10 Do’s and Don’ts of Messaging Passive Tech Talent

The not-so-straightforward act of engaging tech talent eludes many a recruiter. Thanks to the tight tech market, ongoing labor shortages and the agonizing skills gap, recruiters often find themselves searching through a slew of passive candidates, taking the task from challenging to near impossible.

When it comes to these passive candidates, the initial contact is where recruiters often fall short, getting lost in a sea of other spammy-sounding messages that do nothing to prompt a response. And how can you succeed in hiring if you can’t even get these potential candidates to open a message? Instead of spending all your time caught up in other parts of the funnel, sidestep the glaring mistakes that plague most recruiters by focusing on your words. Here’s a look at what to emphasize (and what to avoid entirely):

DO NOT…

…send out something that resembles a mass email (or anything that makes it seem like they are one of many candidates receiving your message). Passive tech professionals are hard at work; they’re busy and tend to be aware of their value. The candidates you want are not interested in being lumped in with others like them.

…send your passive candidates a traditional job description or any kind of attachment that you expect them to review. The key word here is “passive.” These tech professionals probably have jobs, maybe even ones they like. Once you have their attention, skip the standard protocol and jump into the specifics of the role.

…ask them to check out your career site or to apply online. This niche talent pool gets a slew of messages every day, all encouraging them to check out [insert generic job post] and apply online [through a lengthy application process]. Don’t be that person.

…ask tech talent if they’re a rock star, ninja or superstar. They are. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be going out of your way to talk to them in hopes of landing your next hire (especially if they are currently working). Plus, they have certainly heard all these clichés before, probably more than once. Chances are, it didn’t work back then, and it won’t work now.

…overwhelm tech talent from the start. Yes, we know you have a lot to say, but if you expect a reply to your first and only message, you will probably end up disappointed. Pending the potential for multiple follow-ups, save some details for a later date.

DO…

…some preparation. Scripting a fill-in-the-blank mass message will get you nowhere. Instead, read up on the role in question, have the right conversations with your hiring managers, and talk to people in similar positions to learn about their specific responsibilities. Be sure to draw on this information when you sit down to write. Tech roles do not come one-size-fits-all, and neither can your communication style.

…practice personalization. If you want to get in the door, start by acknowledging who the candidate is and what they do—and be exact. Demonstrate that you understand their skills and abilities. Show your purple squirrels that you’re willing to put their growth before you and your organization’s needs. Work to pique their interest and elicit a reply.

…show some flexibility. Should one of these passive tech candidates follow up about an opening, try and move them through the process without the usual hoop-jumping on their end. Circumvent your standard procedure and accelerate the process by scheduling a phone screen, video interview or whatever is next. Just grab a résumé and go.

…skip the platitudes. Tech candidates will see right through you. Rather than babying these grown adults already out in the workforce, call out shared connections or mutual interests. Look for something that will actually move the conversation forward and give them a reason to interact with you—this is Relationship Building 101.

…adapt your message to your medium. Maybe you intend to email; perhaps you plan to Tweet. Either way, create an outline highlighting your strongest points before hitting “Send.” Tailor each message for the channel you’re using and edit down as necessary. Cross-post if you must.

Conclusion

Remember that your goal is to get in and initiate a two-way conversation with no more than a few sentences. If you’re using email, your template might look something like this:

  • Showcase your knowledge of them as an individual up-front.
  • Entice them with something shared or interesting.
  • Include a question for them to answer as your call to action.

Oh, and always double-check that you have their name and background info right. The little things can make a big difference with passive tech talent… and first impressions do count.

Bonus: For more engagement tips, tools and templates, download your copy of Dice’s eBook, The Definitive Guide to Engaging Top Tech Candidates.

Noel Cocca is the founder and CEO of RecruitingDaily and its merry band of rabble-rousers. He aims to produce at the sweet spot between content and actual awareness by creating great work for living, breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. He works to ease problems, both large and small, from startups to enterprises.