Five tips to keep candidates happy all the way through hiring
By Susan Hall
Technology candidate Amit Levy knows a thing or two about being heavily recruited, but also about lack of communication. His story is not uncommon – finding the right balance of attention and interaction for each candidate can be tricky in recruiting. These tips from real-life tech professionals will help keep the onboarding process personal, productive and positive.
Amit Levy was hotly recruited immediately upon graduation from a five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s program in computer science at the University of Washington. But a couple of years earlier, in an on-campus interview for an internship, a recruiter told him the company would be inviting him to an on-site interview. Unfortunately it was several months before he heard anything.
Levy has since entered a PhD program at Stanford, but he still remembers what matters to him in the hiring process. He points to recruiters at Facebook and Google, where he did two internships, as excellent recruiting models because of their efficiency. After they settled preliminary hiring measures, they quickly handed him over to the hiring managers.
It’s important for the recruiter to connect the candidate and the hiring manager early on, Levy says. This enables the candidate to get to know the company culture and the challenges that lie ahead from the outset. Levy values this learning opportunity “more than benefits or salary or stock options.”
Levy isn’t alone. A recent Dice survey reveals what other technology professionals appreciate most in a recruiter.
So how can you earn respect and appreciation from the tech candidates you recruit? The following are simple suggestions from tech candidates for a more successful hiring process.
1) Understand the requirements
In the technology industry, hiring companies don’t always have a good handle on their tech needs. “They’re just matching A and B,” says Steve Silberberg, a 30-year veteran IT pro from Boston who does software contracting during the off season from his hiking business, Fitpacking. A tech job posting might call for a huge array of skills that one person is unlikely to have. Or it might call for more years of experience using a certain software than the software has been available on the market. So as you recruit, it’s important to know not just the required skills for a position, but the company’s goals for the hire – and to articulate them. That includes knowing enough IT jargon to understand whether you and the job candidate are actually talking about the same thing.
2) Make it personal
“Take more time to get to know me well,” advises Ed Hammerbeck, a mid-career software analyst from Louisville, KY. “Understand my needs beyond my resume – my family situation, my interests, the things about a company’s climate that might be interesting to me.” Also, ask candidates directly what they’re looking for – such as, “Do you like to work in a corporate environment or a small startup environment?”
Just as a savvy candidate customizes his resume to a company’s unique needs, a recruiter’s job pitch should be customized to a candidate, professionally and personally.
3) Learn how to communicate
Scott Rinaldi, a Boston-area information security professional, says that when he completed his master’s degree several years ago, he sometimes received recruiting calls three or more times a day.
“The frequency of calls was just too much,” he said. “I’m a really private person and I prefer to communicate by email.” If you communicate with candidates via their preferred method you’ll receive the best responses. So don’t rule out email or even text messaging as vehicles to conduct business.
4) Find a balance
Rinaldi has experienced recruiters who were focused on filling a quota and others who tried to be his friend. He believes the “sweet spot” is somewhere in between.
Create a pool of candidates that are “just right” in size to avoid being perceived as a recruiter with a quota. “Focus on your job seeker’s objectives first and sales quotas second,” Rinaldi recommends. “Rather than sending out 3,000 emails, target 25 or 30 people.”
5) Truly showcase the company
Companies sometimes leverage their “cool” culture to compete for top candidates. However, a company’s culture may not resonate with everyone. For Levy, the challenges he can tackle at work are more important than the bells and whistles of a company’s culture. For example, he believes that startups can be competitive if recruiters highlight the interesting problems the company is solving.
“At a small startup, if you’re doing anything cool technically, then most people (at the company) have their hand in it and you can get the person in charge to talk to the handful of people they want to recruit,” said Levy.
Overall, remember that a candidate’s first impression of a position or company is the recruiter. As one tech candidate said, “If it’s a bad encounter, it doesn’t matter how great the job is, or how high the salary is. If it’s a great encounter, the relationship can build.”
Finding the right combination of attention, communication and personalization for your candidates is the ultimate recruiting challenge. If you start by aligning your goals with those of your tech candidates, you’ll find better outcomes for all – and enhance your recruiting reputation in the process.
Dice gives you access to uniquely skilled technology candidates with real-world experience. But don’t take our word for it, see what customers have to say.
