How to Source Passive Tech Candidates
It’s sweet sometimes to indulge in dreams of having a recruiting superpower, but not when you need to find a bunch of introversive tech professionals who are usually indisposed to apply for every position you offer. Dreams just don’t work there. Hence recruiters often call these ownable but hardly reachable candidates “passive” trying to boost their “activity” in a “right way” and almost never thinking of how to discover their world. We have no superpower either but we’ll give you some mana to enter a sacred kingdom of engineers and developers.
Passive is Active if You Can See It
Well, well! You think you have someone passive enough not to get in touch with you.
Let’s take out the word ‘passive’ and replace it with ‘focused’, as what techies do is mostly about concentration. Please keep in mind that due to their mentality tech professionals are really focused on “what’s worth focusing”, on the point of their interest, and there they are not passive at all. Usually, developers and engineers are highly motivated and active enough (otherwise we wouldn’t have this disruptive burst of technology on many markets). Sometimes their brain works much faster processing a lot of issues so they don’t want to get distracted. You can only steal a bit of their attention acting rationally. (BTW, tech candidates may prefer emails because it’s rational: you may read and answer it later in “dedicated” time.)
Just imagine that among many things, all techies see only a certain sphere enlighted with their personal sense — a spotlight they concentrate on while living. Everything behind the spot simply slips their mind (as it “doesn’t worth focusing”), and all things and processes around the spot are organized, structured and balanced in a way they couldn’t be distractive.
You may ask, how to squeeze in there and create a geeky-acceptable message they wouldn’t ignore?
Sourcing Strategy to Find Tech Talents
To catch a techie, one should think like a techie. Here are the basic notions any developer or engineer lives with.
To communicate with any tech professional, you first need
A — ALGORITHM. It defines the way techies act, and consequently should define your process. What they love is an algorhythmic way of communication. It has some points:
- informative enough;
- personal (there’s no mistake);
- and clear for further action (IF this happens –> THEN do that).
Cold contacts? Are you serious? For your client’s sake, stop it.
Just learn two words: No Data.
No data things irritate tech candidates. Back to their inner ‘spotlight’, there’s usually nothing about:
- Who you are as a company (zero warm references).
- Why you are bothering them and why it should be useful (zero personal use).
- What they should actually do with your request (no route or manual).
As a result == No Interest.
You are lucky if you’re Google or Apple or some other industry giant impossible to ignore: one must live in a cave without Internet connection to do this. If you’re a star tech company, just relax and start writing (noting other things listed below).
For the rest, less fancy recruiters: Please don’t play this no data bingo. Prepare and be prepared or you’ll be marked as useless bug in the tech universe. “To personalize your offer” here means not just putting candidate’s name or mentioning their professional achievements first — it means to investigate their ‘enlighted sphere’ and address it personally. Just to step in this spot out of the dark.
Thus, before you start sending your brilliant offers, do some useful practice.
1) Begin with your database search — it often happens that people you wish to address have previously applied for some other positions. Such persons are open to a productive conversation even if they were active a couple years back. Even if there are mo matches, go to step 2.
2) Switch to techie habitat. That means boards, forums, innovative community&collaboration tools, fancy messengers, and good old social networks. Come there and try not to be a stranger. Monitor, learn, seek for warm connections, hot industry and your personal prof topics, for your field of expertise and someone savvy to help you. This is
E — ENVIRONMENT that will help you not only to find a certain developer’s passions but slip into their world and, if successful, be useful there — and get even more interested candidates at a time. Profit!
It’s also very useful to select media your possible candidate reads daily. Usually it’s Reddit and TechCrunch, some industry or personal blogs depending on their specialization, plus social network groups and communities. You’ll need this valuable data soon to enter any tech ‘spotlight’ and be known.
3) Once you completed step 2, make your General Tech Hunting Settings. This means your:
– candidate daily reading monitoring is On (you see what they passion is, what they read, repost, comment and discuss, you have the list of these media and know if there are any recruiting topics or chances for you to share your expertise on public);
– candidate public activities, lifestyle and achievements analysis is On (you know what they like or prefer (say, getting to office on segway, or beer parties, etc.) and what you can offer them consequently to satisfy their needs, what they labor deeds are and what they want to be perfect in, what you have in common, at last, to find any contact, and if they need some career advice);
– candidate networking connections and activity monitoring is On (you know their network, you seek for mutual connections/acquaintances to give warm references about your position or company, you see key contributors and industry leaders, you may interview them);
– spam function is Off (you never send standard private messages all of a sudden, or leave uniform comments, and you communicate in a friendly, open way).
These settings are called general because large groups of tech professionals live within the same fields of interest, and once you caught it (via even one candidate) and stepped inside, it would be much easier to interact with all community.
What are you to do with all this? Let’s go further to step 4.
4) Reveal yourself properly — and communicate. You should know one thing: once you’re not among techies in their community and they don’t detect you or your company as “part of the environment”, any attempts to send an offer are considered “distractive” and thus — harmful to their processes. Once you start to communicate fittingly (within the algorithm), it will be okay.
Millions of passive tech candidates who participate in myriads of communities and write/read/share thousands of blogs live online. The Internet is their oxygen, we may say, so if you want some engineers and developers to send them your offers and communicate, go there and breathe. On public online space, you can:
– get entirely visible and recognized as a real genuine person who understands tech topics, shares experiences and gives valuable advice. You participate in discussions, you comment, you maybe post articles in tech media or blogs;
– pre-introduce yourself in comments (first) and private messages (after) to make an offer via email (finally!);
– engage other possible candidates in communication.
Tech community rules are: Give to Get, Exchange, Contribute. They often say “Show your code” that means one should present approved working results for community or team to evaluate them. Try to give and be useful first, then. It maybe your career advice if they need it, or useful business presentation, or your blog how-to post, or article, or even a meanungful and helpful comment. It’s reasonable and functional to give before you get, so give really useful things to be taken seriously and get loyal candidates deeply engaged in communication.
Where? Sometimes a better place to contact a techy is Facebook or LinkedIn. HR ninjas may also try Reddit. Why public space, again? For them to study you and see that you’re useful and non-distractive as some recruiters might be with their meaningless (see ‘spotlight’) questions, and for you to show and promote (sometimes sell) your best.
Data is a King
For techies, Data is the King, so if you want them to work with you and take your offer, every trace leading to your company should be useful and informative. Besides, tech profs google everything that sparks their interest — no doubt they’ll google you. Thus, don’t be too serious on your corporate site telling everyone what a goal-determined rapidly developing and other bla-bla-ing company you are. Start a blog where real people tell real live things about their job. It works and it will help you to send successful offers.
If moreover, you can invite industry leaders to share useful practices of how they, e. g., got their job, plus you’ll find someone who writes about hot industry topics — it would be great.
Together with blogging, use digital marketing tools to stimulate your future stars. The following tool works before you write them, after you wrtite them or even instead if someone comes “from nowhere”. As we said, techies will google your offer, company and position for any background, so be proactive and route them to the right place directly. First, generalize your job requests and make a separate “we-seek-for-profies-who-can-help-us-with” project landing page. With a conversation form and a big apply button, of course. (So you’ll be best of both worlds again and attract people who make general job search requests.) Don’t force people to fill every line in your form, let them reply as they want — say, with a YouTube link on their video message.
5) Thus, arrange your offer using
I — INFORMATION. (Just to remind: This is what you should gather and what you should give.)
A letter to a tech candidate is not about taking their extra time, so be precise, informative and keep in mind that you give first (and sell in fact).
L — LOGIC. Even if your company, team, and position are great, each passive but desirable candidate owes you nothing. They bought nothing from you yet while you are selling your openings and buying their time, attention and loyality with every above described step. So please, never emphasize position duties and responsibilities, don’t be formal.
You’ve got a lot of data while investigating, now it’s high time to use it.
Evaluate candidate’s skills in what they love, highly praise them, and after… rearrange and rewrite your job requirements according to what you’ve found: there must be “skills of passion” in your list, so sell them not as duty (“our possible candidate should do this and that…”) but like dessert, placing their passion (as rearranged job details) on the first place.
