Recruit A-List Engineers: What a cold recruitment message should look like
I’ve written in the recent past about bad behavior by recruiters and have gotten some questions about how I would recruit engineers for my startup. Great question, and it just so happens I have signed over 25 offer letters as a technical recruiter over the last several years. Here’s an example of how I cold LinkedIn-Message’d them a few weeks before the offer letter.
We’re always looking for good Python guys at [company] and I saw we’re connected to many of the same people (X, Y) so I figured I’d reach out and say hey. — Perhaps I’ll see you at the Django meetup in our office sometime this spring.
VP Engineering, [company]
Here are some things that I did that made my message successful:
- I did thorough research on the candidate and made that clear in the message. If you don’t spray-and-pray, you are already in the 75% of LinkedIn messages.
- I provided social proof to signal long term interest in the Boulder community (both by mentioning that we know several of the same people, whom I am sure would vouch for me. and by hosting the Django meetup)
- I was not pushy and did not provide an explicit call to action. I know that the candidate will return my message if s/he is interested.
- I signaled that I had skin in the game because I showed that I was an in-house recruiter, not a hired gun.
Here’s another cold-email I sent on Stack Overflow careers. This one was back in September 2013 and resulted in the hire of a principle Django engineer
I saw your contribution to a StackOverflow thread about sequencing Django South migrations in Django 1.4, you seem like you know your Django-fu. [Company] is a social software company in Boulder CO (looks like you are just down the road) and I am building a Django team there. Want to grab coffee sometime next week? I have availability Tuesday and Thursday after 3 and like to meet at Ozo on Pearl st.
VP Engineering, [company]
- Again, did research on candidate. It’s not hard, it takes only a minute, and it improves your response rate dramatically.
- Signaled technical ability by mentioning a practical everyday application programming challenge — Django South migrations. Please please please never mention recruiter-y technical questions like FizzBuzz or Design Patterns when recruiting startup engineers — it makes you look out of touch & enterprise-y.
- Displayed a true interest in getting to know candidate — I asked candidate to coffee *in person*, not for a phone screen.
- I signaled a fluid interview process — Both by making his response as easy as “sure, Thursday at 3 at Ozo works — see you then”, and by making it clear that I was the person who would be signing his offer letter.
- I made her/his research process easy — By providing a place for them to click to learn more.
By contrast, check out some of these awful recruiter messages I’ve gotten on LinkedIn, and how I delt with them.
Its not just the message, it’s who you are and what you stand for.
Recruiting engineers is a black art in that it’s not taught in BS Comp Sci programs. While learning to generate candidate flow is an important part of recruiting, I would be misleading you, reader, by implying that getting good at cold-recruiting is the only way there. There are a lot of things that you should be doing, as an organization, as an engineering team, in the community, to signal a strong engineering culture. Here are some things that should helped:
- Give First — Be a net-value-add in your community, help out strangers, host meet ups, advocate for Boulder, create virtuous cycles, be mindful and resectful.
- Be easily research-able. Have a engineering blog, social media presence.
- Don’t use recruiters — It dilutes your brand.
- Be a great engineering organization — Take the Joel on Software Test
Have you recruited engineers in the past? What has worked for you? I want to hear from you.
Do you have a great recruiter face-palm moment? I want to hear from you. (and so does @recruiterbro)
Do you want help recruiting software engineers. I #givefirst, let’s talk.