“Dice has a really unique pool of qualified technology candidates. And when we post our jobs on Dice, we know they are being seen by the best tech talent out there, especially by those experienced passive candidates who never post their resumes online.” Brandon Gottlieb, Director of Recruiting
Enterprise Engineering, Inc.
“For years, Dice has proven to be a wonderful resource for keeping hiring costs down and retention up. I’m able to select a highly qualified pool of tech candidates and screen them personally to gauge their skill level and interest level firsthand.” Kelly Campbell, Corporate Recruiter
“When I’m searching the Dice resume database, one of my favorite tools is the passive candidates tab. When I reach out to these candidates, they are frequently interested and we are able to make successful hires.” Ryan Holmes, Corporate Development Manager
Information Management Group, Inc.
“When we leveraged Dice for hiring a niche engineering position, we more than doubled our applicant flow and hired a qualified candidate within two weeks. The site allowed me to do targeted searches, even for passive candidates, and create folders for organizing candidates. I highly recommend Dice.” Jazz Mimoun, Human Resources Director
Laser Devices, Inc.
“I’ve gotten great responses to my job posting on Dice for a Senior Network Specialist position. In just one week, I received at least 40 qualified candidates, six of whom came in for interviews. I was pleasantly surprised how smooth and quickly the recruiting process went.” Vincent Lo, VP of Information Technology
Bank of Stockton
“Dice is definitely worth the investment. The tech candidate pool was exactly what our Account Executive said it would be. We found 100 local prospects, contacted our top 10, and hired the best suited candidate in time for our annual planning session.” Steven Haas, Director of Integrated Solutions
The SAV Transportation Group
“Dice offers excellent service and support to companies that don’t have large recruiting budgets. This is a very powerful tool!” Dan Orlando, President & Chairman
Solution Sources Programming, Inc.
“The customer service at Dice is outstanding. I have successfully used the site for years.” Toni DiSanto, Sr. Team Lead, Corporate Staffing
Total Quality Logistics
“I chose Dice because of the quality of the technical skills of the candidates on Dice versus the jungle of candidates to sort through on other job boards.” Randal P. Streff, President
Streffco Consultants, Inc.
“Dice contacts me with candidates through its search agent function. Each day I get a list of qualified candidates based on my keyword searches … it’s the coolest thing.” Patrick Kaiser, Director of Resource Management
SWAT Solutions Inc.
“The candidates on Dice seem to be more serious and more careful when reviewing the descriptions of the positions. Dice brings us the technology candidates that the other job boards don’t because it focuses on tech.” Susan Elseman, Staffing Manager
Kelley Blue Book
“ I prefer Dice over any of the other search engines. It is easier to use and very fast. The search engine is great and the candidate profiles make it much quicker to scan through candidate details.” Lisa Barone, Technical Recruiter
Peak Technical Services, Inc.
“We received over 160 applications to our CIO posting and a large number of the applicants were truly high-quality candidates. We will definitely use Dice again.” Mark Peterson, Managing Partner
“Working with Dice has been a great experience from management to sales, and customer support is right on top of everything and always available.” Jordan Goldberg, Director of Recruiting
Atlas Group LLC
“I got qualified responses in the first few days after posting. I did some additional screening and found some people that had the exact qualifications I was looking for. I would definitely recommend Dice.” Shiby Thomas, Director of Enterprise Analytics
Boston Medical Center
“We’ve hired almost one-third of our company using Dice.” Mark Silber, Recruiter
We’ve uncovered the technology recruiters’ golden ticket. Passive tech candidates have told us the best ways to find them when they’re not in the job market.
Dice surveyed more than 250 tech professionals to find out how companies can find them if they’re not actively looking for a job. The results:
42% – Posting a job on Dice.
29% – Through someone I know.
15% – You can’t. I’m off the grid.
10% – Being out in public and talking about technology, or publishing articles.
4% – Googling “rock star tech wizard.”
Clearly, these insights tell us that to reach 71% of passive tech candidates, job boards and referrals remain important ways to recruit.
Let’s start with the basics: Fix your job postings
Savvy recruiters realize – whether their job posting is on their own company career site or a quality niche job board – that they must translate the HR-approved job description into a compelling, passive candidate attraction magnet! But how? Follow these guidelines:
If your company is like most, you already have an employee referral program complete with posters in the company kitchen, new employee orientation announcements and $1,000+ bonuses. Great. But savvy recruiters don’t depend solely on bonuses and referral posters to draw in quality tech candidates. They’re hunters, who actively solicit referrals from their networks. This is often the only way to find those truly passive candidates. So how do you generate quality referrals?
