exists purely for shareholder gain. What inspires people is a sense of purpose. They want to feel that their work has meaning.

#7 Consideration for Women and Men

Work with great people

The best perk you can provide is to surround new employees with an outstanding existing team. It is not enough just to claim expertise or expect people to know you only recruit the best, you need to showcase it as well.

Btw, we're constantly helping employers like Goodlord build a tech focussed employer brand that resonates with the tech community. Check out the case study here to find out how.

Applications and Interviews

In the third part of our survey, we quizzed our community to find out what was most problematic about their experience of the application and interview process. These were the common themes.

If you take only one thing away from this report (TL;DR) it would be this: Make your application and interview processes more human. Nobody likes to feel they are being pushed through a talent pipeline. Below, we talk about each of these in a little more detail, particularly around quoting salaries and code tests, which stirred up a lot of feedback other than just the headline figures.

Post Salary Information

A whopping 73% of respondents said that they found a lack of salary information on initial job ads a turn-off. So, unless there is a very good reason not to, you should quote salary information on open jobs. Why? Well, three main reasons.

1. They get more applications

Vacancies with salary information on Haystack get 55% more views and 65% more applications than those without. It is one of the first things that professionals look for and is a motivating factor that can’t be ignored.

2. It shows transparency

Transparency across all company policy, behaviour and performance is becoming of increasing performance in any business. One way to ensure that your organisation is on a committed path to equality and fairness is to disclose salary ranges. It is a very powerful action that illustrates how your company isn’t interested in mystique.

3. Millennials demand it

In Jennifer Deal’s hugely successful book ‘What Millennials Want From Work’, she found that:

Millennials are most likely to discuss their compensation with their parents (71%) or their friends (47%). In comparison, older staff are substantially less likely to discuss their compensation with co-workers (19%), friends (24%) or parents (31%).

Openness about finance is a deep-rooted trend among this cohort. And considering the fact that millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, it is perhaps worth thinking about this in terms of how to attract them. If salary ranges appeal to this generation then it makes sense to include them in job postings.


More than six in ten (62%) of people surveyed cited a lack of communication after applying as a negative of the application process. Tech talent are used to using technology to communicate instantly through platforms like Slack. Is your HR or Talent Acquisition team readily available for real time communication with both new talent and existing employees? It’s a real bonus if you are, as it positions the brand as forward thinking and tech savvy in the mind of the people you want to engage with. It is also good practice and keeps potential new talent engaged. Nobody likes being ghosted, right?

Snooze You Lose

According to our community, the average techie will lose interest in your process after two weeks. Just over half of our community (55%) cited pace as a frustration during interview processes. Given tech professionals are in demand it is likely that they are involved in multiple processes at once. It could be that you are losing potential employees because your process is clunky.

Make recruitment a priority

Get all decision makers to move interviewing candidates to the top of their to-do list. It isn’t one person’s responsibility, it’s a team effort. Nobody should be too busy to make space in their diary to meet potential recruits.


Streamline the number of steps in your process as much as possible (without compromising on rigour), see if steps can be merged and keep candidates engaged between stages. When you’re ready to offer, move quick!

Build a talent pipeline

Building your talent pipeline is the long-term solution. Build relationships with talent before a role goes live. By networking and building relationships with techies, every time you fill a role you will have a vast pool of potential candidates - hiring becomes easier, quicker and less expensive.

Shorten Your Application Process

There are few things more frustrating than seeing a job you could potentially be interested in, hitting the “Apply Now” button and then spending the next 45 minutes filling out a standard form (that doesn’t work properly on your phone). 52% of our respondents complained that the process of applying was painful. Asking a potential recruit to fill out that form, then upload the same info as a CV, then write a cover letter, then undergo a code test - it’s a lot. Slimming those requirements down as much as possible, or spacing them out with great communication after each step, goes a long way to improving this experience.

