‘Nice to Meet You, Wanna Get Married?’ by @MarkNexus

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Jun 18, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

As silly and far-fetched as that title sounds (I hope), it is unfortunately very true in the world of candidate engagement. Many times, sourcers and recruiters will introduce themselves to a candidate and move directly to the job requirements.

Not only is this bad etiquette, it’s also the exact OPPOSITE of building candidate relationships. You wouldn’t do that to someone you just met, right? *ahem* RIGHT?!?!?

Sourcers and recruiters who are eager beavers usually are a big turn-off for candidates. If you could somehow hear what engineering candidates really thought of you, wouldn’t you want to know? Some of the most common complaints that I’ve heard from engineers are:

  • The sourcer/recruiter just talked about themselves – So yeah, you have a cool engineering start-up, X-Googlers, Stanford Ph.D. founders, angel investors, blah blah blah. It sounds a little mean, but so what? Every company can claim something to that effect. If you don’t listen to the candidate’s motivations and career goals, then the relationship is doomed from the start
  • The sourcer/recruiter assumed that the candidate was looking for a job – This one is hard for people to accept. And when I say ‘looking for a job’, that also includes ‘open to other opportunities’. Believe it or not, some people are just happy with their job and the work they do.
  • The sourcer/recruiter sounded desperate – You have to feel bad for us sometimes. Overloaded with a crazy amount of reqs, tasked with impossible job specs, faced with limited budgets, and pressured by the hiring managers and companies every second of the day. But we should never let the pressures and time constraints of filling a job lower the quality of what we do.
  • The sourcer/recruiter asked for referrals within the first email – Ouch! Not only is this tacky, but it de-values the initial purpose of reaching out to a candidate in the first place. Candidates are usually just as busy as you. If you make them feel like a stepping stone, then you won’t get far.
  • The sourcer/recruiter pitched a job that was completely wrong – As yes….full of buzzwords. The leading cause of brain damage amongst people in the staffing industry. I’ve written many blogs and done many presentations on this subject. But for candidates, it is a MAJOR turn-off when you don’t understand what they do. Just because someone writes the word ‘ruby’ in their resume doesn’t mean they are an expert. They could be just learning the language, writing a web application framework, writing a stand-alone application, or be the inventor of the language.

How to Win Friends and Influence Candidates

With all of the added pressures in our jobs, it seems easy to skip a few steps when it comes to candidate interaction. Even if you never hear back from the voicemails, emails and other candidate interactions, believe me, the message is being heard. The candidate may not respond, but they are noting the content, tone and approach of your communications. And all of these bad candidate interactions get stored up within the minds of the candidate collective and they do nothing except hurt the chances for the rest of us. Here are some things that we can do to help improve that interaction:

  • Research before you contact them – This one is a must and even though it takes a little more time (less than 30 seconds if you do it right), it is your key to establishing the candidate relationship. Find out about their side projects, what they do outside of work, if they are really into rock climbing, music, animae, coding projects, cosplay, ironman competitions, GoT, robotics, philosophy, or the Way of the Samurai. This will help you with the initial contact, subject line, or voicemail when contacting the candidate. It can also help you connect their interests with interests of the people at your company.
  • It’s all about you, not me – Don’t approach like a cowboy with all guns a-blazin’. While that’s a cool approach in the movies, it doesn’t work well for passive candidates. Your job description and company are NOT the important factors here. Instead, approach the candidate by asking about the work you’ve seen online of theirs or things they’ve written about. Ask them for more information about the work they’ve done and their reasons for doing it. Candidates are just like people (gasp), they want to talk about things they’ve one. Treat them like people. Ask questions and listen.
  • Find out their motivation for working – Sure, money is a major component. But it is not the only motivating factor for a candidate. The work they do, the company they believe in, the location of company, the benefits, and the level of job responsibility are all major factors. By asking questions about what THEY currently have and comparing with what YOU are offering, you may find a better match that neither of you could have guessed.
  • Be patient – An initial ‘not interested’ is not necessarily a deal-killer. These things take time, multiple interactions, and sometimes persistence. Don’t look for the ‘quick close’. Changing jobs is a major hassle and source of apprehension among people. Candidates have to examine their career goals, they have to talk to family, and they have to decide what they really want to do. It is never as quick as selling someone a magazine. Or even a car.
  • For the love of all that is good in the world, understand the job req – Do the research. Research variations of the technology, research what people do in similar roles at other companies, research the competition, research the industry, research candidates that might be able to do the job but don’t have the ‘buzzwords’. All of this information can be gathered from your hiring managers, engineering team, or on your own. It will be well worth the effort.

In Conclusion

I think we covered some of the more common issues. In our world of quick communication and instant gratification, we sometimes forget that people aren’t like that. There is a human element to candidate interaction that cannot be automated (no matter how hard we try). It takes a little extra effort, but it pays off. Even if you never hear from every candidate you contact, believe me, the message is being heard.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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