1. Sit down – in person or virtually – with hiring managers to go through their networks. Get the hiring manager or lead technical people to log into their LinkedIn networks to review their first- and second-degree connections. Help them write and send targeted emails to people who look like they may be good candidates, or may know people who would be good candidates. Yes, this seems like hand-holding to some people, but it works.
2. Solicit referrals from targeted groups of new hires, and bribe them with pizza. Invite recently hired tech employees – who come from your target companies and target schools – to a group lunch meeting with a senior-level tech leader. The goal is two-fold:
Get the recent hires introduced to a tech leader who can explain the type of projects the team is tackling and the skills needed to succeed on the team.
Get each recent hire to share the names and contact information for people in their network (past coworkers, former classmates, professional networking contacts) that may be a good fit.
With this, you draw them in with pizza, get new referrals with promises of bonus cash if the referred candidates are hired, and give them the opportunity to help hand-pick their teammates.
3. Leverage social media to connect with passive candidates. You can find top-quality candidates by networking online, reading blogs, answering questions on technical sites and speaking at conferences that include your target audience. But don’t just send them an email blast with a link to your job postings. You must first connect with candidates by:
Inviting them to your network.
Offering to put them in touch with someone at your company who is doing similar work (thereby helping them get smarter and make more valuable connections).
Sending them links to articles that someone at your company has written that’s related to things they’re interested in.
As you build relationships, begin to ask them for referrals for critical, hard-to-fill jobs.
Tech Candidates Have Spoken
Tech candidates are happy to tell us how to attract and find them. Two keys are:
Making our job postings more compelling and easier to find when they search online.
Soliciting referrals from our existing employees and extended professional networks.
Follow this basic checklist to make sure you’ve got the essential items for an effective job posting.
Company Description: Have you included a description of your company? Does it accurately convey your company’s brand? Based on this description, is your company a place you would want to work?
Benefits: What benefits does your company offer? Vacation, retirement and insurance packages are extremely important to job seekers. Remember to include unique perks, such as specialized training to enhance skill sets or teambuilding activities.
Location: Where is the position located? Have you included the city and state? Remember that the Web is international and people could be looking at your ad from anywhere.
Job Title: Make sure the job title is descriptive and is clear to someone outside your organization. For example: “Java, C++ Sr. Programmer” will generally get a better response than “Programmer Analyst III.”
Duties: What will the person be doing day to day? How does the position fit in the big picture? Why would someone want this job? Remember that you are selling the job, not just describing it. Paint a compelling picture for the full range of possibilities for the position and how someone will benefit from them long term.
Skills: What skills are essential for doing the job well? What skills would be nice to have? Be specific about what the job requires: you’ll save time for everyone involved.
Experience and Training: What work experience, training, and level of education are necessary for the position?
Pay Range: Have you included an accurate pay range for the position? Recent surveys of visitors to Dice.com show that up to two-thirds of candidates will not apply to postings that do not provide salary information. Don’t miss out on your ideal candidate.
Clear Call to Action: What do you want the candidate to do next? Send a resume? Apply on your company’s web site? Put a sense of urgency in the posting to motivate the candidate to act, especially if it’s a benefit because your company is growing or a project is launching.
Relevant Keywords: Have you included the relevant keywords needed for your online posting? If you don’t understand them, has the hiring manager checked to make sure they are accurate? Candidates often search by tech skills (keywords), so include them in the job title, skills listing and job description to optimize your search engine marketing.
Formatting: Is the job description formatted well and easy to read? Keep the text brief and to the point. Use bulleted lists to call attention to key aspects of the job.
Finishing Touches: Have you checked spelling and grammar and eliminated jargon? Can you skim the ad and get the gist of the position?
How to accelerate and expand your recruiting efforts through social media
In this special report, we will explore simple ways that you can utilize social media to accelerate and expand your recruiting efforts — whether by doing it yourself or hiring a social media manager.
Social media and recruiting are a match made in heaven. First of all, recruiting is inherently social. Consider this — for every search you conduct, your end goal is to find the best candidate for the role as quickly as possible. How do you do that? By exposing this opportunity to the broadest pool of available talent — including passive job seekers.
