Recruiting for software engineers and other in-demand positions gives everyone the willies. Engineers suffer from spam, recruiters hate pestering people for a living, and ever-more-desperate employers wish they could just talk to some serious, intelligent developers who know how to get the job done.
We're calling for a reinvention of the entire "recruitment" process, starting with the way we talk about it. With a change of words and practices, we can start to change the system and make everyone happier: hiring managers, developers, and recruiters (except we're not calling them recruiters anymore).
Out: recruiting. In: bringing people together
Serious job candidates want to talk with their fellow professionals. They don't want to be a plug to fill a leaking req. And they don't want to run through a gauntlet of recruiters and HR screeners who know nothing about software engineering. Recruiters make them shudder. Smart, engaged, peer-to-peer conversations make them feel warm and fuzzy.
Out: staffing process. In: grooming your teams, or even hiring a ragtag band of lovable misfits
In a sector that thrives on innovation, it's crazy how engineering teams comply readily to the same old "staffing process" thrown over the wall by the HR department. They cede their responsibility, relying on HR pros to plop perfectly screened engineers into their laps. Then the engineers wind up screening out candidates anyway, which they very much dislike doing.
From the perspective of the interviewees, why would gainfully employed software engineers want to test your waters if their only option is to endure an HR grilling before talking to someone they respect as a colleague?
Let your engineers engage with their peers. They want this! So many of them are introverts, and they keep hearing that they should be networking more, but they don't have enough valuable networking opportunities. Why not let your engineers and other IT pros network as part of the recruiting process, and then bring in the professionals who most impress them?
Out: war for talent. In: finding the people who are the best fit for you
The war for talent is really a war on talent, as inboxes groan under an onslaught of recruiter spam. It's getting bad out there: Recently, a professional with no technical background -- he happened to be a recruiter himself -- got a LinkedIn InMail pitching him a job in DevOps!
Remember: Hiring doesn't have to hurt. If we make the right connections, we can do it without the inbox abuse.
[Are you looking at the right data? Read Deep Data Trumps Big Data.]
You're not selling a used car. You're bringing in respected colleagues who'll be spending nine hours a day with you. The soft touch approach is soft touch for both parties involved. Not only the interviewees, but also your engineers who talk with them, will breathe a sigh of relief.
Out: screeners. In: ambassadors
Since the engineering department ultimately must choose the right candidates, let's let them do their job in the most pleasant and productive way possible. In today's market, VCs and VPs of engineering are cold-calling engineers. If their time is worth it, so is your engineers' time. Don't be afraid to let candidates talk with members of your software development team. With proper performance benchmarks -- how many calls result in an on-site meeting, how many on-sites result in an offer, how many offers are accepted -- this more efficient hiring process can save time and money.
If a prospective candidate's LinkedIn, GitHub, and other online profiles look compelling, the engineer who talks to her shouldn't be "screening" her. That engineer should be leading the welcome wagon. The two should talk on the phone, go for coffee, whatever it takes to get the dialog going. Even the more introverted software engineer will jump on the opportunity to talk shop with a professional peer. For more on this concept, see our article Informational Interviews for People Who Don't Need Them.
Out: My boss is hiring. In: Come work with me
Opening a dialog through normal channels with an experienced and comfortably employed software engineer is almost impossible. How many great engineers read ads, pay attention to sourcing spam, and talk with recruiters
unless they absolutely have to? These engineers stick to their own networks for future jobs, just as you plumb your networks for future hires.
You must expand your network through your employees. When your employees post job openings on their social networks, their message shouldn't be: "Come work for my boss." It should be: "Come work with me." Serious professionals (and that's who you have working for you, right?) care deeply about who they work with. A referral bonus is a mis-incentive. The best engineers seek out future colleagues who they respect and can learn from.
Out: passive candidates. In: stealth candidates
The term "passive candidates" conjures mannequins waiting for you to press their "on" buttons. Who you're really looking for are "stealth candidates." These are employed engineers (all the good ones are employed) who consider switching jobs occasionally but don't feel like sticking their head out. Why not? Because they know that applying for a job puts them in a worse negotiating position. Since they aren't desperate for a new job, they're not about to update a resume and fight their way through HR firewalls.
These stealth candidates aren't about to cold-contact you. (They're not salespeople. They hate cold contact.) You can't just tell them, "Send in your resume." You need to make it easy and unthreatening for them to ping you with a click, to signal "Let's chat." Using their LinkedIn or other online profiles to help in vetting them, you have enough to carry the conversation from there.
Out: recruiter. In: matchmaker
A good recruiter doesn't pester candidates. There isn't a reason for her even to talk with candidates. The members of the development team should do most of the talking. They're the ones who are hiring.
Recruiters -- let's call them matchmakers -- do have a role to play. They help stealth candidates come out of the woodwork. They help the candidates lay out their real requirements, not the ones they think potential employers want to hear. Then they put the two parties in touch and get out of the way. For more on the matchmaker concept, see our article Rise of the Anti-Recruiters.
Out: acquisition. In: anything! Just not that!
Does "talent acquisition" mean that we're buying our technical staff? They're not for sale! They're paid (very well) to do their jobs. In the elite sectors of the software industry they're business partners, paid as much as some executives and rewarded with ample equity.
New world, new approach
New software worlds are opening up, as older industries shrink and disappear and software takes over. Demand for software engineers will continue to soar. Employers that keep trying to fill reqs like they're 20th century assembly line jobs will fall behind companies adept at peer-to-peer communication.
When two software engineers who understand each other talk, they build a professional connection that benefits both of them for the rest of their careers. If all goes well, that brings the best of the best on board your company, even the top stealth candidates who never talk with recruiters.
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