To Save Tech Recruiting, We Need to Stop Approaching it Like Sales

Have you had difficulties finding and hiring the best tech people you’d like for your team?

Frankly, tech recruiting has been in trouble for some time. The best candidates out there are sick of your BS and they’re not buying. They’re over the cold, impersonal spam-blast and no, they’re not going to go to the trouble of laboring over an application when it was you (or your recruiter) who approached them.

So why, why are we still taking this “throw enough mud and see what sticks” approach to recruitment? The answer just may be that we’re approaching it too similarly to how we approach sales.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”56″]Have you developed an employer value proposition? Get our quick guide here:[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Numbers or Humans?

Ask recruiters themselves and they’ll tell you that recruiting has often become a numbers game, not unlike sales. Jill Jubinski, a recruiter in the tech industry, believes that the profession of technical recruiting as we know it is dying.

“In the current state most recruiters have been directed to focus on filling seats and being numbers driven in order to be successful. Unfortunately for us, a lot of this process (screening resumes, testing for tech talent, scheduling, sending offers) can all be automated. How can we change the way that recruitment works to ensure our position in the future of tech? We must realize that we can be the differentiator by focusing on being relationship builders instead of just seat fillers.”

Numbers don’t fill your vacancies—humans do. This is why it’s fundamentally broken to think that a “sales” approach to recruitment will work.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out either; how do you usually respond to “cold” sales approaches? That insurance salesperson who calls during dinner doesn’t usually get a warm reception. Those emails offering you a “fantastic opportunity” usually only make it as far as the “delete” button or the spam box.

Choosing an employer is not like choosing a new car. There are many more nuances to making a decision about where to base yourself daily for the foreseeable future rather than the obvious bells and whistles that come with it. We’re essentially making a decision about the people we can see ourselves being around and working with on the daily, not the quality of the catered lunches.

Feel free to use this image, just link to www.SeniorLiving.Org This microstock required lots of post processing to get the blue tint. I also needed a bounce card to get more detail in the glasses.
Photo credit: kenteegardin via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

This Isn’t Working…

As Jill Jubinski alluded to, much of the current recruiting process is being delegated to technology to take care of, again, just like sales. Algorithms produce lists based on keywords and automated software throws out an email or LinkedIn message.  

While this technology is great, the problem is that it’s not getting the job done on its own, yet many recruiters are falling back on it instead of taking a more human approach. (For the record, since when did an entirely automated response work in sales either? Most of the time, particularly for bigger decisions, more is needed).

Why isn’t it working? We’ve touched on this previously—top technical talent is not responding to this kind of approach. In fact, most candidates regard it with downright disdain.

It’s Not About Statistics

We get it—the theory is if you can approximate what a good candidate looks like by picking a few keywords out of profiles, you can build a large list of potential targets. The larger the list, you hope that statistics will be on your side and that you’ll get at least a few responses from people who match what you’re really looking for.

Here’s the problem: Using technology to amplify and spam instead of target with precision is the wrong way to go about it. If you do this, you will find:

  • The very best people whom you desperately want simply won’t respond.
  • You might get some responses, but those people may not be a good fit.
  • Your company gets a reputation for “spamming” people.
  • Word gets around the tech community and your approaches get ignored.

In our last post, we talked about how the technology available provides a great tool, but it shouldn’t be used to replace the need for human oversight. It’s there to speed up your process by scraping data for you to then respond to, not to respond for you.

The only appropriate approach when you’re interested in tech talent is to make the effort to learn more about them and personalize your communication. As Matt Staz says: “Embracing tech doesn’t mean dropping the human side of HR. When used right, technology enables businesses and HR professionals to be even more personable.”

… But This Could Work

So we don’t want to approach recruitment like a “numbers” sales game. But it’s recruitment—you’re still trying to “sell” a proposition to a potential candidate. What if we took the best, most “human” elements of a sales role and applied them to tech recruiting?

Here’s what we mean:

Define Your Value Proposition

Tech people want to know the details and this is where it’s important to get senior engineers involved with the recruitment process. Why exactly should they leave their current position to take up your vacancy?

Who will they be working with and on what types of projects? Recruiters may struggle with any detail beyond what’s on the surface, but they can certainly help with selling the less-tangible benefits which define the unique value of your company.

Remember, this is after you’ve sent them personalized messages or even met them to get to know them better in person. You don’t want to give the impression that they’re just another number in a “churn and burn” game.