The most effective method of getting the word out about a job opening is a multi-pronged approach that targets both active and passive candidates as well as candidates who are “known” to you (i.e. candidates already in your applicant tracking system) as well as new candidates with whom you haven’t engaged. Social media provides the opportunity to accelerate your reach into all of these target candidate pools.
The benefits of social recruiting are clear. By engaging the social web, you have the opportunity to:
Expand your reach
Enlist your entire organization in your recruiting efforts
Engage passive candidates
The holy grail for most recruiters is attracting candidates who aren’t currently looking — the so-called passive job seeker — and engaging them one-to-one.The reality is that everyone’s keeping their eyes open. Social media allows passive candidates who would never take the time to comb through job postings to get familiar with your company and keep informed about potential job opportunities.
Read on for a six-step game plan for putting social media to work for you to accelerate your recruiting efforts.
1. Ask your job board if they have social media integration.
The forward thinking ones do. If so, get trained on those features immediately, because it’s the fastest way to get started.
2. Create a branded company profile.
You’ll definitely want to pursue niche social networking sites relevant to your industry and recruiting needs but to get started, make sure you’re on the “Big Two” — Facebook and Twitter.
Here are links to articles that provide instructions for setting up a Facebook fan page:
There are some methods for increasing your audience that are unique to Twitter. Specifically — hashtags and retweeting.
Hashtags — Hashtags (essentially adding the # sign in front of a keyword or subject) were developed to help spread information and organize it. For example: We’re growing and adding to our #IT professional team. By putting a hashtag in front of IT, you increase the likelihood that an IT professional will be able to find your post.
There are a number of Twitter tools that allow you to identify and track hashtags so you can use tags that are already being used and followed by your key audience.
Be careful not to overuse hashtags in a post. It diminishes the readability and looks spammy. It’s also been proven that the greater the number of hashtags in a tweet, the less likely it will be retweeted. Read this article from Mashable for more information on Twitter hashtags.
Retweeting — Getting your message retweeted is one of the most effective ways to increase your Twitter following. According to research from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science, any retweeted post is likely to reach an average of 1,000 users no matter what the number of followers is of the original tweet. Those users who see the retweet may decide to follow you because they want to directly receive more of this type of content from you. It all starts with having the right content, the right keywords and the right headlines for your tweets. Talent acquisition consultant and strategist Shally Steckerl (@Shally) suggests checking Google’s Adwords (no cost) to investigate basic keyword popularity. Learn more about keywords in this article from Shally on ERE.net.
The other secret to building your following through retweets is to not just hope that someone retweets your posts, but to be the first to retweet. The influence principle of reciprocity says that when someone does something for us, we feel compelled to reciprocate and that sense of reciprocation is alive and well in the Twitter-verse. Find interesting people who produce content that would be interesting to your target audience and retweet their posts. Not only are you providing great content for your followers, that person is more likely to retweet your posts in the future and thereby introduce you to their followers.
3. Develop a content strategy that builds relationships.
To make social media work for you, you have to start building relationships and join the conversation. Think of social media as a digital version of a cocktail party. If you’re sitting by the wall and not engaging anyone, don’t expect to get much attention. At the same time, if all you do is toot your own horn or ask for favors, people will run away quickly. Think about the people you enjoy talking to at any function — they ask good questions, share interesting and relevant information, they offer to help and they’re funny or at least fun to be around. It’s the same for social recruiting. If all you ever post are job openings, don’t be surprised if the only response you get is from desperate job seekers. The goal is to engage potential job candidates in a conversation. It should be a two-way exchange. They should come to view you as a provider of valuable advice, useful information and maybe even entertainment.
Before you just start posting information, it’s important to establish a content strategy and put it in writing, particularly if multiple people on your team will be responsible for posting content.
Clearly the content strategy for a public accounting firm will be very different from that of a software development company. That’s the point. You need to meet your target audience where they’re already at, with content they care about, and content they’ll pass on to people in their network, thereby expanding your reach.
If you have more than one person responsible for content, you might consider dividing the task around the type of content generated vs. responding to questions direct from followers and fans.
An important part of your content strategy is not only what you will say, but what you won’t. Make it very clear what information would be considered out of bounds. A general rule of thumb is to assume anything you post will be read by your mother, your priest, your best customer and your fiercest competitor. Remember, in the world of social media, communication is instant, constant, permanent and global.
4. Make it easy to find, follow and forward your information.
So you have great content. Now you need an audience. Without friends or followers you are speaking into a black hole. Friends and followers will spread your message to their friends and followers, who will again spread your message, and expand your reach exponentially without you lifting a finger.
