Main image of article Preparation Is Key to Improving Candidate Reply Rate

Top tech talent doesn’t respond to typical, generic “seeking rock star programmer” spammy emails. Personalized messaging is key to hitting your response rate goal and generating a slate of top candidates. However, with so much information available on candidates, it can be difficult to decide what to use in your communications and when to use it. As I describe in my new ebook, The Definitive Guide to Engaging Top Tech Candidates, investing in more time upfront in preparation can improve your reply rate. Here are some steps for preparing that focus on both the job and target candidate: Go Beyond the Job Description Before you begin a search, you must first ensure you know what you have to offer. Why? It helps you focus your search on targets who are both qualified and interested, as well as credibly communicate why a happy, high-performing software engineer should consider a new opportunity. What do you need to know? Beyond the basics of the company and its products, compensation, geography, and more, there are three things that are going to be important to most tech professionals. And these things are NOT found on our horribly written, responsibility and requirements-oriented job descriptions.

  • The work and technology What would they get to build? What are the specific projects they’d work on? What specific problems will they get to solve? What’s the scale? What difference does their work make? How will it impact the company, industry or world? What pieces of the work can you point them to now (examples on the web, published research, etc.)? What is the company’s technology stack today, and its tech roadmap going forward?
  • The team and tech culture What is the background of the people they’d work for, work with and learn from? Where has the team previously worked (big brand tech companies, financial services, startups?), and gone to school (are they all pedigreed top school grads, or are they mostly scrappy and self taught?)? What have they accomplished and built? Is the culture open and collaborative, where engineers work in open, shared spaces? Is it an Agile environment? What percentage of time are engineers and developers spend building software, versus attending meetings? Is the focus on iteration and shipping often, or much bigger releases with more formality and lower risk tolerance?
  • The learning curve and tech career path What specifically would the tech pro get to learn in the next six months? What are examples of new technologies and methodologies the team has learned in the past year? Are other team members encouraged to be heads-down, headphones-on cube coders or collaborative, generalist problem solvers? Are team members rewarded for technical depth and peer influence with principal-level roles, or are they forced into people-manager roles?

If you learn even a third of the information in the previous points, you’ll be far, far ahead of most tech recruiters, and will be able to laser-focus your search by finding the kind of candidates who will be naturally motivated to engage with you based on the work, the tech, the team, and the career opportunity. But, how do you tailor your outreach so that it speaks to them? Leverage Candidates’ Social Graph and “Trending Passions” If your orientation as a recruiter is to essentially just keyword-match resumes and job descriptions, you’re likely not getting much of a response from the best, employed, passive tech candidates. Sure, you need to know that they have some relevant expertise, and keywords can help with that. But the best tech recruiters know what motivates the candidate as much as what the company is interested in. Great recruiters usually already know what kind of role a candidate would be interested in before they reach out. So, how do you find this out before talking to them? Some of it is laid out for you nicely, some of it comes from good inferences based on their online profile.

  • Technology Interests Through tech sites like Quora, GitHub, and Stack Overflow, you can see the topics candidates are interested in, the technologies they’re invested in, the tech communities they participate in, and the kind of problems they like to solve. Many tech professionals work on side passion-projects that don’t align to their current job’s focus, so if you learn about these, you may be able to start a conversation that leads to a career much more focused on their passion versus their day-to-day job.
  • Career Interests Now that you have a feel for what projects your candidates are interested in, you’ll want to better understand what types of companies they gravitate toward. From personal blogs and other sites, you can learn more about career interests and what kind of companies they have worked at in the past, along with how long they typically stay in one job, how they’re progressing in their career, whether they like contract work or startups or big brands, and what kind of companies they admire or follow. You can also often learn how important location might be to a prospect: have they relocated for a job in the past, or have they lived in the same city for many years?
  • Personal Interests From Twitter, Meetup and Facebook, you can discern the personal passions of candidates. Are they excited about a new video game, are they going to see a concert this weekend, are they quoting Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory,” are they recommending Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book? Are they following a comic you like, friends with a co-worker, or attending a hiking meetup? All of this information can be used to personalize your outreach, and start a conversation that highlights common interests. Personal blogs are also fantastic sources: tech pros will write about what they love.

While it may seem daunting to perform research across all of these sites, there are ways to do this efficiently. With Dice’s Open Web social recruiting platform, you get a summary of activities and interests based on a candidate’s social footprint across 130 sites. Once you learn what interests candidates, you can personalize your message and stand out from the crowd of recruiters bombarding them with “me, me, me” messages.