Personalizing your message means that you are able to distill down to the “hook” which will really appeal to person as an individual. We all have different motivators and things that push our buttons—work out what’s important to make the “sale” for the right candidate.

Manage “Leads”

The best salespeople are very specifically targeted about whom they approach. There is no sense in wasting time pursuing those who simply won’t be a good fit. In the recruitment world, this looks like those spammy messages being sent out to everyone who turned up on a list created by your algorithm.

Technology simply can’t replace the knowledge and experience of a familiar recruiter or an engineering manager when it comes to deciding who to approach on that list. You need to have a way to qualify or score those “leads” based on how likely they are to be a good candidate.

For example, someone may have turned up on your list because they have a certain keyword listed on their LinkedIn profile, but this certainly doesn’t mean they are qualified for any developer role you have pertaining to that word.

Above all, a trait of most tech people is that they absolutely cannot stand having their time wasted. Be deliberate about who you approach and be timely with your communication. Even if you have quite an involved recruitment process, communicating clearly and appropriately is something you can control.

Ask for Referrals

In sales, just because a lead doesn’t work out doesn’t make it the end of the line. The best salespeople will have built a trusting relationship with the lead to the point where it’s acceptable to ask them for referrals of anyone whom they think will be suitable.

We talked about this recently—the best engineering managers aren’t just technically brilliant, they’re relationship builders who actively seek to develop their networks. Tech people tend to be connected to others in the business and might be able to provide you with a warm introduction.

colleagues-working-in-modern-office

[content_upgrade cu_id=”56″]How do you develop an employer value proposition? Get our quick guide here![content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Final Thoughts

Tech recruiting as we’ve known it of late is fundamentally broken. Dream candidates are ignoring spammy approaches and are leery of any offers that come their way. Technology has been used to amplify and spam rather than to target the right people with precision.

We’re seeing the worst of a sales mentality come through, where recruitment is all about numbers and ignores the fact that it should be a “human to human” experience.

However, tech recruiting can also learn from the best of sales approaches. Rather than candidates feeling like another number in a “churn and burn” game, approach them with a value proposition that will appeal to them personally. Qualify people and learn more about them before messaging them, and remember to ask for warm referrals from whoever you can.

Tech recruiting can be saved if we put the “human” first.

Have you had difficulties finding and hiring the best tech people you’d like for your team?

Frankly, tech recruiting has been in trouble for some time. The best candidates out there are sick of your BS and they’re not buying. They’re over the cold, impersonal spam-blast and no, they’re not going to go to the trouble of laboring over an application when it was you (or your recruiter) who approached them.

So why, why are we still taking this “throw enough mud and see what sticks” approach to recruitment? The answer just may be that we’re approaching it too similarly to how we approach sales.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”56″]Have you developed an employer value proposition? Get our quick guide here:[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Numbers or Humans?

Ask recruiters themselves and they’ll tell you that recruiting has often become a numbers game, not unlike sales. Jill Jubinski, a recruiter in the tech industry, believes that the profession of technical recruiting as we know it is dying.

“In the current state most recruiters have been directed to focus on filling seats and being numbers driven in order to be successful. Unfortunately for us, a lot of this process (screening resumes, testing for tech talent, scheduling, sending offers) can all be automated. How can we change the way that recruitment works to ensure our position in the future of tech? We must realize that we can be the differentiator by focusing on being relationship builders instead of just seat fillers.”

Numbers don’t fill your vacancies—humans do. This is why it’s fundamentally broken to think that a “sales” approach to recruitment will work.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out either; how do you usually respond to “cold” sales approaches? That insurance salesperson who calls during dinner doesn’t usually get a warm reception. Those emails offering you a “fantastic opportunity” usually only make it as far as the “delete” button or the spam box.

Choosing an employer is not like choosing a new car. There are many more nuances to making a decision about where to base yourself daily for the foreseeable future rather than the obvious bells and whistles that come with it. We’re essentially making a decision about the people we can see ourselves being around and working with on the daily, not the quality of the catered lunches.

Feel free to use this image, just link to www.SeniorLiving.Org This microstock required lots of post processing to get the blue tint. I also needed a bounce card to get more detail in the glasses.
Photo credit: kenteegardin via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

This Isn’t Working…

As Jill Jubinski alluded to, much of the current recruiting process is being delegated to technology to take care of, again, just like sales. Algorithms produce lists based on keywords and automated software throws out an email or LinkedIn message.  

While this technology is great, the problem is that it’s not getting the job done on its own, yet many recruiters are falling back on it instead of taking a more human approach. (For the record, since when did an entirely automated response work in sales either? Most of the time, particularly for bigger decisions, more is needed).

Why isn’t it working? We’ve touched on this previously—top technical talent is not responding to this kind of approach. In fact, most candidates regard it with downright disdain.

It’s Not About Statistics

We get it—the theory is if you can approximate what a good candidate looks like by picking a few keywords out of profiles, you can build a large list of potential targets. The larger the list, you hope that statistics will be on your side and that you’ll get at least a few responses from people who match what you’re really looking for.

Here’s the problem: Using technology to amplify and spam instead of target with precision is the wrong way to go about it. If you do this, you will find:

  • The very best people whom you desperately want simply won’t respond.
  • You might get some responses, but those people may not be a good fit.
  • Your company gets a reputation for “spamming” people.
  • Word gets around the tech community and your approaches get ignored.

In our last post, we talked about how the technology available provides a great tool, but it shouldn’t be used to replace the need for human oversight. It’s there to speed up your process by scraping data for you to then respond to, not to respond for you.

The only appropriate approach when you’re interested in tech talent is to make the effort to learn more about them and personalize your communication. As Matt Staz says: “Embracing tech doesn’t mean dropping the human side of HR. When used right, technology enables businesses and HR professionals to be even more personable.”

… But This Could Work

So we don’t want to approach recruitment like a “numbers” sales game. But it’s recruitment—you’re still trying to “sell” a proposition to a potential candidate. What if we took the best, most “human” elements of a sales role and applied them to tech recruiting?

Here’s what we mean:

Define Your Value Proposition

Tech people want to know the details and this is where it’s important to get senior engineers involved with the recruitment process. Why exactly should they leave their current position to take up your vacancy?

Who will they be working with and on what types of projects? Recruiters may struggle with any detail beyond what’s on the surface, but they can certainly help with selling the less-tangible benefits which define the unique value of your company.

Remember, this is after you’ve sent them personalized messages or even met them to get to know them better in person. You don’t want to give the impression that they’re just another number in a “churn and burn” game.

Personalizing your message means that you are able to distill down to the “hook” which will really appeal to person as an individual. We all have different motivators and things that push our buttons—work out what’s important to make the “sale” for the right candidate.

Manage “Leads”

The best salespeople are very specifically targeted about whom they approach. There is no sense in wasting time pursuing those who simply won’t be a good fit. In the recruitment world, this looks like those spammy messages being sent out to everyone who turned up on a list created by your algorithm.

Technology simply can’t replace the knowledge and experience of a familiar recruiter or an engineering manager when it comes to deciding who to approach on that list. You need to have a way to qualify or score those “leads” based on how likely they are to be a good candidate.

For example, someone may have turned up on your list because they have a certain keyword listed on their LinkedIn profile, but this certainly doesn’t mean they are qualified for any developer role you have pertaining to that word.

Above all, a trait of most tech people is that they absolutely cannot stand having their time wasted. Be deliberate about who you approach and be timely with your communication. Even if you have quite an involved recruitment process, communicating clearly and appropriately is something you can control.

Ask for Referrals

In sales, just because a lead doesn’t work out doesn’t make it the end of the line. The best salespeople will have built a trusting relationship with the lead to the point where it’s acceptable to ask them for referrals of anyone whom they think will be suitable.

We talked about this recently—the best engineering managers aren’t just technically brilliant, they’re relationship builders who actively seek to develop their networks. Tech people tend to be connected to others in the business and might be able to provide you with a warm introduction.

colleagues-working-in-modern-office

[content_upgrade cu_id=”56″]How do you develop an employer value proposition? Get our quick guide here![content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Final Thoughts

Tech recruiting as we’ve known it of late is fundamentally broken. Dream candidates are ignoring spammy approaches and are leery of any offers that come their way. Technology has been used to amplify and spam rather than to target the right people with precision.

We’re seeing the worst of a sales mentality come through, where recruitment is all about numbers and ignores the fact that it should be a “human to human” experience.

However, tech recruiting can also learn from the best of sales approaches. Rather than candidates feeling like another number in a “churn and burn” game, approach them with a value proposition that will appeal to them personally. Qualify people and learn more about them before messaging them, and remember to ask for warm referrals from whoever you can.

Tech recruiting can be saved if we put the “human” first.

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