Here are several ways to attract a following using social media.
Email signature — Why limit your email signature to just your phone and email contact information? By adding in your social media contact information, every email you send could turn into a new follower. Consider doing the same for printed business cards.
Website — Add buttons to your home page that link directly to your Twitter account and Facebook page.
Blog — If you have one (you do have one, don’t you?!), there are several great ways to use your blog to drive followers. First, include a link to your Twitter and Facebook pages on the homepage of your blog. You can also include links and invitations to follow you on Twitter or Facebook in your posts from time to time. You can also use your blog posts to create content. Syndicate your blog posts to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. There are a variety of ways to do this depending on which blog software or platform you use to publish your blog.
A little research will help you indentify different plug-ins or advanced features of your blog software that will enable your blog posts to automatically appear on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Buttons — Make it a “no-brainer” for people to share your blog posts or job postings via social media by putting a “share” link on that page or buttons that take them directly to social media sites.
5. Enlist all employees in your social media efforts.
Some companies have tried to suppress their employees’ use of social media. Typically they cite concerns about lost productivity and privacy issues. The simple fact is that your employees are using social media whether you want them to or not. Recent Nielsen data reports that Americans spend nearly 25% of their online time on social media or blog sites. Instead of fighting it, enlist your employees in your social recruiting initiatives. How?
Ask them to get involved — Explain to employees how their involvement in the company’s social media efforts can have a positive impact in attracting quality candidates.
Regularly inform employees — Tell them about about key openings that you would like them to share with their social networks. Include links to postings. Better yet, you can write up sample messages to make it extremely easy for employees to get the word out.
Encourage employees to “talk” — Ask them to share the positive aspects of working with your company in their social networks. Make it easy for them to share photos, company news, or other information that would be appropriate for distribution.
Involve other business units — Coordinate your social media recruiting efforts with other business functions that are already using social media to ensure that you aren’t sending out conflicting messages. Also, consider forming a cross-functional team that shares best practices and new information about social media so all the key learning gets shared across the organization.
6. Measure results.
Investing time into social media has all sorts of “soft” outcomes like brand building and building community, but at the end of the day what matters most is whether or not you are driving more qualified applicants to your company that result in hires. Never lose sight of the fact that your success as a recruiter is measured by quality hires, not number of Twitter followers.
There are a number of good articles about measuring ROI from social media recruiting. There is no clear consensus and opinions range from “measuring ROI on social media is impossible” to “measuring ROI is critical if you’re going to invest the time and expense.” Here are two quality resources on social media ROI from Mashable and The Red Recruiter.
While it may be true that measuring ROI on social recruiting isn’t clear-cut, there are several things to keep in mind.
Free? — Even if social media resources are “free,” there is a cost to use them. Employee time must be factored in when evaluating the effectiveness and the return on any social media campaign.
Making hires — Social media recruiting must result in hires. Put trackable URLs in any social media post that links to a job posting so you can see how many potential candidates click through to your postings from your different social media sources.
Set clear goals — Goals must be established for all of your social recruiting efforts. Diving into social media recruiting without clearly stated goals and measurable outcomes is like heading off on a road trip without a map or any clear idea of where you want to go. You’ll end up somewhere, but it might not be pleasant or worth the effort. Setting goals for number of followers or friends could be a measure, but it’s not the end goal. The end goal is to fill more jobs, faster, with high quality candidates. Period.
About the Author
Jenifer Lambert is a VP with Terra Staffing Group, a Pinnacle Society recognized Executive Recruiter, and President of Elevate Performance Systems, LLC, a consulting and training firm that helps third-party recruiters grow their business. www.ElevatePerformanceSystems.com
Not responsive. Late for interviews. Unprepared. These complaints have been made about candidates, especially during times when the number of job openings far surpassed the number of qualified applicants. But now these negative phrases are being levied against recruiters and hiring managers by candidates who are frustrated by the hiring process. “Beyond what the media says about the job market, I think that candidates are just very discouraged by the fact that there’s so little candidate care that happens,” says Jennifer Way. As owner of Way Solutions in Nashville, Tennessee, Way leads a team of hiring strategists that provide resources, tools and insights to companies and candidates about how to make the most of their connections.
