8 Tips for Recruiting Software Engineers

March 5, 2015 at 9:30 AM by Irina Shamaeva


In my past career as a software engineer, I had numerous interactions with technical recruiters. I was placed several times, by agency recruiters, with start-ups and bio-tech companies here in the Bay Area.

Most of you are familiar with my posts and webinars on how to source. This post is different – it reflects my experience interacting with recruiters from the software engineering side.

Here are my eight tips for technical recruiters.

  • Only contact qualified people. 

(To the best of your knowledge.) I hope it sounds obvious. If you mass-message potential candidates, based on keyword searches, without reviewing whom you contact, this seriously upsets engineers, lowers your reputation, and doesn’t help our overall reputation as Recruiters.

  • Write your message.

Most software engineers are introverts. They do not want to be interrupted and usually do not want to talk on the phone, unless a call has been set up. Additionally, many are at work in cubicles or in an open environment, with no privacy. Watch a TED talk on introverts. Don’t call software engineers – unless you know they are “active” candidates – but maybe even then, send an email as the initial communication. If you are calling, note that software engineers are likely to get up late and work late.

  • Explain who is hiring.

Engineers are more likely to trust recruiters who represent a known employer. That means agency recruiters are at a disadvantage, since we often can’t name the employer before we start interacting with the potential candidate. (Very few engineers know that about agency recruiters.) Just keep that in mind and reveal who the employer is as soon as you can. Make sure you explain the company. If you are not representing Google or Facebook, know your “elevator pitch”.

  • Don’t pretend to be an expert.

Recruiters have earned a bad reputation by emailing the wrong candidates. Don’t make it worse by pretending that you know what software engineers do. It’s better to admit our lack of knowledge than use the terms that we are not confident about. Correct terminology usage is especially important in the initial contact; make sure your email doesn’t mix the terminology words in the wrong ways. Ask a question if appropriate. Engineers would be glad to explain things.

  • Be personal.

If you saw an engineer’s profile on GitHub and are writing a message on LinkedIn or emailing, be sure to point to the source. Messages are answered way better if you take a few minutes to review the profile and make an attempt to include a brief personalized statement. Mention something you have in common, or praise their achievements (such as a large number of followers on GitHub), or say something you heard about their present or past employer.  

  • Include your full contact info, your role, and your company name in the messages.

That is what everyone does, more or less. However, it’s good to know that InMails on LinkedIn do not include your info even when you check the box telling LinkedIn to include it. (It’s a known bug.) You need to paste the contact info into the body of the InMail, if that is how you contact potential candidates.

  • Optimize, track messages and responses.

Be brief in the initial message. The message’s purpose is to start interacting – it needs to have just enough information for that. Research tells us that messages sent on Sunday night and Monday morning work better. Vary the subject lines, track the response volume, and see what works. For “passive” candidates, resend (or set a reminder to send) the message in 4-7 days; for “active”, in 2-3 days.

  • Build a pipeline.

Software engineers are typically either “looking” or “not looking” for a new opportunity. (Not too many are “always open to a better opportunity”.) Many engineers would not respond or would say “not interested” if they are “not looking”, but would save your message and may dig it out later.

What are some outreach tricks you've learned while reaching out to engineers? Share them with us in the comments! While you're at it, be sure to check out our whole collection of tech recruiting webinars – you'll bound to find something you like. Like what you've read? Subscribe to the Entelo Blog!

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