The holidays are over, you’re broke, you ate too much food, already lost your sought-after tan you got on vacation in the Caribbean and you’ve inundated yourself with articles about predictions for 2017. I even shamelessly wrote one (check it here). Aside from spending too much money at Dave & Busters with my boys during the holidays I had the chance to chat with a few of my favourite people in my network. In a couple of conversations the topic of talent came up, specifically the likely continued challenges we will face recruiting talent to software development related jobs. The dialogue wasn’t so much about our problems finding talent, it was about how to get them interested in you. With software developers getting bombarded on a daily basis by recruiters what will you do to make them interested in you?
In my most recent gig as Head of Talent at Security Compass (Toronto-based software security firm) this was a real challenge. It was challenging to source the right talent but even more challenging to convert the right prospects into employees. We definitely succeeded but it wasn’t easy. I realized over the holidays that there wasn’t one thing that I did that made the difference, but a collection of things.
What Did Jeff Do?
The first thing I did was accept that moving talent prospects through a process would take time, similarly to building a pipeline of sales prospects. In fact, it was the exact same with the only difference being the product being sold. Using this approach also required leveraging workforce planning to try as best I could to forecast talent needs. The process wasn’t perfect but I worked closely with the CFO to connect the business plan to the people requirements.
Secondly, I was brutally organized with keeping notes on every touch point with every prospect. I didn’t have the luxury of using fancy software so I started by using Google Sheets so I could at least give instant access and visibility to those who needed it. I date and time stamped every note so that everyone knew exactly when something happened and when the next action needed to be taken and by whom. I’m not the most detailed person in the world so this was challenging for me, and I am sure if I was using a recruiting CRM (a few that immediately come to mind are Avature, Workable, Bullhorn, SmashFly, Beamery and Jobvite) I could have been a little bit more effective. If you’re a high growth company you will simply drown if you’re not using a good recruiting CRM.
Third, whenever I could I leveraged 1st-level and 2nd-level connections to start conversations. Cold calls suck, and while you could achieve some success with them I did not have the luxury of time to bet on them. Everyone is connected somehow, and the more you connect with people the more quickly you will build the relationships with those you need to.
Fourth, I did not make initial contact by telling the prospect that I had the perfect job for them, or use some ridiculous spamming template. I get this all the time and it’s 100% complete and utter bullshit. It’s a huge turn-off and you’ll get nowhere by using this tactic, particularly if you’re sourcing tech talent. How on earth can you pitch someone a perfect job if you have never spoken with or know anything about them? Try and find some thing that you can use to start the conversation with. It could be a mutual connection, common interest (e.g. football, hockey, MMA, whatever), an interesting blog post the prospect wrote, a cool project the prospect worked on, etc… You get the idea. Ask yourself when the last time someone approached you initiating conversation like this? Not very often I would imagine.
Fifth, make sure that when you reach out to prospects you use the correct spelling of their name and at lest do a little bit of research on who they are, what they do and where they are in their careers. I can’t tell you how many times I get approached by someone who is selling me on the perfect job that is titled, “HR Coordinator”. Sorry but I’ve been in HR for 17 years and I think I’m a tad over-qualified for this type of work — “shift alt delete”.
Sixth, I found that using a variety of tools (depended on the prospect) immensely helped with getting a response. For example, if someone is an active Twitter user then start the conversation there — don’t send them an email. By the way, if you don’t use Twitter and you’re a Recruiter you need to change that. NOW!
Last but not least, please…. PLEASE give a shit! If you think by telling a prospect that you have a job for them will result in them salivating all over you, you’re wrong. It’s about making a connection with someone by engaging in conversation. Sure your ultimate goals are to see if the prospect would fit into your organization and ultimately hire them, but you can’t start there. Does your mobile carrier approach you by simply telling you need to buy the new iPhone? Of course not. They start by tapping into something you care about, whatever that might be, and usually has nothing to do with the iPhone.
These are a few critical things that have helped me along the way, and by no means is this an exhaustive list. I really do believe that we will have a tougher time converting in 2017 but I think those that take a longer term and relationship building approach will win the game.