Construct your talent brand around an influencer

We all seem to dislike the tech recruiting approach of most technical recruiters. This isn’t a new or groundbreaking thought though, it’s a common thread amongst developer jokes. Check out the “shit recruiters say” Twitter feed if further proof is needed. So then why hasn’t there been a push for drastic change by the vast majority of technical leaders?

We now have more access to candidate data than ever before, but for some reason there’s a disconnect when adopting these advances to the recruitment process to strategically tailor outreach, specifically when it comes to technical folks. Reaching out to the masses made more sense before candidate data was so readily available, but that approach is seriously out of date. Now, it’s essential for the success of a talent brand that the recruiters do deeper research based on skills, likelihood of changing jobs, and what makes a good fit for the company and position before reaching out.

Either the recruiters don’t have enough understanding of the abilities needed for the open position(s) or the outreach tone just doesn’t connect with the candidate. Over the last several years there’s been a shift towards building a well-evaluated, thoughtful, and strategic talent brand. Candidates want to feel a connection to their company beyond just working on the product. There is more concern in how employers cultivate a team and invest in their people as well as the environment in which they’ll be working in, essentially how employers care for their people. Still, most companies are falling short.

Across the industry, talent acquisition has been an ongoing pain point, motivating more email volume that in turn hurts a company’s talent brand and this perpetuates the negative perception of recruiters. For instance, consider the hundreds of recruitment messages piling up in your LinkedIn inbox, and spam folder. Do you ever think, “yep, today is the day I want to work for that vaguely described company that sounds like all of the others I’ve received unsolicited messages from”? My guess is no.

First impressions are lasting and with the tech industry being such a small community in most cities, the talent brand is too valuable to lack strategic execution. Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Report cites that “outreach campaigns to educate and attract candidates may be just as important as customer-focused advertising” and we could not agree more!

The experience a candidate has with a company from the first interaction should be intentional, taking direction from a clearly strategized talent brand that emulates the voice and culture of the company after deep evaluation of employee satisfaction. This in turn impacts the overall company brand and its ability to produce quality products based on its ability to attract highly skilled talent.

The Details Matter

Let’s use Grainger for example. When you hear Grainger, your first thought might be of industrial supplies, as it should. Grainger is a multi-billion dollar company that sells equipment to industrial companies. Senior technical professionals don’t tend to jump at a company like this. From the outside looking in, it just does not seem to have enough interesting problems to entice high level technical folks.

Recently however, Fred Lee, a well known CTO in the Chicago tech community joined their team and we took notice. Fred is well known for his technical leadership at Belly and Enova. So why would Fred decide to go to a company that seems to have a less attractive tech talent brand? “Patience and persistence” is what he told us. As we dug into the talent brand that attracted Fred, it was an interesting evaluation of why Grainger taking the time to build a relationship with him impacted his impression of their talent brand and why it is so essential in order to bring in the right talent. They did it right.

Initially when Grainger reached out to Fred he wasn’t interested, but “when a $13B company calls you directly about a CTO role, you call them back.” After the initial meeting, Fred turned down the opportunity but he agreed to stay in touch. Typically you may hear from the company maybe once or twice after that if they’re still interested, but the team at Grainger reached out to him once every two weeks. He was invited to meet the CEO, CIO, and several other senior executives over the course of eight months before deciding this was his next career move, and it paid off.

There were a number of reasons Fred joined Grainger: the internal startup, Gamut, the ambitious undertaking from a technology and product standpoint (think Amazon-size technology needs), and team building responsibilities, but what sealed the deal was Grainger’s persistence proved how dedicated they were to hiring the best people.

Hiring Fred was more than winning one top technical lead. Not only did they hire Fred, they also reinvented and strengthened their talent brand, hired a group of highly-technical and respected individuals, and still continue to grow the Grainger talent brand.

From the initial outreach, to the technical assessment and cultural evaluation, to onboarding — intentionality is essential through each stage of the process. I have more thoughts on the “how” piece, but I’ll get to that in another post. For now, I want to help you understand the why, because the why drives the success in executing the how.

Here’s why you should care specifically

Regardless if a candidate accepts a position with your company or not, their experience in your recruitment process forms their feelings about your company. This experience, whether positive or negative, is then shared with their network — either really great for your company or really not. As Meghan Biro put it in her timeless Forbes article, “recruitment and engagement are actually a cycle that creates invaluable ambassadors that can, in turn, drive successive waves of recruitment, and so on — and this feeds directly into the need to make sure your talent brand is dovetailed into your employer and product brands across all platforms.”

The reality today is that people care about what they’re contributing to, not from a product brand perspective, but from a purpose-driven, experiential perspective. It’s not even about the perks or the foosball table, it’s about the experience and how the team/leaders/culture makes them feel every day.

What are you doing to take your talent brand to the next level?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *