Sourcing and hiring talent is a challenge and it can be difficult to know how to start. Hiring becomes even more difficult when you’re competing for developers in a competitive global market where demand outstrips supply.
Robin Smets presented ten steps for successful recruitment alongside Vanessa Raath who shared tips for sourcing talent during our recent partnered event with Matchr hosted in the OfferZen Cape Town offices. They were joined by Brett Jones and Adriaan Kolff.
Robin, Adriaan and Brett are all co-founders of successful recruitment companies, Pantala, Matchr and OfferZen. Vanessa is a talent-sourcing freelancer and trainer who has shared her insights across the world.
Step 1: Be in control by taking control
As the recruiter, it’s on you to take the lead in the interview process. Robin says:
“If you’re always in control of the process, you’re eliminating things that could go wrong and chances of success are really high down the line.”
Being in control of the interview process from start to end will eliminate surprises that usually come up at the end of processes. It helps you as the recruiter to make sure you’re covering all the necessary points to make an informed decision on a candidate. Your chances of success in finding a relevant candidate by the end of the process will be higher.
Create rules of engagement at the start; times you and the candidate can chat, and how you’ll connect (phone, email, text, Zoom etc.). It’ll help both of you avoid misunderstandings and connect according to plan.
Step 2: Research before meeting with candidates
Robin emphasised that it’s important to understand the market you’re hiring in, as well as the tools and technologies related to the role you’re hiring for. You need to know what you’re talking about when speaking to candidates.
“The richest resource you have is just talking to candidates. Let them explain to you what they do, and how it works. You’ll get a lot of information this way.”
Robin suggests speaking to your candidates for insights is the best way to know your mark, as well as through YouTube videos, podcasts and reading the news. However you do it, just soak up as much information as you can.
Through your research, you should develop questions to thoroughly assess the developers you interview. Robin gives an example:
If you are hiring for a medior Python developer, understand what skills medior Python devs need and structure your questions to account for these. Understand the correct answers before you ask. It’ll help you assess them efficiently and recommend relevant candidates to your company/clients.
Step 3: Create a sourcing strategy
Three things you must address before you can succeed in talent sourcing
- Develop a digital footprint that helps you stand out online
Both Brett and Adriaan advise recruiters to build up their social profiles. When writing a bio, Adriaan says:
“Start with the basics; tell us something about yourself, make it easy to be noticed and for people to relate to. How good is it when you find a potential candidate that says something along the lines of ‘I like surfing.’ It humanises them and I can actually make a reference if I like surfing too. Just be human.”
Vanessa emphasises that it’s not only your LinkedIn profile you’ll need to work on but every social media profile that a potential candidate could access.
- Determine your value proposition
As talent gets more and more scarce, you’re likely to get more responses from candidates if you can communicate what makes you different to other recruiters reaching out.
“You have to be able to tell your clients why what you’re doing is different. Remember that every single agency, an external and internal recruiter is looking in the same fishing pond.”
Vanessa encourages recruiters to ask themselves what they’re doing differently, and what their value proposition is. You’ll need to speak to your key differentiators in the first message you send to a candidate.
- Make your outreach messages unique and notable
The final thing to address is getting rid of outreach message templates:
“Everyone is using the same message templates. Stop saying the same things and be different. Think outside of the box.”
You could send a video of yourself greeting the candidate personally, explaining your role a bit more, and why you’re reaching out to them. Candidates will have already received the general message: “I saw this on your profile and think you would be a good fit for the job spec I attached.”
By taking the extra step to come across differently to other recruiters, you’ll likely experience better responses from candidates.
Tips for sourcing candidates
When sourcing talent, don’t only stick to LinkedIn. Vanessa says it “has to be a part of your recruitment process, but it should never be your beginning and end point. ”Rather utilise the whole internet to find what you’re looking for.
“A talent sourcer is a highly specialised role that requires someone who understands technology and isn’t afraid to use it.”