Well, here’s your former dull duties list:
“Hey, we’ve heard you love building AngularJS apps with Grunt.js. We have plenty of apps to build, and even more — just have a look at our projects (the best thing here is giving a GitHub link).”
The whole offer should be logical: what tools candidate will be using for what results, and what they’ll build finally. What tech skills are involved (exactly like team leads write, ask them), and what are they for (project description, some details such as a database, an infrastructure, etc.).
Techies like to read “the-way-it-works” cases. So, please tell (in a simple and friendly way, of course) what skills your candidate will get, what great tasks they will do and what their upgrade level will be in this career game.
And here give a relevant case link on your (your star tech employee’s) blog: “usually it looks like John’s story”. As for the story, to make it right, ask your star people who took a comparable job how and why they took it, or choose some industry leaders and interview them, as we said above. The best thing is when that John and your possible candidate have common references.
The perfect match is “BTW, it’s John who told me that you’re the best for…” (the same trick works with Facebook/LinkedIn messages).
Besides, it’s polite to give informative relevant links in the message, and you may do it before someone starts googling — thus you save their time showing attention and respect. There may be links on your blog and generalized jobs landing page.
Sell Reasons, Build Trust
R — RATIO and REASON. As we said above, tech guys and girls are rational and won’t pay attention to things that don’t work for them. And for recruiters, it’s reasonable to understand why tech candidates change jobs before you can recruit and hire passive techies. What may be a reason for changing jobs? The reason they would want your offer (or would prefer their job instead) can be simple: e. g., location or free lunches or even allowance to take dogs/babies to the office. The reason is often not about money or passion for some particular job or office. It’s a work/life balance: once being set, it becomes a comfort zone, as basic techie motto is “Don’t touch this if it works”. So, offer what may bring even bigger non-distractive balance and describe it in your letter.
Don’t sell money. Sell reasons. Be a real hunter. Knowing what inspires your candidate to play their game, just look for some obstacles at their current job that slow a desirable progress down. Then find out the solution, see if it exists (or if possible to apply) in your company and bring it out in your message.
Important note: Don’t think all this research will take much of your productivity. You don’t have to seek for ‘individual obstacles’ every time you write tech-hunting letters. Such barriers are usually typical for a market, a position or a certain group. And besides, you’ll get a very useful analytics in the end. It will be priceless for your general expertise.
Don’t forget to write a few words about your team and maybe your other projects (GitHub link would also do here). And then goes other information (such as salary, etc.) plus your team out-of-job activities and interests (like music, gaming, sports… — your candidate social media profile and reposts may help to understand what activity will attract them most).
What you should keep in mind while writing your letter is
S — SPEED of reading it. The quicker techies get necessary data, the more satisfied they become — they probably have “higher bandwidth” of their “mental channels”.
Besides, any valuable tech candidate chooses and evaluates your offers as gadgets, scanning their parameters (as if there were RAM, disc volume, processor power, display etc.).
And you may improve it by adding
S — SUPERHERO OPTION. Something remarkable, unique, outstanding. It may be special equipment or team members, or initiative. If you find it, and besides, if you have any valuable tasks that improve our being, any socially important projects (“Who wants to save the world and two stray kitten?”) including volunteering, don’t forget to tell about them.
T — TRUST. Tech candidates usually prefer to talk to recruiters who have gotten their names from someone they know. So, get referrals as often and as much as you can. Also, be good to your employees and they’ll tell everyone about it in blogs and social networks. Boost your internal employee referrals. Maintain communication constantly building trust. As Pareto said, 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort. So, find these 20% of the talent that can make a difference to your organization, and will invest your visibility as an employer.
6) And a small hint. Use Thursday-through-Sunday hack: most recruiters stop emailing on Thursdays.
So, you’ve sent your letter and got no response soon. Leave a warm voice message via candidate’s favorite channel, but don’t be spammy. If you did everything right to make your first impression, all you need is to be genuine and honest after.
(We’d better omit S — SARCASM, but sometimes it’s a good chance to grab some attention understanding all those strange logical jokes and giving something back.)
Good luck to you, brave head-hunters!
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