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Optimizing Who’s Hiring posts on Hacker News

PagerDuty is a data focused company and recruiting is no exception1. We’re growing quickly and one tiny corner of our recruiting effort has been to post in Hacker Newsmonthly Who’s Hiring thread. Over the past 6 months, I’ve been tracking our click-through on each of our posts, here’s what I’ve learned:

A typical post would get 100-200 clicks:

  • I tested the waters in May with a short post that garnered 90 clicks
  • In June, I botched the formatting, for 712 clicks on the job-specific links. An additional 25 out of 135 clicks on http://pduty.me/jobshnjune came from that post.
  • In July, my post got 195 3 clicks
  • In August, my post got 1984 clicks & Shack’s reply got another 80
  • In September, I dropped the ball and 2 engineers posted, click-through was low
  • An offhand comment that I made in response to a project that one of our customers posted, got 206 clicks.
  • In October our post was a post by an engineer later in the day with comparatively low clicks.

Most clicks come in the first few days
Hardly surprising, although if you want to stand out as an application there might be some benefit is applying to a multi-week old posting.

Post early
Again, this shouldn’t be surprising, since the earlier you post, the more people see it. But I was surprised by the magnitude, the October posting was especially hurt by being posted later — the thread going live at 6am Pacific time doesn’t help us on the west coast.

Everything should have an owner
I’m less concerned with the hundreds of clicks we missed by publishing late as I am with the duplication of work. We’re still very much a do-ocracy — which is great for so many reasons — but it can also mean someone re-writes the job posting rather than cutting and pasting from the wiki.

Formatting and content matter
The time spent improving the text and formatting of the post improved click-through, so I’d recommend writing your post ahead of time and recycling the best content (if you don’t have a great paragraph about why people should work for you, write that now).

Have a hook
Our Toronto job postings do very well considering the distribution of HN readers between Toronto and the bay area. We have a well articulated hook for our Canadian recruiting: Take the TTC to work in Silicon Valley. SV and SF are fiercely competitive places, even for great companies to find great people.

Conclusion: the impact was minimal
Out of the 1000 clicks that I’ve tracked through these comments and the ones on my blog, we’ve gotten 10 leads, some of which were promising but 0 hires. In fact, we (originally) didn’t post in November’s thread, out of respect for our team’s work/life balance. (One of our engineers posted anyway, it’s still a do-ocracy).

I suspect that the readers of HN, even the ones browsing a hiring thread are typically happy where they are and so need more than a passive posting in a thread with 100 other companies /speculation.

Unapologetic call to action:
We’re smart people who are great to work with, join our team in SF or Toronto.

  1. It is an exception in the sense that everything I’m talking about here is coming from public data sources so I can write about it, which is kind of cool.
  2. 31+13+18+9
  3. 23+18+67+62+25
  4. 44+97+34+23

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