Vanessa’s definition of a talent sourcer emphasises that recruiters need to understand how to dive into the internet to source talent. Dropping a developer a message on LinkedIn is less impactful than reaching out with a personalised email. But how does a recruiter find the talent they’re looking for as well as their contact details through the internet?
GitHub for tech talent sourcing
For tech recruitment, Vanessa demonstrates how recruiters can easily source talent through GitHub:
- Create a GitHub account
- Run a new search including location:“[the city you’re looking for talent in] language:[the programming language you’re looking for experience in]”. This will show you profiles listed in that location and have code loaded in their repositories in that language – you’ll have concrete evidence of their whereabouts and skillset. For example:
- Download the chrome extension OctoHR so you don’t need to sift through a developer’s repositories to find more tools and technologies they work with.
- Make sure you are filtering by users:
- You can also add keywords, such as DevOps. This will show you profiles that include that keyword in their bios. For example:
While GitHub is clearly a useful tool to find relevant candidates, you cannot message these candidates on the platform. Although your first thought is most likely to go find them on LinkedIn, this resource explains how Vanessa finds email addresses directly through GitHub.
Boolean searches for developer resumes
Boolean searches on Google are a useful way to access developer resumes. It’s also likely you’ll find the developer’s contact information on their resume, so it’s a great way to find and reach out to potential candidates.
Some basics on Boolean searches:
Here are some Boolean search strings you could use:
- site:platform URL not including https:// (“The job title you’re recruiting for” OR “enter another variant”) OR “skill 1” OR “skill 2”
- Including the following at the beginning of your search string will help you focus your results:
- site:platform URL not including https:// – focus your search on a website
- filetype:such as PDF or doc or txt etc. – narrow your search to a file type
- intitle:such as resume or CV or vitae – refine results to keywords in the website title
- inurl:(such as resume or CV or vitae) – filter your search to keywords in the URL
Sourcing talent is a challenge, but recruiters have access to more than they realise. Following the tips Vanessa gives on diving into the internet, you’ll be able to source and reach out to relevant talent.
Step 4: Qualify your candidates
Take your time chatting with your candidates. Schedule meetings in which you can actually see them and judge whether you feel they are trustworthy. This is a lot easier to do when looking at the person versus over a phone call.
In your meetings with candidates, do a fact-finding needs analysis. In addition to your company/client’s needs, you want to understand the candidate’s needs too, such as:
- Their notice period:
How soon they’ll be able to start a new job.
- What salary expectations they have:
A candidate may be happy to reveal their current salary and why they’re looking for their expected increase. If they’re not, you can still figure out how negotiable they are on a higher expectation than what your company/client is willing to pay. Deciphering this now will help create flexibility that can be reiterated at offer stages.
- Why the candidate is leaving their current role:
Determine whether the job you have to offer will address what they’re looking for. This is also a good space to figure out how likely it is that they will leave their current role at the end of the process.
For example, if they’re leaving due to not wanting to work with a certain language, ask them if they’ve chatted with their manager about changing languages or teams to address this problem. You don’t want to get to the end of the process with them and unexpectedly lose them to a counteroffer. Rather, ask them these questions at the start of the process to save time for yourself, your company/client and the developer.
- If they have other ongoing interview processes:
Gauge how interested developers are in the opportunity you have to offer from the start. You can also understand how much time they have. If they’re at the end of their other interview processes, you may need to expedite yours to ensure your opportunity is an option for them.
ChatGPT may make it difficult to evaluate and trust your candidates
Can ChatGPT break companies’ technical assessments, as devs can use it to create solutions for take-home assignments? Vanessa pointed out that it’s similar to being worried about developers using Google to find answers. Brett suggests that interviewers design their process to utilise ChatGPT and other AI bots:
“Then you don’t have to worry about the lack of someone’s knowledge. They’re just using these tools to do something smarter, which is what we’re all going to use it for. It’s not going to take all our jobs, but it’s going to enable us to be better at what we’re doing.” So just assume they’re using these tools and design your technical assessment around it.”