At a time when resources are limited and HR departments have been downsized, many recruiters and HR managers are asking: “Who has time for candidate care?” The answer is that every company has the time – and should make the time – to focus on candidate care because it’s one of the easiest, least expensive ways to build your employment brand, your network of prospective candidates and referrals.
Candidates who feel they’ve been treated fairly by your company – whether they’re hired or not – are bound to give your company’s employment brand positive marks and be solid sources for future job openings and referrals. Candidates who have been treated discourteously or simply ignored may disregard future openings at your organization. Worse yet, they may decide to use social media to spread their negative experience. “Our hiring processes have not caught up with the sophistication of social media,” says Way. “We have to be extra sensitive because with social media, there’s a level of transparency that wasn’t there before.”
Read on to learn about three common mistakes companies make when it comes to candidate care, and simple ways to fix them.
Three common mistakes
1. Being non-responsive
One of candidates’ top complaints is that employers don’t respond to their job applications or follow up promptly after interviews to give them feedback. Leaving candidates in limbo – or the notorious “black hole” – causes frustration and creates a negative image for the company in candidates’ eyes. In fact in a recent Dice survey of candidates, when asked, “Do you seek feedback from HR or hiring managers when you don’t get the job?” a whopping 82% replied, “I would but no one gets back to me” or “Why bother?”
The fix: Many companies have a solution to the “black hole” problem right at their fingertips. Take the time to create a series of customized response templates, establish a simple process to acknowledge candidate communication and provide feedback, and then commit to replying promptly. Every company should at least have one template acknowledging receipt of a resume and one informing candidates that they didn’t make the cut. Keeping candidates informed throughout the hiring process is one of the smartest ways to improve candidate care.
2. Lacking focus
Do you need a candidate who knows “HTML5” or should the job requisition really say “HTML5 and CSS3?” Should the candidate have “experience with Java” or “at least five years of experience with Java?” And during the interview process, do candidates answer the same question from four different people in your organization?
Broad job descriptions, redundant interview processes and a lack of focus on the type of candidate you’re looking for wastes your time – and the candidate’s. The result is that you’ll spend precious resources interviewing 20 people – and issuing 19 rejection letters – when a little more focus and planning up front would yield perhaps five highly-qualified candidates, a shorter interview cycle and only four rejection letters.
The fix: Way suggests careful pre-screening. “If you do more on the front end to understand the nuances of what the hiring manager is looking for, you can do a better job of pre-screening people,” she says. “Then if you introduce only top candidates, you can afford to provide a better candidate care experience.”
3. Wasting time
Does your hiring process span months rather than weeks? Do you gather data on your online application that you don’t use? Does it take candidates half an hour to complete your online application? If you answered, “yes” to any – or all – of these questions, your hiring process may be more lengthy or complicated than necessary. “We’re very concerned with creating an efficient process and how it works within the four walls our organization, but we’re really not looking at what it’s costing in terms of the quality of candidate or candidate care,” says Way.
The fix: Step back and review every aspect of your onboarding process from a candidate’s point of view. During the process ask yourself:
Is every step we take really required?
Is every question we ask during the interview necessary?
Are the right questions being asked at the right time?
You’ll be surprised at how simple ways to streamline will become evident.
Using an easy reply mechanism, having more focus and saving time – these three simple, low-cost steps will create a better experience for your candidates and better results for your company.
How do you screen through the masses quickly and effectively so that you spend your limited time on the candidates who are most likely to succeed? How do you improve your chances of filling that precious head count with a top performer?
Best Practice Resume Screening
1. Ensure your posting is attracting the right kind of applicant. Some active job applicants may apply for anything – even if they’re not remotely qualified – so it’s key that you outline more than just years of experience, educational and certification requirements, and technology buzzwords in your postings. Be specific about the kind of track record and accomplishments your ideal applicant must have. “Must have led Ruby on Rails software team that leveraged Agile methodologies to ship a successful multi-language consumer web product…” is much different than “5+ years experience as lead developer.”
2. Look beyond keywords. Smart candidates have figured out that if they load up their resumes with more buzzwords (i.e. technologies), they’re more likely to rise to the top of search results. We want candidates with hands-on experience using the technologies listed on our job posting. So, focus on resumes that show where and when the technology was used on the job. Keywords that show up in the bullets under job overviews are typically better than keywords that show up at the top or bottom of tech resumes in the skills summary section.
