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Tech Hiring 101: Writing the First Message to a Candidate

20 March 2019 , by Robyn Luyt

Reaching out to a developer who you want to interview is hard, because it means having to convey your company culture and job opportunity in a concise and convincing message. On top of that, it could be the only info that a candidate uses to choose between your offer and the many others out there. Here are the things you should consider when writing the first message to a candidate.


You're trying to hire the best developers for your team, but so is everyone else. In order to get the best people, you have to do two things: convince them that the role is a good fit and show them that your company is a great place to work. In South Africa, there is no shortage of interesting companies looking to hire for their tech team, so developers have a lot of options. In fact, top developers on OfferZen receive over ten interview proposals within their first week of going live on the platform.

Companies that can't adapt to this market reality often end up hiring the best of the candidates who apply for the role, but these candidates aren't necessarily the best in the industry. If you start your hiring process off on the wrong foot, you risk losing out on the 'unicorn' hire that you really need for your team to win. On top of this, developers also share their experiences with one another. If they have a bad experience with your company, you can bet they'll tell their friends and the community about it!

In other words, the impression you leave really does count. Every interaction you have with a candidate is another piece of the puzzle that represents your company and culture. But, the first interaction is perhaps the most important because it could be the only data point that someone uses to decide whether or not they're interested in the opportunity you're offering.

This means that you want your first message to be clear, convincing and engaging right from the get-go. To achieve this, you need to:

  • Craft your employer value proposition,
  • Personalise your message,
  • Offer additional relevant information,
  • Prompt for a response, and
  • Make it easy to get in touch.

Over the past three years, we've seen, and helped, people at over 1000 companies reach out to developers they want to interview, and we know that navigating this first interaction can be daunting. With that in mind, we set out to unpack the elements that should be included if you want to craft an engaging message that will attract the best developers for your team.

Craft your employer value proposition

Before you reach out to the person you want to interview, you should put pen to paper and write up your employer value proposition (EVP). As the core of your employer brand, your EVP is the key to an effective strategy that attracts and retains the right talent. An EVP defines what your company wants to be associated with as an employer by outlining what current and future employees can expect in return for their contributions.

SInce developers, especially top performers, have the luxury of picking the best company based on opportunities and culture, you want to make sure your EVP is clear and appealing. You also want to demonstrate that you're willing to put the effort in to explain your EVP. If you don't care about this, you might lose awesome developers to other opportunities.

To write your EVP, think about these five components:

  • Financial benefits like compensation, vacation, health insurance or retirement plans
  • Perks like lunch, parking, or conference tickets
  • Opportunities like career development or organisation growth rate
  • Team like team dynamic or co-worker quality
  • Work content like work-life balance or job-interest alignment

All of these components are essential in an EVP, but still, hiring in the tech space poses a unique challenge. So, it helps to understand the specific reasons that developers would choose to work for you:

  • The philosophy or mission behind your projects
  • The impact you're hoping to make
  • The tech projects you're most excited about
  • The tech stack you're working with
  • The tech equipment your company offers

An example of an EVP that we might use at OfferZen could be:

Our mission at OfferZen is to help people unlock their potential by building awesome software. We've grown to over 60+ team members over the last three years, but we still have lunch together every day. And, because we're big on being part of the tech community, we also make sure that our teams attend awesome conferences like DevConf ZA. I see that you're excited about tech like Ruby on Rails, Python for Machine Learning and Redshift, so I think you'd love working here!

Tip: Keep the role that you're hiring for in mind when crafting the section on tech projects and stacks.

Personalise the message

Once you've drafted your EVP, you want to tailor it to the person you're sending it to. This is a great way to let someone know that you're serious about talking to them, because it shows that you've made the effort to find out more about them. This is even more important when it comes to hiring developers, who can get several messages like this in a day. If you really want to stand out, make it clear that you've made the effort to make sure that they're a good fit for the role.