Just assume every developer you interview has used or is using these tools to aid them in their work. Designing your technical assessment to account for this will help you fully evaluate a developer’s skillset.
Step 5: Test a candidate’s commitment throughout the process
A lot of things can change throughout the interview process, which is why the recruiter needs to consistently test a candidate’s commitment to the opportunity. Here are some ways you can assess their commitment:
- Notice how long the candidate takes to respond to your phone calls and emails.
- When you request supporting documents or other, how long does it take for them to send it through, if they do.
- How well prepared is the candidate for every interview – did they prepare their own questions? Do they understand what they’re speaking about, both technically and in terms of the company?
If the candidate is doing well in these things, it’s likely they will be an interesting candidate as you can assume they’re committed to the opportunity.
Step 6: Work exclusively
Working exclusively with candidates and candidates with recruiters is difficult to manage. It’s likely that both parties will pull on every connection they can during the job search and hiring process. You want to make yourself one of those connections, if not the most important one, that candidates pull on when they begin a job search.
Show candidates that you want to do your best to help them secure a job that is the next best step for their career growth. You already know what they want from your fact-finding needs analysis, so it’ll just be about reassuring them that you understand what they’re looking for and you’re committed to helping them find this in their job search.
You will find you get more commitments from candidates you do this for.
Step 7: Pre-closing and closing the candidate
Robin describes pre-closing as creating the most ideal situation for the candidate to make them say yes to the hypothetical situation of them getting the offer. You want to get the candidate excited about the potential offer.
Ask the candidate if they were to receive an offer at X amount to join the company right now, would they be excited about signing? Have they spoken to their dependents? These questions will get the candidate in the mindset of accepting the offer.
Closing is making a firm agreement with each other. You want the candidate to officially sign, but you also want them to agree to sign. It’s likely there will be no surprises before the candidate’s start date if they are excited about accepting the offer.
Step 8: Change the perspective or narrative on candidate objections
Whilst interviewing a candidate, you may come across a few objections they have to the role and company. It’s your responsibility as the recruiter to offer solutions to these objections.
For example, if you reach out to a candidate and they say they’re not in the market right now, you could reply; “I understand you’re not in the market right now, but if I know what will be the ultimate opportunity for you, I can reach out when a match comes up.” It also helps you in your fact-finding needs analysis, as well as in building some rapport with the candidate.
Another example could be they say they’re too busy with other job applications. You could respond; “So you’re looking for something new, right? I have this amazing opportunity. It’s great that you have all these ongoing applications. You’re very lucky that you’re in this position. But you can choose the one you like best, right?” In both examples, you’re creating an opportunity to work with the candidate despite their objections.
Step 9: Do reference checks
Most recruiters tend to do reference checks at the end. While this does work, Robin suggests doing them earlier in the interview process to help avoid wasting time on candidates whose reference checks raise numerous red flags.
Step 10: Address the counteroffer
Robin reminded the audience that the cheapest option for any hiring manager when they receive a resignation letter is to make a counteroffer. Your candidate is also probably feeling anxious after resigning, especially if they have a good connection with the company, as they could feel as if they’re letting them down.
Recruiters need to make candidates aware that they will likely receive a counteroffer. Remind them why they started the interview process to begin with, and since you’ve already asked them about their job search motivation, you can easily speak directly to what they told you.
If their manager refused the candidate’s request to change languages or whatever it was before they took to the job search, ask them if they believe their current employer will change their approach moving forwards. Get them to think about the evidence they have that the concerning factors will change in the long run. Otherwise, it’s likely they’ll leave the job anyways in the near future. Robin says:
“80% of people that take a counteroffer leave the company within six months.”
You can also compare the counteroffer to the new offer and how it addresses the candidate’s reasons for leaving. It’ll get them into the mindset that they have already made the decision to leave and should stick to it to continue growing in their career.
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