3. Get help from your ATS. If your applicant tracking system has functionality that allows you to leverage applicant questionnaires, create simple, 10-question-or-less questionnaires to help you stack rank your applicants. Leverage questions that pull out more details about the key technologies, skills, and accomplishments you need. “How many years of commercial experience do you have writing code in C#?” “What specific QA tools have you used: Select all that apply…”
4. Get skill testing help. If you find yourself with too many “looks good on paper” applicants, and can afford it, you may also want to consider leveraging an online, pre-employment skills test. You can invite your short-list of applicants to complete the test and use the results to prioritize who you phone interview. For tech quizzes, check out companies like BrainBench (www.brainbench.com) and TechCheck (www.techcheck.com). (Note: Talk to your own legal counsel before setting up any kind of pre-employment test.)
5. Calibrate resumes before you phone screen. Ensure the recruiter and hiring manager are on the same page before screening starts. How? Recruiters should review a sample of five real resumes – real time – with the hiring manager, who should “think out loud” as they review the resumes. Are the “must-haves” really must-haves, or is there flexibility? Why is this resume going in the yes pile, while this similar one goes in the no pile? Are there some alternative technologies or industry experiences that the manager likes just as well as the requirements on the job posting? Is the manager all over the place – unsure about what he wants? Locking down the resume profile will save time for everyone and focus your tech resume screening efforts.
Best Practice Phone Screening 1. Focus on the deal breakers. Whoever phone screens candidates – recruiter or hiring manager – should ensure that they are crystal clear about the deal breaker qualifications. In general, the focus of a tech phone screen in this economy is to weed out the unqualified applicants (but we still must sell top candidates!) so that you invest time with onsite interviewees who are most likely to get offers. While it may be nice to know, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?,” that’s generally not where you should focus during the phone screen. Instead, you’ll want to ensure each candidate you pass on to the onsite interview has the required capabilities, meets your salary and eligibility requirements, and genuinely wants to do this type and level of work.
2. Get examples of related accomplishments. Ideally, you want to focus on the applicants who have already accomplished the type of goals your position will focus on. Sure, responsibilities, years of experience, technologies and credentials should be reviewed. But a focus toward on-the-job skill usage and job-specific accomplishments typically yields better candidates. What have they delivered? To what kind of customer? Using what technology and skills? With what kind of resources and team? Over what kind of timeline? These are questions that will really help you predict on-the-job success and performance.
3. Work through a real problem or skill demonstration. While it’s true that past performance is a good indicator of future performance, sometimes nothing beats present performance (like a live demo of a skill or a real-time problem-solving exercise). If possible, identify a tech challenge that your successful hire will likely face on the job; nothing too hard and nothing that requires an intimate understanding of your business, processes, resources or culture. But something that a top candidate should be able to tackle successfully. Ask them what they’d do first, how they’d do it, why they’d do it that way instead of this way, what they’d do if they ran into this kind of problem and who they’d involve if this happened.
4. Screen for job fit and motivation. In this economy, there’s a greater risk of “foot-in-the-door” applicants; people who just want or need “a job.” Generally, we want and need people who are naturally motivated to do this type and level of work. So be sure to dig into why they loved past jobs and what they hope to find if they join your company (ask this before you tell them all about your culture and resources). Then compare their responses to your offering. Is it a good, honest match?
5. Protect your employment brand. Just because there may be hundreds of applicants for every opening you have, don’t forget that you build your employment brand – your reputation as an employer – one candidate at a time. Even though you may be in the driver’s seat, treat every candidate with respect. Follow the basics: start your phone interviews on time, ask fair, relevant questions, let them ask you a few questions and always follow up.
About the Author
John Vlastelica is a former Corporate Recruiting Director with Amazon.com and
Expedia, and is a regular speaker at top recruiting conferences. He is currently
Managing Director of Recruiting Toolbox, Inc., a consulting and training firm
focused on helping corporate recruiters and hiring managers improve their
sourcing strategies, employer branding presence, interviewing process and
tools, and system effectiveness. www.RecruitingToolbox.com
Cold Calling – a Dirty Word
Unless you were born into royalty, you are going to have to make cold calls in order to be successful in the field of recruiting. It’s fascinating when marketers say “cold calling is dead”, “cold calling doesn’t work” and “stop cold calling.” Who doesn’t wish that their network was so extensive and so robust that they could always generate new business from referrals in their personal network?