To personalise your message, consider:

  • Including the person's first name
  • Making specific references to the parts of their profile or work history that you've found particularly interesting
  • Adjusting the 'work content' section of your EVP to align with their skills or interest

This could look something like this:

Hi [Name],

I took a look at your profile and you really stood out as someone that has tons of experience working with Ruby on Rails. I love that you created your own mobile app!

Tip: Personalising messages can take time, so be mindful that it doesn't affect the number of people you reach out to.

Offer additional relevant information

Once you've grabbed the right candidate's attention with the reasons that they would want to work at your company, you also want to give them ways to find out more about what you're all about.

This initial message might be the first time someone is hearing about your company. So, make it as easy as possible for them to find out more about you personally, your company as a whole as well as the team and role you're hiring for.

To do this, include links to:

  • Your company website
  • The job advert or job description
  • Your own LinkedIn profile or those of other team members that they'll be working with
  • Any articles on your company that might be relevant for the role or that help explain your culture, for example, a cool new tech project that the team is working on

For some inspiration, these are the kinds of articles that we might share when hiring for our own teams:

Tip: Make sure that you share content and links that are relevant and recent. It could leave a bad impression if you share content all the way back from 2007.

Prompt for a response

Now that you've shared all of the relevant information, you want to keep the conversation going and put the ball in the candidate's court.

We've seen quite a few companies make the mistake of sending long messages without a clear 'call to action' that asks the candidate to respond or share their thoughts. If you don't ask for a response, you risk leaving the person feeling like they've just been hit by a hardcore sales pitch that doesn't require any attention or effort on their part.

That's why it's useful to ask them for input. This could be something like:

  • Does this role sound like something you'd be interested in?
  • Do you think you could see yourself joining our team?
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Let me know what you think?

Tip: Think about what you would actually like to know about the candidate in order to move the process forward and use your questions to get clarity on these areas.

Make it easy to get in touch

Finally, now that you've made the effort to reach out to the person you want to talk to, you want to make sure that they know how to get in touch with you if they're interested. If you make your preferred contact method clear, you're less likely to move back and forth between your inbox, social media and other communication channels. This saves you time and effort. It also makes the process less confusing for the person you're interested in talking to.

To do this effectively, you'll want to:

  • Share your preferred channel for follow-up contact for example: LinkedIn, email, or OfferZen messages.
  • Include your other contact details too, so that the candidate can choose the method that best suits them.

For example, you could say something like:

  • If this is an opportunity you'd be interested in, just pop me a message here and we can set up a time to chat! Otherwise, feel free to send me an email at xxx@gmail.com.
  • If you're keen to chat about this role, you can reply to this email and we can get the ball rolling. Alternatively, you can call me directly at 08X XXXXXXX.

Tip: To make things easier, we suggest staying in the channel that you initially used to reach out to the candidate. For example, keep communication over email if that's how you reached out initially.

Here's an example:

Now that you have an overview of all the elements to include in your message, it's time to put them together. For some inspiration, here is an example of a message that includes the most important elements we've mentioned (underlined text demonstrates items that could be linked):

Hi [name],

I'm the lead of the product team at OfferZen and I'm currently looking for a full-stack developer to join our team. You really stood out as someone with a diverse mix of coding experience since you've worked with Ruby on Rails and RedShift. I love that you created your own mobile app!

Our mission at OfferZen is to help people unlock their potential by building awesome software. We've grown to 60+ team members over the last three years, but we still have lunch together every day. And because we're big on being part of the tech community, we also make sure that our teams attend awesome conferences like DevConf ZA. I see that you're excited about machine learning, so I think you'd love working here!

Our product team consists of developers and data scientists who work in small, autonomous squads. We host on Heroku, use Rails for our back-end, React/Redux for our front-end, and have a couple of Python microservices. You can check out our full tech stack on our public company profile.

Do you think this sounds like something you'd be interested in? If you'd like a bit more info, you can find out more about the role here or read about working at OfferZen here.

If you're interested, you can reply to this message and we can set up a time to chat. Otherwise, feel free to reach out to me over email at XXXX@offerzen.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you!



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