Sort Your Job Ads Out

First things first. There is a huge difference between a job ad and a job description. If you are copy and pasting it’s a mistake. Only 50% of our surveyed community found jobs ads useful at all and there were four common complaints.


The language is wrong in a way that the job details don't make any sense. If you are not a tech person just run it by someone in your tech team.

Conflicting messages

Conflicting messages in the description and criteria, for example an entry level position that also requires a year of commercial experience.Lots of words, lack of infoLots of words, but no actual information, especially when it comes to salary information or the specific tasks involved.


The language doesn’t hint at equality. When talking culture don’t just talk about your beer fridge, go-kart days and Man United tickets.

Relevant Code Tests

There is a general acknowledgement that code tests are a legitimate part of the interview process for software engineers. It is difficult to assess and hire developers without actually getting them to write code. Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow and Co-founder of Trello, provided further backing of this perspective with a simple analogy.

“Would you hire a magician without asking them to show you some magic tricks? Of course not. Would you hire a caterer for your wedding without tasting their food? I doubt it. Do whatever you want during interviews, but make the candidate write some code,” - Joel Spolsky.

So, why do 38% of our respondents dislike code tests and how can you change their perspective? Irritation at code tests seemed to come from three main areas.

📉 3 reasons your code tests might be turning candidates away

1. They only test algorithmic skills

Look for coding assessments based on unit tests - developers write unit tests on a daily basis. Also look for assessments that use language specific frameworks - preferably the same languages that candidates would be writing code in if hired at your company. Testing for the nuances of each specific language helps to better surface candidates who will deliver clean code on-the-job.

2. They’re time consuming

This objection is far easier to overcome. From the perspective of the hiring company, all it takes is a little self-awareness and empathy for the applicant - make it a point to be mindful and respectful of each candidates’ time.

3. They’re too generic

Software engineers complain that coding tests don’t reflect the actual experience of writing code as you would on-the-job. For example, many coding tests require developers to build something from scratch, whereas, in the real world, on-the-job experience would instead dictate that you familiarise yourself with an existing code base and learn to contribute to it effectively. There are countless generic coding tests out there because they are easy to create. Instead, look for coding assessment tools that give you access to a database of pre-built assessments in a wide variety of languages, scopes, and challenge types that are as similar to your own code base as possible.

Don’t Ask for a Lot, but Give a Little

Just over a third of respondents (36%) mentioned that they felt that the initial part of the application process was one-sided in the sense that they provided a lot of information in exchange for very little. In addition to providing all of the insight they need to apply, explain your interview process on your careers page. Making the process more transparent makes you more trustworthy. It lets people know what to expect. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Google and Nike.

Optimise for mobile

Around 78% of millennials and 73% of Gen Xers search for jobs via mobile. Even 57% of Baby Boomers are searching with their mobile device. This is not jobseeker behaviour, it has become human behaviour to use mobile devices for all kinds of tasks. 22% of people surveyed complained of poor mobile experience when searching or applying for a role. You can no longer get away with a careers page that is not optimised for a mobile device. Rather than zoom and squint and constantly adjust the screen, potential job applicants will just X out and potentially never return.


It is normal for most people to have to give one week notice for annual leave, so making candidates attend an interview at 10am on a Wednesday morning both delays your own process and makes life difficult for your prospective recruit. 15% of respondents complained about companies’ inflexibility in scheduling interviews. Consider offering interview slots on a Saturday morning or in the evening. If travel is an issue, consider meeting them halfway or taking advantage of video interviewing software. This shows your commitment to interviewing being a two-way street and makes candidates feel loved.

That’s a wrap.

Your employees should be at the heart of your company, so it’s time to treat prospective employees with the same courtesy. Ensuring you make the best hires can save you time, effort and money in the long term so it is something worth investing in. Haystack’s philosophy and approach to hiring tech talent is a long-term solution to your hiring needs. If you’re interested in learning more about how Haystack can help you to grow and develop your tech employer brand get in touch below.

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