The reality is, everyone’s network “runs out” at some point. When that happens, what do you do? You either stop prospecting for new business or you cold call new prospects in order to develop new business. As IT services recruiters, we know that the industry is competitive, the internal political landscape of organizations is constantly shifting, and your top revenue-producing accounts today may not be with you forever. To counter these challenges we have to develop the skills and confidence to efficiently and effectively cold call. This article will tell you how.
Adjust Your Mindset
First, change your mental approach to cold calling. Don’t approach cold calling with the goal of “making a sale” or “landing a meeting.” If you do you are destined to fail and you will be in constant “objection handling mode.” Besides, you don’t want to be a transactional vendor. Selling IT professional services requires relationship building based on shared values and your ability to meet the prospects’ specific needs. If the goal of the cold call is not to make a sale, then how can you get rejected? Eliminating the goal of “making a sale” or “landing a meeting” on a cold call will free you from the fear of rejection.
Stop Selling and Start Building Trust
Your customers and prospects are getting calls from competitors in the IT professional services industry each week. Typically, they cannot distinguish one vendor from the next because they all sound alike. They all lead with their product and/or service offering, which is a very “salesy” approach and a turn-off to just about any buyer. To be successful with cold calling you must first learn to sound different than your competition. Don’t talk about your product or service. The focus of the call should be on the customer and what is important to him/her.
Your mission is simply to make the prospect feel comfortable in talking with you so you can find out if you’re a good fit. Imagine an invisible wall between you and the prospect as you’re talking with them on the telephone. Your goal for that call (and every cold call) is removing the invisible wall so that he/she feels comfortable opening up and sharing information with you. Building trust is the first step.
How to Build Trust with Your Prospect
To build trust, you start by displaying respect for their time and helping them share in control of the phone call. First, ask the prospect for permission to conduct the phone call and explain you’re just trying to determine if you’re a good fit or not. Tell them you won’t talk about your product or service unless they ask you to. Throughout the phone call check in with the prospect by asking them, “Is it ok if we continue?” This makes them feel more in control of the call as well as demonstrating respect for them.
Put out the disclaimer that you understand that if they feel the discussion is a waste of their time, you will happily end the phone call. You must offer the prospect multiple opportunities to tell you to get lost or end the call. Think of it as reverse psychology. You want to say the opposite of what the prospect expects you to say. They expect you to be a walking brochure for your organization selling them all of the wonderful features and benefits of your service offerings. Instead, make the prospect feel like they control the call.
“Hi, Jane: I know you were not expecting my phone call, have I reached you at a bad time?”
“Jane, to be honest with you, I don’t know if it makes sense for us to be talking. May I take one minute to explain why I’m calling and you can decide if it makes sense for us to continue the conversation?”
“Jane, I recognize that our service offerings are not a fit for everyone. I’m simply calling to make that determination, to see if there may be some synergy between our experience and service offerings and your goals and objectives. Could we take a minute to discuss that?”
Stop Making Assumptions and Start Pre-Qualifying Prospects
One of the biggest mistakes recruiters make in selling IT professional services is that they assume every prospect is a good prospect. This is simply not true. There are plenty of prospects out there you don’t want to do business with for a variety of reasons. So before you start selling, determine with the prospect if your two organizations are even a good fit for one another.
“Tell me about the scope of your role and responsibility?”
“Do you ever hire external consultants/contractors to help you complete your projects?”
“What key projects are you currently focused on?”
“How confident are you in your project team?”
“What are some of the technical challenges you’re trying to overcome?”
And don’t assume you can help them until you have had a detailed conversation with them. There is nothing buyers hate more than sales professionals who try to impose their product or service on them without knowing anything about their business.
On an initial cold call you will often not have as long or as detailed of a conversation as you would like. That’s fine: the goal is to build trust and discover whether they have needs you can truly meet – better than anyone else. If you can accomplish that then you will have better success setting up a specific date and time for a follow up call to talk in further detail. And that follow up call is now a warm call. Additionally, you will have differentiated yourself from the competition because you didn’t go for the sale or impose your product or service on the prospect.
About the Author
As Managing Director of the Menemsha Group, Dan Fisher is a sales coach and trainer dedicated exclusively to working with professionals in the IT staffing industry. Dan also authored the Menemsha Methodology, the only proprietary sales methodology dedicated to selling IT staffing & consulting services. www.menemshagroup.com
To learn more about the Menemsha Group, call (888) 553-3083 or email email@example.com.