How to Leave a Lasting Impression on Tech Candidates

April 7, 2016 at 11:00 AM by William Clarke


I have a good friend who was a software developer at Apple for eight years, and during that time he helped launch the iPhone, the iPad and many other notable products. Yet you’d never know it. Nowhere online will you ever find his name and Apple in the same place. Why? To stave off the constant influx of recruiting messages packing his inbox. 

For the majority of recruiters, it takes us every trick in the book to drum up enough qualified candidates to fill a technical role. Cold emails just won’t get the job done anymore. Here’s how to build a winning technical recruiting strategy by leveraging contacts you already have and by tactically sourcing hard to find candidates through in-person recruiting.

Reconnect with candidates you’ve reached out to before. 

Unless you’re a brand new company, you have hundreds of relevant resumes in your ATS database. Candidates who didn’t wind up hired are still warm leads, and now they have even more experience and skills since the last time you pinged them. Send a quick message to touch base, and let them know you’re interested in picking up the conversation about a new opportunity at your company. Pay attention to other signals that could indicate they’re on the hunt for a new role, like updating their LinkedIn profile or if they have a work anniversary around the corner. Not all candidates will be interested, but being someone they remember, even slightly, will help you pick up where you left off with the one’s who are.

Get in front of the tech people you’re interested in hiring.

It’s become something of a lost art, but in-person networking is still a highly effective way to start building relationships with potential candidates. A great place to start is nearby events on Meetup or Eventbrite. Find technical meet and greets, happy hours or talks that will attract technical professionals. If you’ve got a penchant for public speaking, even better. Many talent pros are recruiters by day and influencers by night, (think Jim Stroud, Erin Wilson, Aline Lerner) sharing their hiring intel in public forums like meetups, conferences, and panels.

Becoming a familiar face in the talent and tech community can help leverage your conversation with fellow recruiters, and most importantly, people who could be interested in working for your company. Not only are you sharing your recruiting intel, but you’re also giving candidates a glimpse into your org’s hiring process and the company culture you’ve built.

Prefer to work behind the scenes? If you have the space, consider hosting an open house or a hackathon at your company. Get together with your technical team to devise the event details What’s the main attraction: A hackathon? Tech talk panel? Product launch party? Keep the networking light and casual, but make sure everyone who comes is aware that you’re hiring. (Remember the primary reason you’re hosting the event is the primary reason people attend the event. Typically, engineers are not attending with the expectation to be heavily recruited.)

After the event, debrief with the team to gather information on attendees and learn who might be looking for a new role, and who could be a fit for a future position. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and even people with zero possibility or desire to change jobs right now are valuable contacts. They could refer others or even turn into a candidate a year or two down the road. Once you’ve built out your list of potential candidates, reach out to schedule time to meet.  

Avoid the recruiter saturation and comb through vertical networks for specialized talent.

Networks such as GitHub, StackOverflow, HackerNews, and are chock full of smart, engaged engineers talking shop and sharing their work. Designers share their work on sites like Dribbble and Behance. There’s Kaggle for data scientists and Grabcad for mechanical engineers. Let members of your technical and management teams do the initial outreach after you’ve found solid candidates. To increase the likeliness they’ll open your recruiting email, send the message from a peer on the tech team as the first touch point.

Leverage your technical team for outreach. 

Technical workers prefer to hear from their peers. The best ways to ensure higher open and response rates is to utilize your colleagues on the technical team for initial pitches (or senior managers if the talent is senior). This is one of the clearest ways personalized outreach directly boosts your ROI significantly. Outreach by peers instead of recruiters also gives candidates the opportunity to ask focused, detailed questions about the technical work environment and other topics that recruiters are not often in a position to answer. Right off the bat it builds trust, authority and credibility with the candidate.

Build a team of marketing engineers.

The best engineers want challenging and rewarding environments where they can work on interesting, meaningful projects. The easiest way to prove your company offers that is to show off your work. Build in time every week for your tech teams to contribute to open source or public projects. Have occasional blog posts from your technical team describing how they are approaching and solving certain problems. Slack, Yammer, Airbnb, Etsy, and Quora are some examples of good engineering blogs.

Have your engineers show off some your code online at places like GitHub. Interact and engage people approaching similar issues. There’s no better way to attract attention from creative people oriented towards problem solving than by showing them how your company is creatively solving interesting problems.

Recruiting technical talent is complicated, but it’s not impossible. Leveraging your company’s existing network and technical achievements allows you to develop and pursue warm leads that are far more likely to become actual candidates. Nurturing a strong brand through inbound recruiting and marketing efforts can also lead to a flywheel effect where your hiring becomes easier due to increased awareness of your company.

Related Articles: 
Why An Engineering Employer Brand Is Crucial To Recruiting Tech Talent
Four Reasons Why Engineers Are Hard To Recruit 
How To Evaluate Technical Candidates As A Nontechnical Recruiter 


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