Why Personalized Messaging Works for Recruiters

Personalized messaging, sent to the right target, by a credible recruiter or tech pro, leads to high response rates. What’s the secret sauce? As described in the new eBook I produced for Dice, The Definitive Guide to Engaging Top Tech Candidates, there isn’t any: No magic phrase that works for every recruiter, for every candidate. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.) But, there are several keys to effectively messaging top tech talent.

It’s All About Them, Not You

“Let me tell you about me, what I need, my company and my job. Then you can read my (crappy) job description and let me know if you’re interested in applying.” Me, me, me! This is a surefire way to get no response or a “No, thank you” from a candidate. Once you’ve done our research on their interests, you must leverage a message that shows you’ve invested time in learning about them, and demonstrate that you’re someone they should talk to. No “send me your resume” or “apply here” or “do you have any referrals?” in this first message. Instead, your goal is to simply show them that you can offer challenging work or a team or career path that appears to align with their technology, career or personal interests.

Pique Their Interest

Your goal with outreach is to tap into the candidate’s natural curiosity to learn more about something that, on the surface, appears well aligned to their interests. This doesn’t mean you simply keyword match (“You know Java, and we need Java skilled engineers – interested in learning more?”) because that’s lame. Instead, reference something really interesting and relevant your team is building or several key problems you’re solving (at a big scale is even better). Then see if they’d be open to a discussion to learn more. Don’t attach the job description, or link to your HR black-hole ATS. Instead, links should be to a YouTube video, a Slideshare deck, a Facebook group, an engineering blog, or an article/white paper that’s about the work and the tech (not just general HR accolades).

Note: Your goal is NOT to close the deal (i.e. to get them to apply or interview) at this stage. Your goal is to make a human connection, to sell a next step conversation, to start two-way communication and build the relationship based on MUTUTAL INTEREST. Not to close the deal after one email or call.

Leverage a Shared Connection

If possible, mention a shared connection in the message. It could be a current colleague who encouraged you to reach out or a common manager you both worked with five years ago at another company.

Decide Who Will Send the Message

Generally, response rates more than double when the message comes from a technical peer or the hiring manager or chief tech leader. It’s not necessary to leverage your engineers for every contact; but for critical roles or particularly hard-to-reach candidates, it’s key.

Note: You can (and should) be able to very quickly get the tech hiring manager or a VP level leader on the phone to have a conversation. Now, most of you are saying, “But my tech leaders won’t get on the phone with a passive candidate – they want only qualified and interested candidates, with their resume in-hand!” Here’s the deal, though: Moving them along the interest scale usually requires that you can get the hiring manager to have this exploratory chat. To be honest, if your hiring manager will never talk to a (pre-resume) passive tech candidate, then you will likely not have a lot of success recruiting passive tech talent.

Choose Your Tools of Engagement

Many tech pros prefer to be contacted via email. Interrupting an engineer who is in the zone, with a call, is irritating. Many don’t answer their phones anyway, and even if they do, they’re working in an open space, and wouldn’t be able to talk right then. Start with email. Absolutely follow up with a call, and reference the email.

You also need to leverage social tools: Direct messages via Twitter (they’d need to be following you to receive a Direct Message) and Facebook messages are both good options if you notice the candidate is very active on social (i.e. Twitter is great if you notice they’re tweeting every few hours, but poor if you notice a tweet a month). However, be smart about using social to approach passive candidates; you generally don’t want to publicly tweet them about a job, or write on their Facebook wall about your interest in talking with them about their career interests, as you may get a negative reaction. Remember, they’re actively working, and may not want the world to see your non-private message. Dice’s Open Web social recruiting platform gives you easy access to find a candidate’s contact methods (phone, email, Facebook, Twitter and more) so you can choose the one that’s right for you – and them.

Note: Be sure YOU look like someone a top candidate would want to connect with on your own social profiles before you reach out. One top recruiter shared that for a big, targeted sourcing campaign, almost 75% of the people who replied, reviewed her social handles before responding. Do you look like a credible, highly recommended (by hiring managers and candidates), specialized tech recruiter who is well connected, and focused on hiring the best of the best?

Adapt Your Message to the Medium

Emails shouldn’t be longer than 2-3 short paragraphs. They’re the long-form option. Voicemails should be very short and focused, no more than 30-45 seconds, and reference the detailed email you’ve already sent. (Remember to smile while you leave a message – it comes through to the listener.) Facebook Messages should be 2-3 sentences and can often sound much more casual. DMs on Twitter (if you’re lucky enough to have your target candidate follow you on Twitter) are limited to 140 characters. Through Twitter, you’ll want to spark a conversation on a topic of interest for the candidate and not bring up job-related info right away. Only after some real engagement (i.e. a few tweets back and forth) would you want to ask to connect via phone or email.

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